Ruminating is the name I have given to the propensity of BPs to have “worry thoughts” about events and to turn them over-and-over in their mind. These events are usually in the past, although sometimes they can be about the possibly of future events linked with past events. Ruminating is an extended form of worry and anxiety in which the sufferer will examine events with an eye to find malignant intentions of others or judgments of themselves. Ruminating can lead to paranoia regarding the intentions of others.
When emotionally dysregulated a person with BPD is experiencing strong emotions in the moment, but the meaning of those emotions is almost always linked to something in the past that they are angry about or something in the future that they fear. This is an aspect of “ruminating.” It is a thought pattern that turns things over-and-over in their mind, looking for danger or embarrassment in situations. It is very “not in the moment.”
Often, the ruminating will extend over long periods of time, from hours to days, and will cause the person with BPD to look for hostile meanings to interactions with others. During this “search for meaning” the person with BPD may ask others about what they meant by certain actions or words while clearly implying that the BP believes that the other person is judging them or angry at them. Ruminating is a form of personalization and fear of judgment. The person with BPD will likely feel that situations which are not “about them” are, in fact, not only “about them” but are exclusively about how they feel about the situation.
Ruminating can lead to emotional reasoning – the situation in which a person’s feelings equal actual facts. If they feel that there is a malicious intent or a negative judgment in a given situation, there MUST be one and ruminating is a method of finding this negative and/or judgmental meaning. Ruminating most often occurs when a person with BPD either has time on their hands or is bored. It also can occur as the person with BPD tries and fails to fall asleep.
Ruminating can be combated with distraction with something the BP enjoys and engages their mind. Physical activities are a good salve for ruminating. Mindfulness, which is a component of DBT, also helps stop ruminating because the point of mindfulness is to be “in the moment” and not consider past or future events.