Have you gotten yourself stuck in the trigger trap? Do you keep running through the same painful memories over and over again?
This is a pretty common mistake that most survivors make at some point. Trying to uncover what went wrong in the past, they can get caught up in anxious and negative thought loops. These loops cause rumination, which is an emotionally painful experience.
Getting lost in rumination will make you more anxious, hopeless, and lost in the journey. For you to stay on track, you have to remember to find the joy in healing and learn how to put the painful memories on the shelf where they belong.
In this episode, I'll teach you how to do both as we bust the trigger trap and get you out of the miserable rumination cycles that are dragging you down.
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Welcome to the Practical Growth podcast with me, ebi Johnson, author, nlpmp and cognitive reappraisal coach. This is the podcast created for people like you, people looking for more, more health, more peace, more happiness. Each week, I explore new topic in pop psychology and help you build a better life and better relationships. Join me for special guests, exciting ideas and practical advice that you can use to improve your life from the inside out. Let's get into it. Hello, hello, hello, my lovelies, it is me, ebi, your favorite writer, your favorite coach and your favorite TikTok NLPMP. And we are back, back, back for another great episode of the Practical Growth podcast. I like this one today because this is one that a lot of my clients struggle with when they first come to me, and it's one that I see happening over and over and over again in the very well meaning, very well intentioned readers and followers that I've got on Medium, on Instagram, on Twitter, you name it. What are we talking about specifically? It's something that you've probably had experience with. Specifically, it is rumination, rumination. We're going to be talking rumination today. Why it's bad for you, why you have to get yourself out of what I call this trigger trap and get yourself onto a healthier, more balanced, realistic and positive path so that your healing journey, your emotional healing journey, doesn't get disrupted, so you can be the best friend, the best partner, the best parent that you can be. Right, before we get into this juicy, juicy topic, a little bit of housekeeping and some really good news for the lovelies who have been in my Instagram and TikTok DMs I am reopening my relationship coaching program in 2024. That is right. The relationship coaching program that you guys all know and love is coming back in 2024. No, don't worry, don't worry trauma people. I'm still going to be coaching you guys, but I'm reopening my two-month relationship coaching program in 2024. Now, what is this? It is a two-month program that focuses on building healthy communication for couples, finding personal identities in the midst of a committed relationship and navigating conflict and upheaval, especially for those who are survivors and who have maybe some codependency issues or some attachment issues like insecure attachment. This program is ideal for couples who are stuck in a rut, or even just one partner who's trying to figure out the dynamics and how they can improve things. It's also great for people who are recovering, maybe from childhood trauma and narcissistic abuse within this relationship, while they're trying to hold on and kind of rebuild themselves within this partnership. It's also great for people who are starting new relationships and want to make sure that they have the right foundations for success with their new partner. Now the same is going to apply here as it does for my trauma coaching. I'm only going to be taking on six people at a time. So if this is you, if you are ready to improve your relationship from the inside out, if you want to make sure that you and your partner have the keys that you need, the skills that you need to navigate the ups and downs of life, the drama, the heartache and the trauma that you might be recovering from yourself, from your childhood, from your life, from your experiences, then you need to apply for this now. This will be starting in January of 2024 and, again, spots are limited. So if you want to join this relationship coaching program this two month, one on one private coaching program then you need to head to the real ebjohnsoncom and click on working with me. That is the real ebjohnsoncom and click on working with me. Not much time left to apply for this, guys, and this one is going to sell out and fill up fast. So apply, apply, apply and I'll see you in the new year. All right, rumination, rumination, let's jump into it. You guys have heard me mention this before. We've definitely touched on it in previous episodes, but today we're going to dive deep into what, again, I call the trigger trap Rumination. What is it? Well, according to the American Psychological Association you know the APA rumination is essentially obsessive negative thought loops. It's getting caught up in really painful traumatic memories, doubts, failures, negative experiences that you've had recently or in the past, and it becomes basically not re-traumatizing for you but very, very triggering. When you get caught in these obsessive negative thought loops, you get overwhelmed with negative emotions and essentially it interferes with your mental health and with your daily life. Right, it can actually get in the way Laying on the couch all weekend instead of going out for a run or walking the dog or playing with the kids or doing something healthy for yourself. It can make you not apply for that job, that dream job that would provide you with financial stability and the career you want and a life that you want to lead All of those things right. If you get caught in these rumination cycles, these rumination patterns, they completely disrupt your healing journey and actually set you back. You've got to find the balance. So how does this rumination get in the way? Specifically, how does it disrupt your healing? You