August 21, 2018

Explore an emotional memory over which you are ruminating

When our head starts to ruminate in a manner that is disturbing and doesn’t lead anywhere, we can compare it to a car spinning in the mud. Trying to figure out what has happened and why is in general a good thing, but sometimes we get stuck and can’t move on.

When we ruminate or worry, it is usually an important signal that something about our past or future is particularly important to us, but our mind can’t seem to figure it out. When this happens, we suggest an exercise that takes you back to the past to bring up important emotional memories. It can make your rumination more useful and help you figure out what you need. If you have traumatic experiences that you have not worked with before, then we advise you to do the exercise Explore and work on Trauma..

1. Bring out that which you ruminate over or worry about

Worrying and rumination is very often linked to something difficult that has happened. If there are individual events you are ruminating over, then bring out that memory. If it is a series of events or a period from your life, try bringing up some examples. For example, if you ruminate over the fact that your father drank too much when you were little, you might pick out an example where you remember that this was difficult for you. If you were bullied in middle school, pick out an example that stands out for you.

2. Describe the past

Describe to yourself what happened, or describe the time of your life that you are ruminating over. Try to first describe what happened and then how it made you feel.

3. Imagine the past

Play the scene before your inner eye. Spend some time imagining what happened, who said what and how the scene played out. Imagine you’re back in that scene again. That you are the younger version of yourself that experienced this.

4. Feel the emotion

How did it feel to experience what happened back then? Move your attention to where you feel your emotions, most often in your belly and chest. Notice how it feels to be you in that memory. Write down how it felt.

5. Find your need

When you have got to describe how you felt in that situation or at that time, ask yourself, “What had I needed in that situation?”

In addition to knowing that what happened should not happen, see if you can ask yourself what you had needed when it had first happened. Maybe you needed support or protection from someone? Maybe you needed someone to see how you had it?

6. Imagine the need being met

If you were able to experience what you had needed, go on to imagine what it would have been like if that need was met. Should someone have comforted you? Should someone have protected you? Should you have had the support to stand up for yourself? Did you need someone to confirm that you were a good kid? Imagine someone doing exactly what you would have needed. How does it feel to have that need met? Write it down.

7. How do you want to relate to this in the future?

With this new experience, how will you relate to this going forward in your life? Do you want to talk to someone about what happened? Do you want to continue working on this in other exercises? Do you need help dealing with it?

If you notice that the rumination and worrying won’t go away, then wait a moment and try the exercise again later on or explore other exercises on this page. If your worry or rumination is affecting your life over a longer period, you should consider seeking professional help.