“OKAY BRAIN. KNOCK IT OFF!”
Anyone else fight off ruminating thoughts? Circular fake conversations in your mind? Dwelling on an issue ad nauseam?
ad nauseam: a Latin term for a discussion that has
continued so long that it has continued “to [the point of] nausea”.
I have. I think we all do it to some degree. Here’s the thing. It sucks. It’s not fun to feel trapped in a thought cycle that keeps you awake all night, or leaves you distracted all day with no brain power to spare for the things you really ought to be thinking about.
How do you get control over the ol’ noggin? Because I truly think we can. I don’t think we’re powerless over these “ruminations.”
ruminate: 1. To turn a matter over and over in the mind.
2.To reflect on over and over again.
(And in the animal world to “ruminate” means “to bring up and chew again what has already been chewed and swallowed”. Ewww….and also, this kinda fits the definition for our purposes here as well.)
Here’s what I find helps:
1. Write a [FAKE] letter. A pragmatic friend gave me this advice, and it’s helpful. Get all those ruminating, circular thoughts organized and out on paper. Be honest. Be real. Spew all the thoughts! Rewrite, edit, make it an eloquent masterpiece. And then, for the love of all things, DESTROY that sucker. Or at least commit to never, ever, ever, ever sending it. This takes some self-control (in our electronic age that “send” button is pretty darn tempting), but I promise you those kinds of letters are best to never be shared with the party you have in mind while writing it. When we are ruminating, it’s usually over something that we’re angry or hurt about, and if you are still in the ruminating phase you are NOT yet in the “Let’s talk about it” phase. You need time and perspective and cooling of emotions.
2. Prayer. Talk to God instead of to people. I know, I know. Sometimes trying to pray seems futile when you’re in the middle of something tough that seems to be commandeering your thought life. But when you are trying to break out of a cycle of pondering and thinking and thinking some more, God is really the very best person you can talk to. Because here’s the deal: talking to God just naturally makes us take the high road. In prayer, we’re talking to someone who suffered and forgave a greater wound that we will ever, ever be asked to suffer. He is safe. He is trustworthy. You don’t have to second guess what you say to him. And you will find that His offer of peace that passes understanding is precious and true.
Talking to friends or coworkers or neighbors can be tricky. You often leave those conversations with even MORE things to ruminate about! “Should I have said that? Did I say too much? Did they misinterpret me?” You never leave a time of prayer with those worries, because God is indeed able to bear our burden. Sometimes, in a tough season, you can feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to. Maybe there’s just no one it would be appropriate to be vulnerable with. That feeling of isolation can feel like a curse at first, but I promise you that if it drives you to sweet times of prayers with the One who loves you the most, you will eventually see it as a blessing.
3. Memorize scripture. Again…I know this is tough. But to drive the ruminating thoughts out, you’ll need to replace them with something.
thoughts with God
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to
make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
(and the reason I know it’s possible to stop the dang ruminating!)
If you don’t have much scripture memorized, then ponder the words of a worship song or old hymn. Most of us know Amazing Grace, right? Start there.
The fourth stanza is my favorite.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Happy thinking friends. The space between our ears is important, and we owe it to our Maker and to ourselves to think true, joyful, life-giving thoughts. When we’re ruminating it’s usually about something involving me.myself.and.I , and that’s not who we’re on this earth to serve. Circular thought patterns are usually wrapped up in selfishness and pride. (Ouch, I know.) Get outta that cycle so you can focus on others, serve your neighbor, and love well. We can do it.