Summary of posts below

Summary of posts below


  • Ruminations are a stream of thoughts or a so-called behavioral chain, where thoughts shift between discomforting thoughts and comforting thoughts.
    • The comforting thoughts are cognitive safety-behaviors that are used to thwart, disprove, create clarity and decrease the discomfort that discomforting thoughts trigger.
    • The discomforting thoughts automatically become frightening as the comforting thoughts are used to escape the discomfort, unpleasantness, insecurity, and anger that the discomforting thoughts create. This happens through conditioning.
    • A person who ruminates gets an increasing number of discomforting thoughts as the comforting thoughts reinforce the behavior to think discomforting thoughts, and at the same time, they function as triggering stimuli for the next discomforting thoughts in a so called behavior chain.
    • The discomforting thoughts can become increasingly unrealistic through the generalization that the comforting thoughts (safety-behaviors) create, and since we in our thinking connect related information to our momentary thinking.
    • The dulling of our minds as a result of anxiety (the sympathetic nervous reaction) makes us uncritical and allows us to think and “approve” illogical and completely unrealistic discomforting thoughts.

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You get dumber during anxiety

cropped-Bild-23.jpgWhen you are afflicted by severe discomfort and anxiety, a number of things happen in your body. What happens is that the body prepares itself for fight or flight through a so-called sympathetic nervous reaction. Part of this reaction is, among other things, that the blood in the body is redistributed. Blood flows to the major muscle groups in the arms and legs, to make you stronger and more prepared for fight or flight. The blood is, among other things, redistributed from the skin. What is even more important for rumination is that the blood is also redistributed from the front parts of the brain, the frontal lobe, where our logical thinking is located. Hence, during anxiety, we become dumber since it is exactly this part of the brain that receives less blood.

When we have strong feelings as a result of our ruminations and broodings, our minds get temporarily dulled. That is, when we use thinking and our consciousness the most during ruminations, our intelligence is momentarily dulled. We become so illogical that we do not even realize the obvious, that it is impossible to solve unsolvable problems just by thinking. We become so dumb that we allow ourselves to be frightened by illogical and apparently erroneous discomforting thoughts.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.
The book can be ordered from  ISBN 9781511549776


Generalization (continuation of previous posts)

cropped-Bild-23.jpgWhen Albert had become conditioned to be afraid of the rabbit he escaped in any way possible from his white rabbit. With his safety-behaviors, he kept his conditioned fear alive, and another thing also happened. His fear spread to other rabbit-like objects. He was frightened by a white rat, later he was frightened by a piece of white cotton waste, and even a man with a great white beard. This is called generalization.

To apply safety-behaviors in order to escape things that scare us makes objects that are similar to what we are afraid of frightening. The fear “contaminates” things that resemble the things you were initially afraid of.

The more you try to escape from and fight your discomforting thoughts with the help of comforting thoughts, the more frightening the discomforting thoughts become, and the more often they appear. Generalization also makes new thoughts that are close to the initial thought frightening – compare the rabbit, the rat, a white piece of waste cotton and a great white beard.

                      The human brain also has an incredible ability to relate and connect old experiences and thoughts to ongoing thoughts. This, along with generalization, leads the contents of the discomforting thoughts to become increasingly distanced from the initial discomforting thought. The more comforting thoughts, the more imaginative the contents of the discomforting thoughts may become – even unrealistic. In the end, it is possible that you feel bad from completely illogical thoughts, even though your common sense tells you that these thoughts are not true.

The common sense in the comforting thoughts is no match for the conditioned discomfort that the discomforting thoughts automatically conjure up. You cannot fight conditioned feelings with logic and logical comforting thoughts.

Comforting thoughts make the contents of discomforting thoughts increasingly different, more fantastic and unrealistic. This is because of generalization.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

Continuation of article below

Albert had his attention directed towards the rabbit when he was frightened. The rabbit was removed and was not visible to him when he calmed down again. Fear (anxiety) and the presence of rabbit were connected, and calm was connected to the absence of rabbit.

An object or an event may acquire frightening characteristics if it disappears from you when you are frightened and is not with you when you are calming down. What happens is called conditioning, and the thing that acquires the automatically frightening characteristic is called a conditioned stimulus.

The fact that it was other people who removed the rabbit from Albert, and that he himself did not escape is of no importance. Only the fact that the rabbit was with Albert when he had anxiety, but was not there when he was calmed made him frightened of the rabbit. In the same way that Albert became frightened of his favorite rabbit, it is possible to become frightened by natural occurrences like standing in line, riding a bus, going to the movies, or the heart skipping a beat.

When you ruminate, you escape your discomforting thoughts with the help of your comforting thoughts. This leads to feelings of increased discomfort from the discomforting thoughts. As soon as conditioning has occurred, the discomforting thoughts automatically trigger discomfort. They have become conditioned stimuli for unpleasantness.

Escape, avoidances, and other safety-behaviors increase the sensitivity for the things that you escape or insure yourself against. In attempting to disprove, avoid or distract yourself from discomforting thoughts with comforting thoughts, you make them more frightening, painful and unpleasant.

