Mental Movies – When to Stop Rewinding

We all recognize the importance of self-reflection, and how it grounds us and helps us along life’s journey. However, we tend to spend a significant amount of our time rehashing past events or rehearsing future events, and playing all the different scenarios through our mind’s eye, over and over again. Sound familiar? It’s our own mental movie, but how it ends is really up to us. There are certainly times in our lives when things don’t go well for us, and we re-think, and sometimes over-think the whole situation. Part of this is normal processing that we need to do, and ideally, we should be able to mull it over, evaluate it, learn from it and move on, but that’s not always the case. Focusing on negative aspects of past events and catastrophizing future events is draining, detrimental and extremely counterproductive. Ruminating too much causes resentment, fear, gloom and doom, with no happy ending in sight! It also can magnify or distort the situation way out of control adding more distress, and all of this has the potential to lead to emotional, mental or substance-abuse problems.

The script

As we’ve learned, our inner voice can give us a much-needed positive boost and help us make better life decisions, but it can also be our worst enemy when we allow it to re-hash or dwell on negative situations, relationships or experiences. It’s interesting in a way that although we are the authors writing our own scripts, it often feels like it’s out of our control. Although it’s true that dwelling on negative thoughts is a hard habit to break, there are definitely ways to take back control to enjoy more positive vibes and be free of the negative energy in our heads and our hearts.

Directing our movie

The hardest thing to do when it comes to re-hashing or rehearsing is to first recognize it and acknowledge when it’s getting out of hand. We’ll know this not only by the amount of time and energy we’re wasting, but we might even hear our friends and family tell us, “Get over it already”.  It’s also important to look for solutions and keep busy – distractions are good! Another key step is to focus on the positive aspects of the situation we’ve been through and how we’ve handled it, as well as envisioning successful future outcomes. This is exactly how we set ourselves up for success. It’s always good to practice mindfulness; being able to break free from the continuous mental movies and be present, live in the moment, and find things to be grateful for. Practising these things may take time, but will be effective in helping reduce all that over-thinking.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that there are indeed many advantages to the mental movies that we play – when they focus on positive outcomes. Using positive imagery or visualization for example, helps us imagine all the physical sensations, emotions and thoughts that we hope to experience, getting us more hopeful about a situation and helping boost our confidence. It’s also perfectly fine to indulge in positive retrospection, replaying those scenes in our minds that incite happy memories, cherished moments and good times. Like a really good movie, some things are worth watching more than once.

“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” ― Voltaire