Have you ever found yourself stuck in a cycle continuous, repetitive thinking? Do the same worries and fears repeat over and again in your mind, no matter how much time you already pondered them? Is your head mostly filled with the exact string of thoughts or feelings that never seem to go away?
This repetitive thinking is also known as rumination, which is a negative thought pattern. The thoughts involved are often inherently negative, dark, or sad. Besides that, they can play a significant role in the decline of your mental health. Worse still, repetitive thinking is hard to break out from and forms a downward spiral. The more you ruminate, the worse your mental health gets, and that makes you ruminate more!
The American Psychological Association states that rumination occurs for many different reasons. You might think that repetitive thinking will grant you better insight or solutions for your problems. You may feel overwhelmed by the stressors in life that you’re facing. Or perhaps you’re struggling with remnants of physical or emotional trauma that you can’t stop thinking about. It’s also a common trait of individuals who consider themselves perfectionists or focus on what other people think of them.
Whatever the reasons for your repetitive thinking, the fact remains that it’s draining your positive thinking and doing a lot of harm to your psychological state. It may even be affecting your life so severely that you’re missing out on opportunities for success and happiness! Here are three ways repetitive thinking can hold you back in life.
1. Repetitive Thinking Affects Emotional Processing
Avoiding repetitive thinking doesn’t mean avoiding emotional processing. Without emotional processing, you can’t:
- Solve problems that you’re facing
- Learn and grow from the mistakes and experiences of the past
- Address unpleasant or negative thoughts that need to be faced
- Escape cycles of toxic positivity
The problem is that many people believe that their rumination is a form of healthy emotional processing, but that’s not the case at all. Studies have shown that many people get stuck in repetitive thinking when they try to process emotions because of negative patterns that lead to their continual “replaying” of pain and past problems.
The correct goal of emotional processing is to seek solutions and find resolution. But that doesn’t happen when rumination is central to those attempts. This means you’ll need to be able to find a good balance between completely ignoring or avoiding your issues and getting stuck by constantly ruminating on them. Differences between these two extremes are as follows.
- Emotional processing allows for the generation of new ideas, ways of thinking, and behaviors. Rumination keeps you stuck on the same thoughts and actions again and again.
- Emotional processing involves positive thinking for forward movement and a growth mindset. Rumination maintains negative thinking that only wallows and catastrophizes.
- Emotional processing gives you the chance to be productive in bad times by finding solutions and brainstorming ways to resolve a problem. Rumination offers none of that, leaving you to dwell on the same issues with no innovation.
When you don’t positively process your emotions, you wind up being held back from big and important moments of growth. The sources of powerful and complex emotions are often also sources of enormous lessons, and you’re missing out if you don’t take those opportunities to develop and become a better person.
2. Repetitive Thinking Prevents You From Having Confidence
Confidence is an important part of forward momentum in life. While it does you no good to be arrogant, it also does you no good to have zero faith in yourself and your abilities. Some degree of positive thinking for your self-esteem is necessary. But when you use a lot of repetitive thinking, that confidence can be sapped away.
Studies show that rumination can increase the risks of depression and worsen self-esteem and confidence. This lack of confidence holds you back in life by affecting you in the following ways:
· You Don’t Follow Things Through
When you lack self-confidence and self-esteem, you tend to give up when the going gets tough. You see all those challenges ahead of you and become overwhelmed with fear that you’re not capable of handling them, so you “quit while you’re ahead.” In reality, you would have been able to jump those hurdles, so you missed out on an ample opportunity due to that lack of confidence! Rumination makes this even worse by making you overthink the things that lie ahead.
· You Don’t Go For What You Want
Many of the desires and aspirations you have in life are likely not ones that are easy to get to. Pretty much everyone will face many difficulties on their way to achieving their goals – that’s a normal part of life! But when you don’t have confidence, you’re not willing to go through those difficulties. And you know what they say – you miss 100% of the chances that you don’t take. So you won’t take any chances when you don’t have the self-esteem for them. Repetitive thinking adds to this by catastrophizing the challenges you may face.
