A few days ago, I wrote about how we need to Stop Explaining. Stop Talking. Boundaries are upheld with action. Today, I wanted to focus on talking overload’s friend: thinking used as a way of masking inaction aka ruminating.

I have a friend who spent over a decade (yes, you read that correctly) ruminating on her relationship. Every time we caught up about what was going on, she was “trying to work things out” or “figuring things out”. Or she was “deciding what the best thing to do is” and even “trying to avoid making a mistake”.

This is all code for deciding whether to stay or go which means being unsure to a great degree, which means something is very wrong. With a ruminator, this translates to thinking things out to the nth degree and being non-committal.

The trouble with ruminating about something is that you can go into such a level of deep thinking that you end up with your feet metaphorically stuck in cement while your life passes you by.

There’s no easier way to sit on the fence in your own life by thinking the crap out of everything while saying it’s the other person or old situations or the pain that’s holding you back.

Exactly how much thinking can one person do?

You’re not trying to come up with a cure for cancer or coming up with theories that will have you going down in history with the likes of Einstein and Freud. No, you’re thinking deeply about yourself or another person or the sum of your relationship or even life in an unhealthy manner.

You might be making a decision about whether to stay or go. Perhaps you’re thinking about what happened in your relationship and pondering the coulda, woulda, shoulda. Maybe you’re wallowing in pain and rejection. You may think that you wanted them to be the right person and that you don’t want to try again. In fact, lots of people burn up copious amounts of brain energy trying to ‘work out’ the other person.

What are they thinking? I wouldn’t do something like that. Why are they? If it were me and I did that, I think it would mean X. They said Y in January; how could they not mean it in July? I wonder if they’ve got something wrong with them. Hmmm, let me Google possible conditions and work up a diagnosis. Oh my God, what if they change for the next person?

Here’s the thing: You can think about what you might say or do ‘next time’ something happens. Or you can analyse the crapola out of what they said or repeatedly replay scenes from your life. You can stew and ferment in your own negative self-talk and pain. At some point, though, it’s time to puck yourself in the head, drag yourself out of the fog, wake up and get into the present.

It doesn’t take years to decide whether to stay or go or to work out what you feel about someone.

Remember when you’ve been involved with that person who sat on the fence? Treated you like an option? Flip-flapped? Said they weren’t sure of their feelings? Well, that’s what you’re doing by another name. Commit to a decision. This requires being available so you can be emotionally honest with your eyes and ears open. Not making a decision is a decision in itself. A decision to do shag all. The mistake isn’t the outcome of the decision itself; it’s not making one.

When you stop overthinking and take action you make decisions. If you remain a person of action who has a life, a good level of self-esteem and doesn’t treat each person like they’re the last chance saloon with the key to your happiness, you don’t have regrets. You know you did the best by you with the best of the knowledge that you had at that time.

You could’ve put in another few years in search of the holy grail of having 100% of the answers. Instead, you’re off living your life with no room for regrets because you’re not looking back all the time or sitting on the fence.

Looking back is being uncommitted to the present and the future.

Playing the coulda, woulda, shoulda game is basically living in the past while taking no responsibility for the present and beyond.

The truth is that we could all have done many things differently, but that time has passed. Investing a deep level of thinking into something that’s gone and that you have no control over is a waste. It’s also important to recognise that aside from relationships serving to teach us about ourselves, changing you in the equation doesn’t change them. You’re not God or capable of Jedi mind tricks. You don’t have that level of influence over someone.

Learn and apply as you go.

If you spend years in inaction stewing in a long, drawn-out thought process, when you ‘go back out there’ you’ll likely wind up in a shady relationship out of overthinking.

Wallowing in pain and rejection is like having an open wound and feeding it some salt every day.

Of all the productive things you could be doing for yourself, this isn’t one of them. It’s unlikely that you like pain, but you’ve become used to being invested in feeling bad. It gives you a purpose. The truth is, though, your purpose has become finding reasons to continue justifying the pain and rejection and basically why you’re not good enough. You’re actually rejecting yourself and, truth be told, also resurrecting and reliving old pain.

To continue wallowing in the pain post-breakup instead of grieving it and busting a gut to get past it is like saying that your relationships aren’t allowed to not work out. Or that only you can end it [for you to be okay]. And then thinking about it some more.

Wanting them to be the right person because you, in essence, can’t be arsed to have to put yourself out there, is doing yourself and even them a disservice.

It’s like saying, “I don’t care that you weren’t the right person for me and that you even behaved like a jackass! I’m gonna THINK about how I wanted you to be the right person for me instead of putting myself out there and trying again to find someone and something more deserving of my energies!”

It’s a misappropriation of energy and time to spend these focusing on someone else when you should be focusing on yourself. Of all the things you could be ‘doing’, obsessing about somebody and playing Columbo trying to hunt out more clues, or sitting there like a CSI with a pile of evidence but deciding not to process it and draw a conclusion, is like peeing into the wind.

Yes, you get to avoid looking too closely at yourself. But while you may have a PhD in them, you’re skipping all the lessons you could be learning about yourself. How can you have less knowledge about you?

Instead of being an expert in your ex, or shady relationships, or pain, be an expert in living your life authentically to make you happy. If everyone ruminated but didn’t apply or share, we wouldn’t know many of the things that we do or make mistakes to learn from. Action converts thinking into a meaningful life.


Your thoughts?

Check out my ebooks The No Contact Rule and Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl and more in my bookshop.

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