Why is it rumbling despite the negative consequences?
Given the amount of data that shows the negative consequences of rumination, it makes sense to wonder why people continue to carry out this process. Some authors responded by stressing the existence of a “positive rumination” which, in its adaptive form of constructive reflection, is associated with positive effects on psychological well-being.
Advertising message Several studies highlight the role played by rumination in the genesis and maintenance of depression as a repetitive, persistent and recurrent thought process that leads the individual to focus on the symptoms of his suffering and to focus attention on himself, amplifying internal negative emotional states with the consequence of producing numerous effects such as: exacerbation of negative mood, irritability, anxiety, distrust, insomnia, amplification of negative thinking and tendency to mull over one’s own difficulties (Lyubomirsky and Nolen-Hoeksema, 1995; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991; Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000; Nolen-Hoeksema and Morrow, 1993; Watkins, 2008).
Given the negative consequences, one wonders why people continue to use rumination as an emotional regulation strategy.
Daches and colleagues (2010) highlighted how rumination is a style of thought processing used by people in order to find a remedy for a problem and to meditate on their mistakes after a failure, in order to learn from experience and to improve future performance.
For Watkins (2016), the positive functions that individuals trace in rumination are:
Various studies have shown the positive effects that individuals have on the role played by rumination. Let’s examine some of them.
In an experimental study, Lyubomirsky and Nolen-Hoeksema (1993) observed that after inducing rumination, dysphoric participants tended to believe that they gained more in terms of understanding themselves and their problems, even if the solutions identified they were judged unsatisfactory.
Papageorgiou and Wells (2001) carried out clinical research, in which they found that people with recurrent depressive episodes present both positive and negative beliefs about rumination. Favorable beliefs concern the idea that rumination is a useful coping strategy and a method by which it is possible to obtain greater insight, effective to identify the causes of depression, solve problems and prevent future errors and failures. The negative metacognitive beliefs instead concern the uncontrollability of ruminative thoughts and the damage produced by them on a social and interpersonal level, such as the idea that “people would not accept me if they really knew how much they rumored”.
Watkins and Molds (2005) instead examined the differences regarding positive beliefs about rumination in depressed patients in the remission phase and in people who had never suffered from depression. The results of the study showed on the one hand how depressed patients have more favorable beliefs about rumination than subjects in the control group and on the other hand they showed how both currently depressed patients and those who have recovered from depression have greater beliefs positive about the usefulness of repetitive thoughts on moods and events of the past, compared to subjects who have never been depressed.
Finally, further analyzes have shown that those who ruminate often are inclined to feel incapable of being able to control uncertain events and this is precisely what would push them to use this strategy as a mental tool to anticipate and control the possible occurrence of feared future events ( Harvey, Watkins, Mansell and Shafran, 2004).
Advertising message Although people have such positive beliefs about rumination, the negative effect of increasing depressed mood that this can produce, if used as a pervasive strategy, must not be forgotten. Rumination, being characterized by an abstract way of thinking that focuses on general, superordinate and decontextualized mental representations, would have less ability to generate problem solving than more concrete forms of processing than starting from direct and specific experience, and evaluating the available means, lead the individual to achieve the set objectives and to implement feasible actions, useful to achieve the purpose (Watkins, 2016).
In conclusion, a possible explanation as to why people tend to ruminate despite the negative effects, is based on the assumption that ruminators have positive metacognitive beliefs about rumination, related to its usefulness as an emotional regulation strategy, for planning actions aimed at the solution of a problem and reflection on the causes of an event or on one’s mood that does not take into account (Palmieri, 2014).