It's taken me quite a long time - an embarrassingly long time, in fact - to realize that my point of view is radically skewed. I was just reading the first few pages of one of my kid's college English papers, and I stopped a couple pages in. It's about a trip we took to see the Eclipse back in 2017. It was a big trip for us. I stopped reading because all I remember about that trip is what I didn't do, or what I messed up. Most positive memories don't linger for me, which is probably why I have long term memory problems. When all you can remember is your mistakes, why remember at all? Anyway, I realized that my entire view of that English paper was wrapped up in my negative view of myself, and that this is not normal. The realization that this is not normal is what's taken me so long to come around to.
I know we all make mistakes - that's life, it's inevitable really. And I don't think I'm immune to that. It's just that all I can see about my decisions are the mistakes I've made, and all I can see about myself is the 'bad' traits I have. If anyone else makes mistakes, I hardly notice - after all, they did their best and that's what counts, to me at least. But when I make a mistake, there are no valid excuses, no valid reasons, and it's all-consuming. Literally. It's all I think about. Over and over again, like some twisted playback machine. I even have mistakes from decades ago come up (seemingly) randomly at times. And the killer is that they feel nearly as devastating when I remember them as they did when I made them. Not much of the shame and self loathing is diminished over the years.
So it appears that my view of the world is skewed, and mightily so. Yes, it only took me 48 years to realize this. I'm not talking about how we all have our own unique viewpoint formed from our own experiences. I'm realizing that my viewpoint is skewed far beyond that. I view the world almost exclusively through the lens of my perceived failure. I am deeply and utterly convinced of my own ineptitude and lack of ability or capability. I literally am not capable of seeing the things I do right. And it has taken me decades to even concede that there are things I do right that I am unable to acknowledge, that my perception of myself is flawed in some way. It sounds like a small distinction, but it feels a lot larger.
I feel like the MoodPath app has helped me realize some very fundamental things about myself. I've sort of dropped the 'class' portion of the app for now, because I"m trying to give myself room to really absorb what it said about rumination. That people who ruminate tend to try and figure out 'what went wrong'. And how this is flawed because it looks backward and not forward. That if you are going to look back at those events, it's better to have concrete questions that help you move forward. And if there is nothing to learn, then you know it's time to put it behind you. And how we generally have 'triggers' that can cause this rumination cycle to start. There is a series of questions we are supposed to ask ourselves to help us learn more about our rumination cycle, and a set of 'reactions', or actions that we are supposed to develop in order to stop the cycle. I'll include some of my thoughts from what I've done so far. Like I said, I've sort of halted my progress because I want this current little revelation to really sink in for me.
I'm just wondering if maybe I should start a thread in the anxiety forum about this topic? I'll close for now with my thoughts so far.
1. Rumination leads to helplessness and saps motivation.
2. Rumination does not solve the problem because it does not seek solutions, only reasons why something has happened.
3. Concrete questions are productive. Examples: 'How would I like to do things differently moving forward?'; 'What can I learn from this situation?' (nothing=move on); 'What is it I want to do?'; 'How do I want to do this?'
4. Notice any patterns to your rumination - time of day, alone or at work, etc.
5. What are your triggers?
Questions to help understand rumination cycle:
1. What do you do before or while you are ruminating? (my rumination is generally associated with anxiety, though they are so connected they often feed each other)
2. Where does your rumination tend to happen? (it sounds silly, but I haven't figured that out yet - I'm still working on recognizing when I'm ruminating)
3 Do you usually ruminate alone or when someone is there, too? (see #2)
4. What is your mood when you ruminate? (anxious)
5. What physical sensations do your notice when you ruminate? (weakness, shakiness, flushed, basically anxiety attack symptoms)
6. What time of day do you tend to ruminate? (see #2, but probably morning? During anxiety attacks? I don't know?)
7. What are your ruminating thoughts? (most recent mistake or criticism or conflict on rewind/replay; if I don't control my thoughts it will spread to remembering past mistakes randomly)
So right now I know this:
My circular thoughts about current conflicts or past mistakes are called rumination.
My rumination does not solve anything. Looking for reasons 'why' creates helplessness because it does not seek solutions.
I can learn to recognize my rumination cycles.
My rumination cycles are closely linked to my anxiety attacks, and often feed each other in unhealthy ways.
I can train myself to ask 'concrete' questions that help me find solutions - in effect harnessing my rumination as a way to solve problems.