No, not a post about a newly discovered train spotting habit….rather about rumination and reflection. Both are mental habits we all have, irrespective of the state of your mental health. The way you use them changes at times of stress, anxiety and during depression.
Google the definition of each and at the top of the many entries returned are that rumination is ” a deep or considered thought about something.” and reflection is “a serious thought or consideration”. Sound similar ? Yet they are fundamentally different.
I used to ruminate a lot… over past things that I cannot change, with each version of the same history being more critical. Or over the future and things that could happen , usually the worst scenario and outside of my control. I didn’t often want to do this rumination , especially during the night when the habit seems to be at its strongest and you can’t get back to sleep. It seemed my mind had no will to stop or control it. Funny that I never ruminated over the present, which is the only actual reality we have.
So my personal definition of rumination is “an uncontrolled and pervasive thought process to judgementally review events that I may have no control over and which probably did not happen as I think they did or will not happen as I fear’. The shorter version – “it’s a waste of time and energy”.
Reflection is the opposite. You choose to reflect, you choose the topic and you observe the emotions associated, without judgement.
My definition of reflection is “a controlled and deliberate thought process with a clear intention to review events or make future plans, observing associated emotions without judgement and without the illusion that those emotions may bring”.
So back to trains….. I have been using visualisation techniques around emotions and thoughts, which can help demystify or diminish their strength. While I attempt to write, I have used visual ways of presenting thoughts and information before, I love mind maps !
I picture the rumination train as being very crowded, with lots of emotions on board, jostling for position. Driver This Is Not Useful and Ticket Collector Self-criticism are in charge, on a track that is circular. There are no platforms to get on or get off. The only destination appears to be, well, nowhere .
The reflection train has less emotions on. It has two destinations, the start when you choose to join, with somewhere in mind of where you want to get to. The final stop may be different, but you have an intention. Driver This Is Useful and Ticket Collector Non-judgemental are there to help.
I still get on board the rumination train, but am learning to use the reflection train more.
Perhaps if you find yourself on the rumination train try and find a way to get off, deep breathes can allow the space to do so. Then think what you wanted to consider, take some more deep breathes to use the time and energy better on reflection.
Leave comments if you like, won’t be offended if you don’t or you think a load of old tosh…..the trains work for me and that is enough.
Have a restful weekend.