How to Stop Ruminating-Please keep in mind that Rumination-Focused ERP is a new and developing ERP technique. This exercise, like the rest of the treatment, has not been examined and hence is not evidence-based. Please keep in mind that this content is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute therapeutic advice or the establishment of a patient-psychologist relationship.
The practise I do to teach individuals how to stop ruminating is described in this article. The directions for the exercise are as follows:
Don’t waste time ruminating.
If you have a problem about which you frequently ruminate,
Your job is to avoid attempting to remedy the issue.
Don’t try to forget about it or push it out of your thoughts.
Also, don’t make an effort to remember it.
How do you tell whether it was successful?
In the past, I would just ask individuals whether they could quit, and if they replied yes, I would believe them. However, I discovered that some people believed they’d ceased ruminating when they hadn’t, especially if their definition of rumination was narrower than mine. To ensure that a person has completely quit ruminating, I now ask two questions. The first concern is:
On a scale of 0 to 10, how anxious are you?
As previously said, I believe anxiety is a result of ruminating. As a result, when a person has completely quit ruminating, their anxiety level is near to zero. It shouldn’t be much higher than 0.0, but it shouldn’t be much lower. If it’s much greater than zero, they’re still doing something, and we need to help them figure out what it is so they can quit. Thankfully, this is a multiple-choice exam. Here’s what they could be up to:
1.Trying to figure out something (‘correct rumination’)
2.Monitoring and directing attention
- Maintaining vigilance
4.Pushing thoughts away, attempting to avoid allowing thoughts to reach awareness
5.Practicing mindfulness or avoiding ‘negative distractions’
6.Involvement in self-talk
Because a person may be practising a combination of multiple of these, it may be required to repeat this process several times, identifying difficulties one at a time, until the individual’s anxiety level drops to roughly 0.
Even if their anxiety level is close to zero, you should still ask one more question:
Is it true that that was a piece of cake? From 0 to 10, how much effort were you putting in?
Remember that ruminating accomplishes something, while not ruminating accomplishes nothing. If someone claims they aren’t ruminating yet insists on exerting effort, we know they are, which suggests a fault in their method. It should feel like getting off a treadmill, not getting on one, when you stop ruminating. The act of not ruminating should be as simple as lying down on your couch.
Please keep in mind that when I state that not ruminating should be effortless, I merely mean that the sensation of not pondering should be effortless. I don’t mean that making the decision to stop ruminating or determining what’s wrong with your approach is always simple. Many aspects of this procedure necessitate exertion. All I mean is that it shouldn’t feel like you’re putting forth any effort when you’re not ruminating.
So, if someone says their anxiety level is around zero but their effort level is higher, we need to go back to the same multiple choice exam and figure out what they’re doing, or what it is that demands effort. It may be required to perform this process multiple times until not ruminating is completely effortless.
As a result, this practise comprises encouraging someone to stop ruminating, then recognising any flaws in their technique until their anxiety is low and it feels natural.
If a patient is having problems, giving them several choice options and enlisting their help in figuring out what’s wrong is a terrific idea. (This might even be done before the original instructions are given.) Personally, I prefer to start with only the instructions and then address issues as they arise. This is just a matter of taste.)
A Look at the Multiple Choice Options in More Depth
Let’s look at each of the multiple choice responses in more detail, keeping in mind that some of them overlap.
1.Trying to figure out something (‘appropriate rumination’)
This is a rather self-explanatory statement. Just remember that this includes not only attempting to solve the original problem, but also attempting to solve a different problem; determining whether you’re doing it correctly; determining whether you’ll be able to do it outside of the session; and so on.
Analytical thinking of any kind is under your control. You can stop ruminating just like you can stop tackling a math problem or arranging a party.
Someone who is directing attention to a problem, even if they aren’t analysing it; someone who is directing attention to their thoughts to see whether they’re ruminating or what thoughts are coming up*; and someone who is directing attention to an emotion or a feeling in their body.
The act of directing one’s attention is included in our broader definition of rumination. See here for a detailed explanation of the distinction between awareness and attention, as well as here for an experience practise.
Keeping your guard up is similar to mentally bracing yourself; it’s like directing your attention to the broad probability of danger, or like a mental radar. When someone knows they’re doing anything like this, they can usually stop.
A person may be bracing themselves against ruminating at times. Such a person must realise that ruminating is something they do, not something that occurs to them. And it won’t happen as long as they don’t do it. They’re metaphorically leaning against a closed door.
When it comes to the latter, I may respond, “It seems like you’re imagining that if you don’t keep yourself braced against rumination, it’ll come gushing in.” This isn’t how it works, though: Rumination is something you do, not something that occurs to you. The most that can happen against your will is an idea, but nothing more can happen as long as you don’t connect with it. It feels like you’re leaning against a closed door right now. You’re free to relax.
When someone says their anxiety is around 0 but it doesn’t feel easy, they’re probably being cautious.
4.Pushing ideas aside and attempting to avoid allowing thoughts to reach awareness
Thought suppression plays a much lower role in OCD than most people believe, but it does occasionally show up, and that’s what we’re talking about here.
It’s critical to understand the difference between being aware of something and focusing attention to it. The former is uncontrollable, and attempting to do so will backfire because attempting to keep something out of mind will draw attention to it, bringing it back into awareness. As mentioned in point 2, the latter is controllable. Again, check here for a detailed explanation of the distinction between awareness and attention, as well as here for an experience practise. (Although I’ve stated it before, it’s worth repeating that threading the needle between concentration and awareness isn’t always achievable, so it’s necessary to keep this distinction in mind and allow the line to blur occasionally.)
Even if an issue is still present, if a person entirely abandons trying to fix it and focusing their attention on it, their anxiety will drop to roughly 0.
In these situations, the language I employ the most is: It’s there; don’t engage.
5.Practicing awareness or avoiding ‘negative distractions’
These concerns are related to 2 and 4 above, although they require separate attention.
Many people who suffer from rumination have attempted to remedy the problem through mindfulness or ‘poor distraction.’ They would not be seeking assistance if these techniques had worked. When we ask them to quit ruminating, they may fall back on these techniques. When this happens, all we have to do is call it out and tell them not to employ these tactics again.
6.Talking to yourself
Everyone engages in self-talk at times, whether it’s out loud or just in their heads, and it can be beneficial. However, the difficulty with self-talk in the context of not ruminating is two-fold: first, it keeps you involved with the problem; second, it is doing something, and we want people to understand that not ruminating is about not doing something.
Fortunately, not talking in your brain is as simple as not talking out loud, so once a person recognises the problem, it is typically easy to fix.
That’s all there is to it.
Everything you need to know about teaching someone how to stop ruminating is listed above. Again, you simply assist them in identifying and resolving these issues with their approach one by one until their fear is low and it feels natural.
Do you want to put in some practise time?
The following are some of the most common things people say throughout this practise. I ask you to read each one, go through our multiple choice alternatives again, and see if you can figure out what the person’s problem is and what you would say to them.
“I try to think on something else, but it’s still there.”
The main issue here is that the individual doesn’t seem to realise that it’s fine for it to be there as long as they don’t focus on it or try to figure out what it is. This guy also appears to be attempting to utilise a ‘poor distraction;’ They could possibly be attempting to hide the problem from view.
So, for example, I might say:
It’s not your job to make it go away. It’s your job to let it be without drawing attention to it or attempting to solve it. You don’t have to deliberately strive to divert your attention by thinking about something else. Allow it to exist, and don’t try to change it.