The power of reflection over rumination
When we think, we go inwards and the thinking that we experience can take many forms. Our state of mind in the moment shapes the form it takes. And if we are caught up in the ‘outside in’ misunderstanding that our experience in any given moment is generated from our circumstances, a lot of thinking can happen.
The stimuli from our circumstances could be something someone says directly to us, as a statement or question, or something we hear in a group or at presentation, or even something we hear on television. Or simply something we read that pricks our interest. Or, if we generally have a lot on our mind, we can be one random thought away from setting off some kind of internal dialogue. And in that moment, we may well go into rumination rather than reflection.
To ruminate is to chew the cud in our mind. Rumination can take the form of an (addictive) loop of worrying thoughts, coloured by emotion, or something that appears to be in the form of logical reasoning of something that is on your mind. Whatever form it takes, the starting point for rumination is what we already know, what we believe to be true. Many clients experience a lot of rumination taking the form of worry, anxiety and fear, and the direction is generally an ever-decreasing circle. Or like trying to navigate through an endless maze, with no idea of how you entered the maze in the first place and whether there is a way out.
Rumination can be neutral, but more often it will take us further away from any kind of resolution, an answer or indeed, the truth.
My first question to you is, where are you when you find yourself ruminating? Do you ever find an answer that you are satisfied with? Do you feel connected or disconnected to your experience of what it is to be alive, living in the present moment?
Reflection is a very different beast. There is no cud to chew, because you are looking in a different direction. Our attention is away from the grass and out to the sky. When we reflect, there is a lot less going on in our head. There is a lot less noise. When we are being reflective, there is no direction to our thinking, there is no sequence of reasoning. There is no maze.
When we reflect, we are going somewhere deeper, to the place before form. We are not exploring what we think we already know to be true, we are looking into the unknown. I see reflection as a process of thinking with our entire being. In the place before words, the place from which form comes.
Whatever the source of what blossoms from reflection, we know wisdom when it emerges. Out of the quiet can emerge an insight that can change everything. And whatever shows up in that moment is infinitely nearer the truth, closer to what we need, than could ever arise from rumination. And out of reflection can emerge life-changing wisdom.
When clients reflect I do one thing - stay quiet. There can be a groundswell of emotion, as if the new thinking that is emerging is filling every molecule of their being, changing their map of reality. This insight can be small and perfectly formed as an answer to something that has been vexing them; or a game changing insight, something that is transformative. You'll know it when it happens. Using guided visualisation and hypnosis, a hypnotherapist can then work with clients to consolidate the wisdom that has emerged from these moments, which, like a butterfly effect, can spread into all aspects of their life and wellbeing.
Moments of reflection are infinitely more powerful than (recurring patterns of) rumination.
A deeply connected conversation between two people can help generate the environment for reflection to happen and for deep transformation to take place. Or maybe a random thought, or something you see or hear, will trigger a moment that begins to fill with more thought taking form. In that very moment you might choose to look to the stars rather than enter the maze. The answer is far more likely to lie in the unknown.
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About Laurence Knott
Laurence Knott is a cognitive hypnotherapist and transformative coach, helping people create the change they want.
Laurence works with a wide range of clients who want to have a richer and fuller experience of life; to not only overcome the barriers that have created their particular problem, but to open up to a world of new possibilities.