know, let's say you've been making a lot of progress, you've kind of made some sense out of the toxic parents that you had, or you've kind of made sense out of the old relationship patterns, but you keep going back to that one scene where they hit you or they hurt your feelings or they said or did that thing, that big failure that just really like cut you to the bone. How does getting caught thinking about that disrupt your healing journey? Well, and this is all scientific, you can go and look this up. Number one it prolongs and intensifies any depression you may be experiencing. So if you're already really depressed about realizing that your parents didn't love you the way they should have and they didn't treat you the way they should have, if you just keep thinking about it, it's not going to make you less depressed, okay, it's going to make you more depressed the more you think about that. It doesn't matter that, it's a fact. It's going to make you depressed. It will impair your ability, okay, your actual cognitive ability, your thinking ability, your ability to process your thoughts and to process emotion. So when you're going through life and something bad happens at work or someone comes at you sideways with an attitude, things like that, you have a harder time processing and regulating your emotional responses in those situations because you've already spent the day thinking, thinking, thinking about that embarrassing thing you did that one time and how everyone laughed at you and told you that you were stupid. And so your fuse is done right. Your fuse is burned for the day emotionally and you're more likely to snap. That's just one example, but essentially it impairs your ability to think and your ability to process emotion. Number three it can aggravate your anxiety and make it worse. Okay, so thinking about negative things, negative emotions, bringing those things back up to the surface more than you need to, will make your anxiety worse. It can also increase insomnia symptoms, so it can disrupt your sleep, your actual circadian rhythms, and it increases the lightliness that you're going to engage in risky or impulsive behavior. So gambling, promiscuity, stealing, whatever it is, these kind of risky drug abuse, all of those things become more likely when you are stuck in these patterns of thinking about all the negative things, to the point that it brings back negative emotion. Number four when you are sucked into these trigger traps and you are just thinking through all the bad things that re-trigger you. You also exacerbate and increase and maintain your body's stress response, so that pressure that you feel in your chest, that tightness, the sweatiness, the racing heartbeat, that kind of sense of shame and embarrassment and panic that comes back to you, the physiological symptoms and the emotional symptoms of stress, right? Your body's responses, those go through the roof when you're ruminating through the roof. And that is bad for your body because number five it increases inflammation. That is correct. It increases inflammation throughout the body and that takes a direct toll on your nervous system, on your immune system, on your endocrine system, which creates the hormones that make you feel and do all kinds of crazy stuff, right? So rumination very, very bad. It also increases your risk of substance abuse disorder. So these are all the things, all the huge obstacles that rumination will put in the way for you. And when you're dealing with all of that intense depression, an inability to think clearly, an inability to regulate your emotions, inflammation or raging throughout your body, you can't keep a positive, healthy mindset, you can't regulate your nervous system, you can't create new behavioral patterns for yourself, you can't even maintain healthy relationships. So all these things that you're trying to do for your healing, all those things I just mentioned, they all get blocked, they all get set back, put out of the way because of these cycles of rumination, because of your dwelling in the bad, the bad, the bad, the bad, the bad. So why does this happen? You would think, because I mentioned at the top right, so many of my clients do this when they come to me. It's such a bad habit that they get into. I know I've been there as well, and I see this in my readers and my followers and the comments that they leave, where they'll just go on and on and on, really into depth, about these really detailed, terrible memories. There's no resolution. They just want to like, share this misery that they're thinking about. Why? Why does that happen? Because surely people who have spent their lives being miserable wouldn't want to keep thinking about misery, right? Surely they would want it to be the opposite. Well, there's several reasons. Okay, there are several reasons this is thought to happen. Number one, and we've talked about this before, survivors tend to think oh, if I just think hard enough, I'll make the pain go away, because I'll gain some kind of magical insight that will magically cure my trauma and make me forgive everybody, and I won't be angry and everything will be right. So it's this kind of magical thinking which is nonsense. It's crap. You can't think away stuff that happened in the past. It happened, it's done, the damage is there and just recognizing it is all you have to do. Dwelling on it will mess you up. Number two the second reason why this rumination sucked down the whole black hole happens. It happens usually in people with a long history of trauma, a long history of abuse or neglect. Now why? It's because you've spent so long in misery where all you could think about was misery, because you were trying to protect yourself from the active misery that was all around you and it's become your norm. It's become the only thing you know how to think about. So you have to get really conscious and intentional about addressing that. Number three the reason that a lot of people get stuck in these negative thought patterns is because they're surrounded by tons of stress in their life that