Overcoming Rumination

Do you ruminate?  What is ruminating?  Let’s take a look at what it is, why we do it, and what XJWs are doing to stop the cycle of rumination.  

Many of us XJW find ourselves constantly reliving and thinking about the bad experiences we have had in the past.  They may be about experiences we had in the religion, experiences we had relating to being shunned, or experiences we have had post-religion as we were exploring our new life.  Repeatedly thinking about these unpleasant experiences is called rumination and if you’re like me you find yourself doing it regularly.

The following is an XJW adaptation of an article by Suma Chand, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive-behavior therapy.

Let’s take a look at 5 reasons to curb our post-JW ruminating habits:

  1. The more we ruminate on negative experiences the more likely we are to feel depressed.  Chronic ruminators are four times more likely to develop depression than non-ruminators.  It’s not surprising that reliving that traumatizing where you found out your entire life was a lie would make us more likely to depressed.  Right?
  2. Rumination is also associated with PTSD.  Many survivors of high control religion’s get diagnosed with PTSD.  A study showed that people who ruminate have more symptoms of PTSD as well as depression mentioned above.
  3. People who chronically ruminate tend to lose friends.  Studies have shown that ruminators tend to seek help from others more regularly but they also tend to receive less help from others.  It also found that people tend to respond negativaley to ruminators request for help.
  4. Ruminating causes us to hold on to grudges longer than non-ruminators.  This is because ruminating causes us to relive bad experiences and keep them fresh in our minds for much longer.  This can make it hard for us to move forward after the traumatic experiences we have had in JW and while leaving JW.  I think many XJW can attest to this phenomenon.
  5. Regular rumination on past bad experiences can cause us to have a negative outlook on life.  This hampers our problem-solving abilities.  It causes us to have trouble finding solutions to our problems.  When we do find solutions it causes us to feel uncertain and have low confidence which stops us from taking actions that would help us move forward.

Does any of the above sound familiar?  Let me know in the comments if you have experience rumination after escaping JWism.  So now that you’re familiar with rumination but what can we do about it?  Let’s take a look at 5 ways XJWs can stop the habit:

  1. Work on becoming aware of when you are ruminating.  We get lost in our thoughts reliving a negative experience that happened days, weeks, months, or even years ago.  Minutes or hours can go by without even realizing we are doing it.  If we become aware that we are ruminating then we have the power to take action.  Once aware we can deliberately distract ourselves with activities such a going for a walk, exercising, household chores, calling a friend, playing a game or watching TV.
  2. Sometimes our rumination might involve a solvable problem rather than a negative past experience.  Can you take steps words resolving the problem rather than just thinking about it?  Make a plan to do this.  For XJWs we often ruminate about the past.  We think about the instance where we made mistakes or where we were victimized.  Make a plan to not to allow yourself to be victimized the next time you run into a similar situation.  Make a plan to not make the same mistake again.  Having a plan of action for the future can help curb the rumination about the past.  Develop the skills you need to protect yourself.
  3. Sometimes when we have emotional reactions and ruminate our thinking because foggy and very one directional.  It might help to take a moment to question whether your interpretation of the event you are ruminating about.  Is what your thinking about the only way to think about it?  Are there alternative explanations?  Alternative ways of viewing the situation?
  4. Let go of the perfectionist standards and goals that were taught to you.  If you’re like me you were taught that mistakes were not acceptable.  Instead, focus on realistic standards and goals.  This will help curb the ruminating on the whys, hows, and shoulds that we dwell on.   When something happens that I feel insecure about and I start ruminating about I remind myself that I am not perfect. I tell myself things like if what I did was a mistake then I am allowed to make the mistake.  Everyone else is allowed to make mistakes and so am I.  It wouldn’t be the first mistake I’ve made and it won’t be the last.
  5. Lastly, let’s work on developing self-esteem.  As XJWs we have had our self-esteem chronically undermined throughout our lives.  As JWs our lives had a single purpose and goal.  The religion and associated things were the only things you were allowed to feel good about.  Not having the religion anymore we need to develop areas in our lives that we can feel good about.  It can’t just be one or two areas either as we run the risk of losing our selfesteem that way.  Go out and explore with curiosity and openness areas of life that might bring you satisfaction and improve your self-worth.  Doing this will help improve your self-esteem, reduce your rumination habits, and help you feel better overall!

Personally, I find that my rumination often involves past experiences were I was victimized and I did not have control.  It often involves situations where I felt insecure or did not stand up for myself.  It’s also likely to involve situations where I have been hurt by other people doing seemingly illogical things that I then try to make sense of.  What do you ruminate about?  What has helped you reduce your rumination?  Let me know in the comments.


Chand, S. (2018) Uplift Your Mood: Stop Ruminating.  Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/uplift-your-mood-stop-ruminating


Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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