In New York City, a sign on the Williamsburg Bridge went up in 2008 that reads "Leaving Brooklyn: Oy vey!"
Oy veh or the long form, oy vey iz mir, can be construed as a perspective on current events or current personal events, similar to weltschmerz but more ethnic and less pretentious. Depression, to mix metaphors, is a horse of a different color.
Stephen Ilardi’s helpful and optimistic book, The Cure for Depression, puts ruminating on the list of DIY items, along with other factors that the hunter-gatherers didn’t have to worry about—getting enough sunlight, social interaction, sleep, meaningful work, omega-3 fatty acids, and regular exercise. These came with the territory in human history.
But not everyone agrees about the place of ruminating on the personal agenda. In a New York Times article, Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, looked at the work of another evolutionary psychologist, Paul Andrews, and psychiatrist Andy Thomson. Their theory is that rumination can in fact lead to good outcomes. If people didn’t chew the cud of issues and even develop symptoms, they say, they might not solve the underlying problems.
Ilardi suggests that an RDA of ten minutes of rumination could do the trick, but that finding meaning in other activities—plucking root veggies and hunting the woolly mammoth to insure survival in winter probably qualified as meaningful back in the day—might happily supplant rumination for the rest of the day.
For ruminating types, maybe ten minutes isn’t enough and an hour a day makes more sense, but setting some kind of time limit has its attractions. Having focused fully on resolving the injustice-du-jour, ruminators could move on to dealing meaningfully with the issues of the day, mammoth or minuscule.
Linda Chalmer Zemel received the Exceptional Performance Award from the National Guild of Hypnotists for her work on their faculty. She teaches in the Communication Department at SUNY Buffalo State College.
Contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org