Replacing Ruminating Thoughts

Filed on 11 July 2021 in Food For Thought category. Print This Page

Replacing Ruminating Thoughts

Whether it be guilt, regret or obsessional thought in the here and now.

There might be a “simple” solution e.g. re guilt for a wrong committed, seeking forgiveness, but it is important to recognise that obsessional thought can remain.

Logical demolition of clearly wrong thinking assisted by friends, family, counselling is important.

Coming to terms with regret for decisions made that were not wrong in the sense of evil committed but that resulted in unwanted effects e.g. selling the family home at a time of stress – even under good advice that it was the right thing to do.

Forgiveness – self and others where appropriate, with appreciation as appropriate.

Grief then becomes important. Acknowledgment of “moral injury”. Saying goodbye to things lost and saying hello to other things and replacements. Grief counselling may be appropriate.

Medical treatment of an underlying depression is essential.

But there may remain – despite all the above – ruminating thoughts that are unresponsive or persisting, that occupy many hours of the day and that seem impossible to shake.

OK, how do we cope?

Disciplined strategies, not to argue with the thoughts, but to replace them.

With activities:

  • Physical e.g. work, meeting people, sport, games, movies, TV, reading, writing, helping others, volunteering, phoning contacts, be an encourager.
  • Mind e.g. mind games and activities including work, watching or reading uplifting stories or watching/listening to music or song e.g. virtual choirs that have been so uplifting during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Recitation and singing, preferably by memory although a piece of paper can aid the memory. Singing is more effective than recitation as we can sing along to the tune in our head. Ruminating thoughts can still co-exist with recitation but less readily with singing, especially praise songs to God
  • Prayer; personal prayer relationship with God

Lachlan Dunjey, April 2021


Appendices (as is)

What would you sing?

Have been thinking recently about the power of song especially when plagued by ruminating thoughts but also at good times.  Also see meditation “We have a choice as to what we think”.

Several times recently I have had the opportunity to tell the following story based on a newspaper account (Queensland 2003) and stimulate people in thinking about what they might sing in such a circumstance.

An elderly lady collapsed near the edge of the road and struggled for some hours to drag herself to the edge, while many apparently drove by. Eventually a young lady stopped, assisted her off the road and called for help.

The ill person apparently died of hypothermia.  Maybe she had had a stroke from which she may also have died, but the immediate preventable cause of death was hypothermia.  A sad story of failure of responsibility to our neighbour – where were all the Good Samaritans? Had no one actually even called the police?

But there is another aspect to the story.  The young lady who stopped not only called for help but she held the lady, talked to her, prayed with her, kissed her, and also sang to her.

QUESTION: What would you have sung?

Assume the injured lady is unable to respond, and you have no idea as to where she stands with God. As she is elderly she may have gone to Sunday School as a child.  Go with your gut answer rather than being analytical.

This story and question was put to a clergy list back in 2003 – the responses are still at John Mark Ministries  but I suggest you mull this over for a time before looking.

Having responded to this, maybe you would pick a song for yourself today (it might be the same song).  Maybe you will pick 3 or 4 for this week…

No, I don’t want to correlate answers but you are free to email me back if you wish to share your choice.

Lachlan Dunjey. January 2010.


A Deeper Kind of Knowing

I forgot – well this was just a brief meditation and not the full counselling session: I ask people to pick their song before they go to sleep or first thing in the morning – whichever suits them – so that it is in their mind READY to be sung when the bad thoughts strike.

They may sing the same song for a day or a week or a month – find out what is suitable for them.

Scripture passages e.g. Ps 91 may also be helpful but don’t have the advantage of attaching to a tune that is already in the head.  As John White points out in his book The Masks of Melancholy, Satan can use a sick mind (the person with severe depression with severe OCD features) but it is necessary for people to be reassured that this does not alter their relationship with God and nothing can separate them etc (Ro 8).

PS as time goes on for this kind of severe affliction there can even be a sense of joy KNOWING (a very deep kind of knowing) that God is with them even in the midst of these thoughts and that Satan cannot touch them – this is real victory! So I’d better add two things – my definition of ultimate joy (cf Ps 84) and my paraphrase of Job’s wonderful rock-solid declaration (Job 19:25).

I’d rather be here with You,
my Lord and my God,
in the valley
anywhere else without You.

“..though I know nothing else,
I know there is a God,
He is my Redeemer,
and one day He will put things right.”

Also see following short meditations and sermon

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