Learning to let go of rumination

Each time that I return to campus from a reprieve of any sort, my internal social system receives a powerful jolt. My time at home for breaks or long weekends is calm. As an only child, social interactions when I am at home involve my parents, my significant other and my old friends. In contrast, my time on campus consists of abundant, often necessary, social interactions with many different people.

This difference provokes the anxiety that lurks behind most of my behavior and thought processes. It triggers thoughts of inadequacy, overcaring and excessive sensitivity. At home, it is easy. At school, I over-analyze every movement, behavior and word I produce.
To some, this difference can be reflected in the categories of introvert and extrovert. Introversion reflects an individual who receives energy from within. Meanwhile, extroversion reflects an individual who receives energy from interactions with others. This seems adequate.

I am an introvert. It is easier for me to be at home where I do not have to interact with a lot of people at once. In my mind, this is true but not sufficient. I believe there is another difference between people that better encapsulates the internal struggle that I feel. It is the difference in levels of contemplation.

There are two kinds of people, those who spend their time thinking about how they affect those around them and those who do not. On one side stands individuals like me who say three words to someone serving them food in the caf and spend the rest of their day thinking about if what they said was awkward or rude or somehow incorrect. On the opposite side rest individuals who speak to servers in the caf and peers in the hallways and, when they walk away, the conversation is over. What they said or did does not cross their mind again.

As part of the former group, it feels much more difficult to dwell on everything. I often envy people who seemingly go through life without a care in the world. However, I know that statement is incorrect. Just because people do not ruminate as I do does not mean that they never worry about a thing.

The true issue comes when I feel like I give and give and I do not feel my friends or classmates of the latter group reciprocate in the slightest. I spend much of my time planning grocery trips, movie nights and dinners, and I begin to wonder, if I didn’t do those things, would anyone? Then, because of my ruminating nature, I criticize myself for being egotistical and bossy toward those I care about. Even still, I wonder.

If tomorrow I gave up and stopped asking when we were having dinner, stopped planning movie and game nights, would they stop happening? If I ceased to initiate the “how was your weekend?” conversation, would we ever talk about our lives outside of each other and school? What I frequently have to remind myself is that if someone does not dwell on things as I do, it does not mean they do not care about me. It does not mean they do not enjoy the time we spend together.

The truth is, if I ceased to initiate, someone else would. Dinner would still happen, movie and game nights would still happen. Differences in the way my friends and I process information and think about our actions does not equate to a difference in how much we care about each other. It is a difference in personality and in world view. I have tried many times, to no avail, to ask these friends why they do not seem to care about me. I never get a straight answer because my question rests on faulty ground.

Most often, I recognize this difference as it relates to my own relationships. However, I also see it in the relationships of those closest to me, like in a friend’s attempts to connect with an estranged brother who never reciprocates his double date invitations or in my mother’s expressed concern for my father’s safety after flying a long distance for business.

This is not a thing that I experience alone. After all, if those are the two types of people, there has to be more than one person who worries constantly, right?


Emily Price is a sophomore psychology major. She is a staff writer for the Newswire from Miamisburg, Ohio.