they can't control. So they're having a terrible time at work. They're getting dumped on at work. They're getting dumped on at home. They're getting dumped on when they go out in the streets and they're interacting with other negative, nasty people. All of that negativity, negativity, negativity makes the person think, well, there is only negativity, everything sucks, everything's bad. Let's just look at bad, bad, bad, bad, bad instead of the harder thing, which is intentionally creating some good. And last but not least, you are more likely to fall into these ruminative traps if you have certain personality characteristics, specifically, if you're a perfectionist, if you are high in neurotic traits, which is neuroticism is like your ability to deal with stress, so those who are codependent and who have insecure attachment you are also more likely to think negatively, to get sucked down into these ruminating traps which keep you locked in negative emotions that make it really difficult for you to do what you need to do in your relationships and your daily life. So how do you stop the cycle? How do you make it end? How do you strike the balance? Because it is about a balance, right? I'm by no means saying you have to be super positive all the time and only think about positive things, because that's also shit. We've talked about toxic positivity. It doesn't work. It's damaging for you. Emotional integrity, true emotional intelligence, is all about embracing your emotions as they are, working with them as they are for the most positive outcome that you can for yourself and everyone else around you, right? So where's the balance? How do we find it? Can we not think too much in the negative but not get sucked down into toxic positivity land? Well, there's five things here. I'm going to break them down for you. There's five things you need to do, so here it is pen and paper time. Get it out. This is the active part. This is what you need to walk away and do. If you are someone who is stuck in these rumination cycles, okay, here we go. Number one create positive distractions for yourself. Okay, create positive distractions for yourself. Think about it like a baby getting their picture taken for the first time in a photo studio. They are freaking out. There's lights in their face, everything is turned into chaos. As far as that little baby knows, the world is suddenly now All these scary people looking at the other side of these lights and cameras and shiny things and yelling at them and telling them to smile. Right, that's really, really intense. So what do we do with the baby? We distract the baby. The baby gets to go and look at something funny, something that makes them laugh, something that makes them giggle something. That's just absolute nonsense, with no expectation other than joy. You need to do that for yourself, to break these rumination cycles. Create joyful distractions for yourself that have no benefit other than to bring you joy. Go watch a funny movie, go watch some funny TikToks. Go listen to a comedy album, go watch a stand-up comedy show, go call the friend to make you laugh all the time, look at funny pictures of cats. Whatever you have to do, distract yourself. Break away from the misery, from the pain, from the suffering, from the going around and circle, circle, circles, and just let yourself be distracted with laughter. Number 2opy Shawn you need to create kind of more controlled environments in which you do the intense healing, the really deep hard work. So if you're going to be journaling about your childhood trauma, if you're going to be sitting in a therapy session for hours talking about the most brutal thing that ever happened to you in a relationship, whatever it is, there needs to be a plan to contain and control those instances so that they don't spiral out and consume an entire afternoon, an entire weekend. So, for example, this might involve setting timers. This is one I tell my clients to do a lot, a lot, a lot. You can set timers. If you're going to be journaling, set a timer 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 15 minutes. Once the timer goes off, that's it. You get yourself up, you get out of that memory and you bring yourself back to the present by doing something else in a different room. Okay, if you're going to be going into a therapy session, then you need to have a plan, when that therapy session is over, to break that train of thought, bring you back to a present place and do something joyful, happy, uplifting. That keeps you out of sliding back into rethinking about everything that happened in that therapy session, yada, yada, yada. You need some space for your brain, okay, and creating control plans that allow you to compartmentalize these instances when you do have to go back in is a great way to do it. Number three, another one of my personal favorites and one that I always instruct my clients to do move, move, move, move, move. Okay, your environments are very much tied to your emotions and to your memories and to your thinking and the psychological traps that you fall into. All right if you are in an environment where a lot of negativity has happened to you maybe you've had to process a lot of deaths in that environment or your trauma happened to you in that environment or there was a you know, a former abusive partner or spouse or friend in that space, you're going to have a lot of negative emotions tied to that space and when you're completely enveloped in it it's going to be hard for you to not think about those things. So you need to get up and move. If you're stuck in a space where rumination is common, you need to get up and move out of that space, even if only temporarily, so that you can get a break. Okay, and a big part of this is called this is basically essentially behavioral activation. And when you do this, when you're in these rumination cycles and you get up and you go, nope, I'm going to go in a different room and do something else, you actually break that chain of thought. You actually help your brain to kind of relink the neural connections