I have a friend who spent over a decade (yes you read that correctly) ruminating on her relationship. Every time we caught up about what was going on, she was trying to “work things out” or “figuring things out” or “deciding what the best thing to do is” and even “trying to avoid making a mistake”.
This is all code for deciding whether to stay or go which means being unsure to a great degree, which means something is very wrong, and with a ruminator this translates to thinking things out to the nth degree and being non-commital.
The trouble with ruminating about something, is that you can go into such a level of deep thinking, you end up with your feet metaphorically stuck in cement while your life passes you by. There’s no easier way to sit on the fence in your own life by thinking the crap out of everything while saying it’s the other person or old situations or the pain that’s holding you back.
Exactly how much thinking can one person do? You’re not trying to come up with a cure for cancer or coming up with theories that will have you going down in history with the likes of Einstein and Freud; you’re thinking deeply about yourself or another person or the sum of your relationship or even life, in an unhealthy manner.
You might be making a decision about whether to stay or go. You might be thinking about what happened in your relationship and pondering the coulda, woulda, shoulda. You may be wallowing in pain and rejection. You may be thinking that you wanted them to be the right person and that you don’t want to have to try again. In fact, I know a lot of people burn up copious amounts of brain energy trying to ‘work out’ the other person
What are they thinking? I wouldn’t do something like that – why are they? If it were me and I did that, I think it would mean X. They said Y in January – how could they not mean it in July? I wonder if they’ve got something wrong with them – hmmm, let me Google possible conditions and work up a diagnosis. Oh my God – what if they change for the next person?
Here’s the thing: You can think about what you might say or do ‘next time’ something happens, or analyse the crappola out of what they said, or replay scenes from your life over and over again, or stew and ferment in your your own negative self-talk and pain, but at some point, it’s time to puck yourself in the head, drag yourself out of the fog, wake up and get into the present.
It doesn’t take years to decide whether to stay or go or to work out what you feel about someone. Remember when you’ve been involved with that person that sat on the fence, treated you like an option, flip flapped, said they weren’t sure of their feelings? Well that’s what you’re doing by another name. Commit to a decision. This requires being available so you can be emotionally honest with your eyes and ears open. Not making a decision is a decision in itself – a decision to do shag all. The mistake isn’t the outcome of the decision itself; it’s to not make one.
When you stop over-thinking and take action you make decisions, and if you remain a person of action that has a life, a good level of self-esteem and doesn’t treat each person like they’re the last chance saloon with the key to your happiness, you don’t have regrets because you know you did the best by you with the best of the knowledge that you had at that time.
You could’ve put in another few years in search of the holy grail of having 100% of the answers but instead you’re off living your life with no room for regrets because you’re not looking back all the time or sitting on the fence.
Looking back is being uncommitted to the present and the future.
Playing the coulda, woulda, shoulda game is basically living in the past while taking no responsibility for the present and beyond. The truth is that we could all have done many things differently but that time has passed. Investing a deep level of thinking into something that’s gone and that you have no control over, is a waste. It’s also important to recognise that aside from relationships serving to teach us about ourselves, changing you in the equation doesn’t change them. You’re not God or capable of Jedi mind tricks – you don’t have that level of influence over someone .
Learn and apply as you go. I can assure you if you spend years in inaction stewing in a long drawn out thought process, when you ‘go back out there’, you’ll likely wind up in a shady relationship out of over-thinking.
Wallowing in pain and rejection is like having an open wound and feeding it some salt every day. Of all the productive things you could be doing for yourself, this isn’t one of them. It’s unlikely that you like pain but you’ve become used to being invested in feeling bad. It gives you a purpose but the truth is, your purpose has become finding reasons to continue justifying the pain and rejection and basically why you’re not good enough . You’re actually rejecting yourself and truth be told, you’re also r esurrecting and reliving old pain .
To continue wallowing in the pain post breakup instead of grieving it and busting a gut to get past it, is like saying that your relationships aren’t allowed to not work out or only you can end it. And then thinking about it some more.
Wanting them to be the right person because you in essence can’t be arsed to have to put yourself out there, is doing yourself and even them a disservice. It’s like saying “I don’t care that you weren’t the right person for me and that you even behaved like a jackass! I’m gonna THINK about how I wanted you to be the right person for me instead of putting myself out there and trying again to find someone and something more deserving of my energies!”
It’s a misappropriation of energy and time to spend it focusing on someone else when you should be focusing on you. Of all the things you could be ‘doing’, obsessing about them and playing Columbo trying to hunt out more clues, or sitting there like a CSI with a pile of evidence but deciding not to process it and draw a conclusion, is like peeing into the wind.
Yes you get to avoid looking too closely at yourself but while you may have a PhD in them, you’re skipping all the lessons you could be learning about yourself - how can you have less knowledge about you?
Instead of being an expert in your ex, or shady relationships, or pain, be an expert in living your life authentically to make you happy. If everyone ruminated but didn’t apply or share, we wouldn’t know many of the things that we do or make mistakes to learn from. Action converts thinking into a meaningful life.