Talking Back to Rumination

by barbaraluther on April 10, 2013

I was working with a young client recently, and we recognized that she was really shut down because of the negative pictures and thoughts going through her mind.  She couldn’t stop picturing worse and worse possibilities, so she was afraid to do anything.  Rumination like that is very debilitating.  We don’t realize that focusing on our negative thoughts and pictures gives them a sense of reality and, sadly, may actually bring what we fear just because we’ve focused on it and been so fearful in trying to avoid that possibility.

Our brains, wired for novelty, also find using our creativity to disasterize and catastrophize quite engaging even though doing it doesn’t serve us.  And the thoughts and pictures seem so real!  We think the thoughts are logical (so never try to use logic to talk someone out of rumination, it usually won’t work).

For my young client, I offered her a way to look at her thoughts differently.  Barbara McAfee, coach, song writer, and singer, wrote a song titled Brain Rats that does a fantastic job of showing what our negative, disasterizing thoughts do to us.  She sings it in a wonderfully playful and dramatic Broadway style so that you can’t help but laugh.  I recommend you check out Barbara’s albums on her web site, BarbaraMcAfee.com.  I shared Barbara’s song with my young client, and we discussed how her thoughts made her feel.  When she thought of those negative thoughts as brain rats, it helped her choose to shift to pictures and thoughts that were more proactive and uplifting.  Now, when she notices the brain rats going in her head, she can tell herself that the rats  aren’t going to win, and she gets herself into some action.

Sometimes, we just need to understand that we are not our thoughts and the thoughts aren’t real unless we choose to make them so.  We can choose to find other possibilities than the disasters we’re creating in our minds.  We can explore what we would like to see happen, and we can help ourselves by taking some action — almost any action — toward something we want.  It’s amazing how quickly those negative thoughts clear out when we get moving toward something fun or positive.

Remember, we all have brain rats, those negative thoughts and pictures that drag us down.  But we are able to defeat them when we get going, picture what we want, reach out, or do something fun.

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