and move on to something else inside of your brain. So very, very powerful. Our physical environments contain memories. So get up and move locations to help yourself kind of recalibrate reset before you move back in. Number four big, big, big, big, big. Improve your self-esteem. Improve your self-esteem. People with high self-esteem don't sit and wallow in misery because they love themselves enough to want to experience joy. It is genuinely that simple and I hope you write it down. People with high self-esteem love themselves enough to want to experience joy, not just misery, and they acknowledge their hurt, their pain, their misery and, at the same time, hold space for joy. They make more of an effort to hold space for joy because they honestly acknowledge their misery and don't want that to take up their whole lives. So you need to love yourself and have enough self-respect to actively work yourself out of these patterns. And last but not least, number five you have got to identify your triggers and learn to reframe them. Throughout your life, especially if you're someone with PTSD or CPTSD, you are going to encounter triggers that are going to threaten to throw you back into that thought loop, and it isn't gonna be just like seeing other people who are going through similar things. It might be totally unrelated. You might get fired from a job and that sends you into a spiral of childhood trauma that you didn't even realize was lurking there, because memories pop up. Whatever it is, you're gonna be triggered. You need to be able to identify those triggers. You need to understand them in and out. Why do they happen, where do they come from and, most importantly, how do they affect you? When you know those things, you can then reframe them. You can see them as learning opportunities, as moments of awareness in which you get to readjust, in which you get to choose how you want to respond, how you want to react and, more importantly, when you can identify these triggers, you can then hold space for yourself. You can treat yourself more compassionately when you experience them and you can remove yourself to safer environments where, again, you can regain that control of self, which is the only thing you can control. You can regain that control of self and recenter yourself and then respond the way that you want to respond. Putting these five things together and building on them will help you, over time, again take a conscious hold of that awareness when you are sliding into these ruminative cycles, so that you can again consciously and intentionally pull yourself out and plant your feet back in the real world. Because here's the thing, when we're doing this, healing, this recovery yes, we need to have these memories, we need to let them come to us, we need to be able to dip our feet into them, see the reality in them, experience those emotions, so that we can process them. But we don't need to dive into them head first, we don't need to lose ourselves in them. I always tell my clients that you know, all of these painful memories, these traumatic memories, should almost be like family books, right, like an old family Bible almost that gets caught up on a shelf, that gets put up on a shelf. You don't pull it down and look through it all the time, because who wants to just sit and read an old Bible? And for a lot of us, those old books that get passed down through the generations come with some negative memories that we don't necessarily want to associate with. But we can't throw them away either, can we? So they go up on the shelf and, yeah, every once in a while you might pull them down, but you're not sitting in your living room all day with the family Bible in your lap. Every time you come home, every time you sit down at the kitchen table to talk with your family, every time you go out with your friends, you're not lugging this family Bible around with you. It is just something up on the shelf, an occasional reminder of where you've come from and how far you still have to go, because you get to choose now, don't you? You hold that Bible. You get to choose how to pass it down, and that's a really beautiful way to look at these memories, instead of allowing them to consume us, instead of, you know, letting them be the constantly on television in our lives. That's just shooting misery rays at us all day. Okay, that is how you have to get into the habit of seeing your trauma, of seeing these experiences, these memories, this pain that you know. Maybe at one time it did define you, but it no longer does, because you were focused on your healing journey and more than that, you're focused on finding the joy and the passion and the power and the presence in healing and stepping into your true self. What do you think? Do you think you've been guilty of sliding into some of these rumination cycles? Do you let the negative memories, the negative emotions, overwhelm you and focus too much on what's going wrong instead of what you can create, what you can put right? We have all been there and the good news, of course, as always, as I always say is we can improve it. We can practically take steps, practical steps, practical growth, to improve it and to improve the quality of our lives, no matter where we've come from or what trauma we've suffered. Thank you so much for listening today. I hope you found something in here that lifted you up, that inspired you or that has just given you a little bit more direction or a little bit more hope that things can be better, because they can. You do want to get coached by me. Remember, head to therealebejohnsoncom, click on Working With Me. For everyone else, keep following me on Medium, on Substack, on TikTok and on Osgram. You know anywhere a social presence might be. Go ahead and follow me there. Give me a like, say hello, don't be afraid to introduce yourself, because I love seeing and hearing where all of you are from. So thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you all again, and until next time, keep your heads up, keep your eyes on the stars and keep moving forward. Bye, bye.