Cows have the capacity to regurgitate what they gulped down, and in the process of re-chewing again and again, they stimulate digestion, acquire nutrients and complete absorption.
When human beings ruminate it’s another story. Unfortunately, when I regurgitate negative thoughts and re-chew them over and over, I don’t make them more digestible. On the contrary, they invade my brain and remain stuck in my system, which usually creates digestive problems.
Ruminating is a toxic and lonely habit that we don’t hear too much about, because:
1- It’s not attractive to ruminate on negative experiences from the past.
2- It’s draining for everybody (including ourselves), to repetitively hear about negative experiences from the past.
3- It’s frustrating to be told to “move on and stop rehashing”, when we too want to move on, but are stuck in the negative experiences from the past.
4- It’s painful to admit to being stuck in the negative experiences from the past, when we want to be free.
Therefore, I prefer to hide being a ruminator.
I’ve been chewing my cud on an interesting eastern philosophy quote, I recently heard in passing at a conference from Rick Hanson on mindfulness and neuroscience: “If you think the same thought again and again, ten is enough.”
I’ve been pondering a lot the meaning of this sentence and came up with this conclusion: It’s okay to give myself space to rehash negative thoughts as a way to give myself compassion. Thankfully, compassion will allow me to set boundaries with my mind, and gracefully face the disenchanted truth: repeating the same negative thought from the past, over and over, is quite boring. So ten is enough*.
PS*: My perspective is that you can ruminate on a negative thought ten times a day, a week, or a month. If it’s ten times a year, it’s probably not rumination.
PS**: Rumination is a frequent habit at work, and often a consequence of our triggered Ego’s hot buttons. I’ll write more about it, but remember that my book, The Bumpy Road to Collaboration, is your indispensable practical fun tool to share with your colleagues, and stop ruminating alone.