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"Get over it," people tell us.  "Let it go."  "Move on."  "Don't let it keep getting you down so much."  And they speak with wisdom.  They know that when we brood over something that has happened to us, something that has gone poorly, something that someone else has done for us, we're hurting ourselves by keeping our minds focused on something that can't be changed and that keeps us down.  When we brood over something, we're allowing our negative thoughts to control our lives, to determine how we feel and how we approach life.

That's not to say that bad things don't happen, nor that they shouldn't affect us.  I've had some truly awful things happen to me, and those things have brought me down and made me feel terrible.  I have learned in life, though, that I do tend to get through them, and I do tend to recover and let them go.  The time I spend brooding, though, keeps me from living my life well while I'm focused on the bad thing that has happened.

If somebody hurt me last week, I have the choice of continuing to be bothered by it or of moving on and letting it go.  If I continue to dwell on what that person did, I'm going to feel awful mentally and emotionally, for my thoughts are caught in an action that made me feel awful to start with.  I'm going to add to it all sorts of extra negative sentiments, possibly focusing on what I see as my own lack of worthiness, on the way I see other people as treating me, and even on other, similar things that have happened in the past that seem to make a pattern.

Of course, it may take me a week to get over something that you can get over in two days.  

That's okay, and we need to know our own limitations concerning healing.  But we also need to shift our attention away from the negative thoughts concerning an occurrence in order to allow the healing to happen.  We can recover from a burn until we actually pull our arm from the fire, after all.

Gloom and darkness are inviting, especially if we have tendencies towards depression or self-pity.  Brooding allows us to stay in touch with the darkness and to keep it strong in our minds, but we don't always have the presence of mind to consider the cost of constant brooding on our spirits.  Banana splits taste wonderful, but if we have one every day we'll soon see visible evidence of what we're doing to hurt ourselves.  Brooding feels good in its own sad way, but the only evidence that we'll see of the harm it's doing us is in our aspect, in the turned-down corners of our mouths, our sad or angry eyes, our lack of cheerfulness.

The first step to fighting this tendency is to recognize it, to see what we're doing to ourselves and to the other people in our lives.  Do people avoid being with you because you're constantly focusing on the bad things that have happened to you?  Well, then, focus on something else!  And if you can't find anything good in your life to focus on, then focus on some of the wonderful things that are happening in your neighborhood, your city, your state, or our world.  You will feel a difference in the way you see the world and in the way the world treats you, and the difference should be positive.

Don't let the darkness have you.  Don't let it hold you in its grasp whenever it wants just by controlling your thoughts.  Let things go, and let them be.  Whatever has happened is over, and while you may know that you can't trust a certain person any more, that doesn't mean that you have to keep focusing on something awful that that someone has done.  Then it's no longer that person hurting you, but you hurting yourself.


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Of course, nobody broods over problems because they believe it’s
a toxic way of thinking.  People genuinely believe that if they worry
enough over their unhappiness they will eventually find a solution.
They just need to make one last heave—think a little more about the
problem. . . .  But research shows the opposite:  in fact, brooding
reduces our ability to solve problems; and it’s absolutely hopeless
for dealing with emotional difficulties.

Mark Williams
Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan

Take everything easy and quit dreaming and brooding
and you will be well guarded from a thousand evils.

Amy Lowell


The best cure for worry, depression, melancholy,
brooding, is to go deliberately forth and try to
lift with one's sympathy the gloom of somebody else.

Arnold Bennett

Life is too short to be little.  Often we allow ourselves to be upset
by little things we should forget. . . . We may lose many irreplaceable
hours brooding over small grievances that in a year’s time will be
forgotten.  So let us devote our lives to worthwhile actions and
feelings—to great thoughts, real affection and enduring undertakings.

Andre Maurois


One reason most people never stop thinking is that mental frenzy keeps
us from having to see the upsetting aspects of our lives.  If I'm constantly
brooding about my children or career, I won't notice that I'm lonely. If
I grapple continuously with logistical problems, I can avoid
contemplating little issues like, say, my own mortality.

Martha Beck


If my doctor told me I only had six months to live,
I wouldn't brood.  I'd type a little faster.

Isaac Asimov


Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable
sentiment.  If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you
can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time.  On no
account brood over your wrongdoing.  Rolling in the muck is
not the best way of getting clean.

Aldous Huxley


Not only do we cheat ourselves and those around us if we are only
glum or always wary when it comes time to respond to divine stirrings.
No, we are then also being simply unfaithful to the surrounding reality.
The one who purges gloom has given occasions and reasons,
in the midst of life's sadness, to be joyful.

Martin Marty
Our Hope for Years to Come


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What some people interpret as brooding melancholy, is serenity.
I don't feel required to grasp all the time.

David Guterson

Let us not paralyze our capacity for good by brooding
over people's capacity for evil.

David Sarnoff


Because of the "addictive" nature of ruminations, the best way to break
the compelling allure of our brooding is to go "cold turkey."  Specifically,
we must try to catch ourselves ruminating as quickly as we can each time,
and find ways to distract ourselves so that we occupy our minds with
something other than the focus of our ruminations.  And to be clear—anything
else will do.  Whether it’s watching a movie, working out, doing a crossword
puzzle, or playing Angry Birds, anything that requires us to concentrate will
force us to stop ruminating.  Over time, by preventing the rumination from
playing out and by not reinforcing its allure, the urge to revisit it will diminish.

Guy Winch
The Squeaky Wheel

From the spiritual side:
If the Supreme Creator had meant us to be gloomy, he would, it seems to me,
have clothed the earth in black, not in that lively green,
which is the livery of cheerfulness and joy.

Janet Graham

God has so ordered, that in pressing on in duty we shall find the truest,
richest comfort for ourselves.  Sitting down to brood over our sorrows,
the darkness deepens about us and creeps into our heart, and our strength
changes to weakness.  But, if we turn away from the gloom, and take up the
tasks and duties to which God calls us,
the light will come again, and we shall grow stronger.

Lettie Cowman



When Walker first steps onto the road, he has no thoughts, no history, no memories, and no clothes. As he travels and meets people and learns from them, he comes to know more about life, living, and becoming the person he's meant to be. Walker is a parable for all of us who wonder what might be the purpose of life, why bad things happen with almost as much regularity as good things, and how we can learn from the bad examples and experiences in our lives as much as we can learn from the good things. Tom Walsh's parable is a story of the ages, a timeless exploration of ideas and thoughts that all of us wonder about, a sincere and heartfelt portrait of a man who has no past and no future, but who learns to make the most of each precious present moment as it comes.



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