• Hope Arnold

Why Can't I Stop Ruminating about My Ex?

Rumination is the act of thinking about something over and over again. Ruminating is usually about trying to solve a problem, but, and it’s a huge BUT, sometimes problems are unsolvable. Let me repeat this: Sometimes problems are unsolvable. How many of us would like to believe that there is no such thing as an unsolvable problem?

For example take Sam, a nice-looking, kind man in his 30’s, whose girlfriend broke up with him a year ago. Sam is still ruminating about her. He regularly asks himself the question, “Why did she leave me?” He has thought through all his flaws of character, idiosyncratic behaviors, and relationship arguments with a fine-tooth comb. He has picked himself apart in the cruelest ways, but the question remains,” Why?”

The short answer is “no one knows.” This is a really hard piece of information to accept. An overcontrolled brain really likes order, structure and reasoning. It craves the calm and relief that comes with finding the “right” answer. With a relationship question, it’s almost impossible to find the truth.

Sam’s girlfriend won’t talk to him anymore, and even if she did, would he believe what she told him? Even if he did speak to her, it’s possible too that the ex-girlfriend’s answer wouldn’t be satisfying, and the rumination would continue.

In order to stop rumination in situations like this, you can ask yourself a number of questions to find your “Edge”. The Edge is the place that is unknown or that you might be afraid to go. Strangely when we start exploring our edges through a process in RO DBT called Self Enquiry, rumination generally goes down.

Some questions to consider in exploring your Edge:

What am I afraid will happen if I stop thinking about my Ex?

What is my rumination preventing me from seeing?

Am I avoiding something by ruminating?

Where did I get the idea that I will always know the answer to something?

What can I learn about myself from noticing my desire to ruminate?

One of these questions might give you a bit of a rise in your energy level. Take 3-5 minutes to explore it by writing in a self enquiry journal and then stop, go about your day and pick it up again the next day. Recognize that exploring your edge is not about finding the right answer, it’s about learning about yourself.

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