· You Care Too Much About What Others Think
It’s good to be kind to others and listen to their feedback and opinions, but ultimately your life is up to you. Unfortunately, a rumination that harms self-confidence can make you overly reliant on the validation of others. You worry so much about what others think about you that your self-esteem becomes dependent on them. This stops you from pursuing what matters to you in life, leaving you stuck defining yourself by the thoughts of others.
· You Never Take Risks
You don’t have to be a daredevil to move forward in life, but taking risks now and then is often necessary. Risks can pay off when they’re well-measured, and the risks that don’t pay off still serve as valuable lessons. Without confidence, though, you’re unlikely to feel comfortable taking risks due to a fear of failure, and rumination worsens this by paralyzing you in that fear.
· You’re A Perfectionist
Repetitive thinking can make you overanalyze every single step of what you do to the point that you find something wrong with everything! This can harm your self-confidence and turn you into a “perfectionist.” But perfection isn’t possible, and trying to achieve that is just an unrealistic expectation and a tactic for avoidance that will ultimately hold you back.
3. Repetitive Thinking Keeps You Living In An Inaccurate Past
Repetitive thinking means always looking back at things that have already happened, leaving you stuck in the past. It’s quite obvious how that affects your ability to move on. When you live in the past, your mind and body don’t have the resources to step forward in life. Therefore, you stay held back by that past.
But, worse still, repetitive thinking doesn’t even form accurate memories for you to think about! So it’s not just counterproductive. It’s also totally fake. This makes it even harder to break free from those thoughts, as you’ve already created circumstances in your head that are more negative than reality. This happens in the following ways:
· You Form Overgeneral Memories
Overgeneral memories are a form of memory that summarize several incidents wrapped up into a single mosaic of a thought. This means that instead of seeing multiple different events that had nuance, context, and unique features. So you’ll remember all vaguely similar incidents as one single block. It’s easy to understand just how wrong this kind of memory can be, and it’s incredibly unproductive to think of your life with these chunks of haphazard bits and pieces. Studies show that ruminators and repetitive thinkers tend to form blurry memories instead of accurate ones.
· You’re More Likely To Remember Negative Things
Memories are filled with a mix of positive and negative factors, but when you ruminate, your concentration will lie on the negative things more, says research. You’ll be unable to see the good things that lie in your experiences instead of getting stuck in all the mistakes you’ve made or the bad times you’ve endured. This forms an inaccurate picture of what the past looks like and makes you forget about the positive things you’ve brought to the table, leaving you unable to move forward with those things.
· You Define Yourself By That Inaccurate Past
When repetitive thinking traps you in the past, it can shape your view of your world, life, and self. You begin to define yourself by that past, believing that the negative things you’ve done or faced are what define you as a person. And since people attract what they think they deserve, if you believe you’re not worthy of positive things in life. In fact, you’re unlikely to get any positive things.
Final Thoughts On Some Ways Repetitive Thinking Can Hold You Back In Life
If you’re a victim of your repetitive thinking, you’re probably horrified by how much that rumination has been affecting your life and holding you back. But don’t worry – it’s something that can be solved! You can address repetitive thinking and change your thought processes to move away from this bad habit.
One way to break the cycle of repetitive thinking is by being aware of when the cycle begins. Being able to detect the start of rumination allows you to take action to prevent its spiral by seeking positive distractions. This awareness challenges your negative thoughts with logic, or better understanding your triggers.
In the background, working on your self-esteem and confidence can also be a great way to combat repetitive thinking. Understanding how to learn from past experiences and overcome current challenges is a powerful way to break the negative thought spiral with your positivity. Adjusting your expectations and goals as you go will help you to keep everything in line, too.
If you’re struggling a lot with repetitive thinking and can’t seem to negate its severity, remember that there’s no shame in reaching out to a professional for help. Mental health professionals, such as therapists, are expertly trained to provide assistance and unbiased aid to those in need. It’s always okay to ask for help when you need it, and that help can make a huge difference in your life!