When discomforting thoughts become increasingly discomforting through conditioning, it feels even more pressing to thwart them with more comforting thoughts. This makes discomforting thoughts even more discomforting, and may result in a vicious circle.

Comforting thoughts make you feel more discomfort in the face of discomforting thoughts through conditioning. This makes it feel even more necessary to use comforting thoughts to thwart the increased discomfort. In the long term, comforting thoughts make you feel worse from your discomforting thoughts, and even lead to more discomforting thoughts.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

Conditioning – How to Make Oneself Afraid of One’s Own Thoughts

cropped-Bild-23.jpgIf you get thrown off a horse you need to get back in the saddle as soon as possible. Everyone who has ridden a horse knows this. If you do not get back in the saddle immediately after being thrown off, you will automatically be scared of horse riding in the future.

If you perform some anxiety-lowering safety-behavior, such as avoidance or escaping, when you are frightened or feel anxiety, you get more scared of the thing you avoid or escape from. The thing that you leave or protect yourself from gets the “blame” for the anxiety, even if it was not originally the thing that frightened you.

And this will, in the future, trigger automatic fear or conditioned fear. Hence, you teach your autonomous nervous system to be automatically frightened of something that used to be neutral or harmless. It is called conditioning when a previously completely neutral stimulus has turned into a conditioned stimulus, a “trigger” for anxiety.

Little Albert, only a year old, sat playing with a rat. While the boy sat there, someone snuck up behind him and banged two metal objects. Sudden noises are natural frighteners, and Albert was naturally very frightened. The boy started to scream and cry. The rat was instantly removed from him. They helped him to escape the rat, even though it was not the rat that had frightened him.

He calmed down after a little while and the rat was not with him at the time. After this, Albert was automatically frightened and started to scream as soon as he saw the rat. Albert was conditioned to be frightened by the rat. The rat had become a conditioned stimulus that triggered automatic fear. The rat, which had become a conditioned stimulus, which means that Albert’s nervous system had learned to automatically trigger fear as soon as he saw the rat.


This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

Rumination is a chain of thoughts

We perform a lot of behaviors in chains. Anything from putting on a shirt to riding a bicycle, playing the piano or driving are examples of behavioral chains. All major and joint behaviors are behavioral chains where every small, well performed partial behavior leads to reinforcement which triggers the next partial behavior.

Allow me to illustrate a behavioral chain with the vacuum-cleaning example. You vacuum the left corner (R1) and observe with pleasure how the dust bunnies disappear (C1), this proviedes the impulse (S2) for you to move the nozzle to the carpet to vacuum there (R2), and when you hear pebbles rattling in the tube (C2), you are pleased and know that (S3) it is now time to move the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner again.

S1 – R1 – C1/S2 – R2 – C2/S3 – R3 – C3/S4 – R4 – C4/S5 – R5 – C5/S6 – and so on

This formula illustrates how behavior analysis would transcribe such a chain. S is a starter for (R1) which gets is reinforcement (C1). This reinforcement also acts as the trigger (S2) for the next partial behavior (R2) whose reinforcement (C2) acts as the trigger for the next behavior (R3) and so on.

Let us now look at the behavioral chain in ruminating as a chain of behaviors. Ruminating consists of the two parts, the discomforting thoughts (R), and the comforting thoughts (C). The comforting thoughts act both as reinforcements for discomforting thoughts as well as a trigger for thinking the next discomforting thought (R2). Rumination is driven forward by the comforting thoughts.

At the same time that the comforting thought thwarts the discomfort that the discomforting thought brings, which is pleasant, it also triggers the next discomforting thought. The result becomes a behavioral chain, driven by the effort to thwart/ reduce or eliminate discomfort.

We now understand the dynamics of ruminating, but we still do not have an explanation as to why we feel so bad when we ruminate. The answer to this is conditioning.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.

It Is Nice to Take Off Shoes That Are Too Small

cropped-Bild-23.jpgI had a friend who jokingly used to say: “I always buy shoes that are too small because it is so nice to take them off.” There is something in this joke. It resembles the motivation for ruminating and worrying. If you want to feel comfortable in that way, the only chance to do so is to put on shoes that are too small over and over. If you want to feel eased and comforted, the only chance is to first make sure that you have something that requires comforting. In order to experience a small part of the security that the comforting thoughts entail, you first need to feel discomfort.

The comforting thoughts reinforce the discomforting thoughts and make them return and multiply. It does not matter that the discomforting thoughts are painful and unpleasant when the reinforcement that follows just increases their number and variety.

Ruminations are driven by the shifting between the unpleasant thoughts and the comforting thoughts. The comforting thoughts reinforce the discomforting thoughts, which in turn increase in number.

Yet another piece of the puzzle needs to be added in order for us to understand how ruminations function, and it is about how chains of thoughts work.

This is an exerpt from the book Quit Ruminating and Brooding by Olle Wadström. Comments and discussions are encouraged.




Generalization (continuation of previous posts)


Stop worrying – the new model

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