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Getting out of the mental spin cycle

Do
you find yourself in a repetitive cycle of reliving an exchange over and over?
Reflecting on experiences gone badly is one way we learn. We think about what
happened and look for insights that might promote a positive outcome in a
similar situation next time.

But
sometimes reflection can be unhealthy. If you find yourself in a memory loop
continuously going over a negative experience, it may be more rumination than
reflection. Instead of finding a way toward closure, it can be more like
picking an emotional scab and not letting the wound heal.

Research
suggests that a process of self-distancing can help us gather useful insights
without getting stuck in a quagmire of replays. Try this:

  • Describe the event in the third person. Imagine you
    are an observer of the situation. If you were someone watching the dynamic,
    what events occurred? Write the “story” from this perspective.
  • Avoid the words “I” and
    “you.”
    Instead, use the names of the individuals involved. “Sarah
    told Bob she thought their dad was not taking all his medicines. Bob, who
    orders their father’s medicines through the pharmacy, got angry about her
    comments.”
  • Answer the question “Why?” and list
    many possible answers.
    In your description, address why the people did what they did.
    Then ask yourself, “Do I know for sure that’s the reason?” Think of
    several alternate explanations. For instance, Bob might find himself exploring
    whether Sarah brought up the issue because she thinks he’s incompetent, or
    because she’s noticing something different about their dad’s memory.
  • Describe the event from the future. Project
    yourself a week or a month down the road. Maybe a year down the road. How are
    you likely to tell the story? This perspective can reduce the emotional punch
    of the event and help you distill it down to its salient features.

Caught in a loop?
Especially with family members, it’s easy to get stuck in old patterns as events trigger well-worn dynamics. At Debra Levy Eldercare Associates we understand how hard it is to get unhooked. As the Metro DC experts in family caregiving, we can help you gain a fresh perspective. Give us a call at 301-593-5285. Let’s start the conversation.