Brooding – why it doesn’t work

March 18, 2015

Brooding – why it doesn’t work…..
‘The evidence is clear: brooding is the problem not the solution’
Mark Williams ‘Mindfulness’


People often genuinely believe that if they worry enough over their unhappiness they will eventually find a solution. They just need to make one last major effort – think harder about the problem. But research shows the opposite: in fact brooding reduces our ability to solve problems, and it is absolutely hopeless with emotional difficulties. Remember that our negative thoughts and memories are not real, they are not us. We can learn to observe them as they arise, let them stay a while, then watch them disappear. Like clouds in a sky. When this happens, an extraordinary thing occurs: a profound sense of happiness and peace fills the void.

We can’t stop the triggering of unhappy memories, negative self-talk and judgmental ways of thinking, but what we can stop is what happens next. We can stop the vicious cycle from feeding off itself, and triggering a new round of negative thoughts. We can do this by harnessing an alternative way of relating to ourselves and our world.

The mind can do so much more than simply analyse problems when it is ‘Doing’ mode (as opposed to when it is in ‘Being’ mode, the ‘rest and digest’ state). The problem is that we are in ‘Doing’ mode so much, we can’t see that there is an alternative. Yet there is another way. The mind doesn’t just think, it can also be aware that is thinking. This form of pure awareness allows you to experience the world directly. It is bigger than thinking. It is unclouded by your thoughts, feelings or emotions. It is like a high mountain – a vantage point – from which you can see everything for many miles around.

Pure awareness transcends thinking. It allows you to step outside the chattering negative self-talk and your reactive impulses and emotions. It allows you to look at the world once again with open eyes. And when you do so, a sense of wonder and quiet contentment begins to reappear in your life.

From: Mindfulness – finding peace in a frantic world, Mark Willilams and Danny Penman



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