T”here are specific metacognitive beliefs that have been shown to keep worry and rumination going for many people. These include believing that worry or rumination is helpful to us in some way (positive metacognitive beliefs), for example, by helping us to be prepared, solve problems, or motivate ourselves.
These beliefs can pull us into repetitive negative thinking spirals, undermining our overall attempts to change our overthinking patterns.
It’s common for people to also hold negative metacognitive beliefs that their worry, rumination, or repetitive negative thoughts are uncontrollable or dangerous in some way.
For example, we might become concerned that negative thinking will make us sick, go crazy, damage our brain, lose control of our behaviour, or even cause something bad to happen. We might even attach moral judgments to our thinking and believe that having certain negative thoughts makes us a bad person.
These beliefs often lead us to trying even harder to monitor and stop, or push away negative thoughts when they pop in, which usually results in paying even more attention to them. We might then begin to ‘worry about our worry’, or feel depressed about our depressed thoughts, making us feel worse.
Having both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ metacognitive beliefs going at the same time is common, but problematic. It can be like pressing both the break and accelerator pedals of a car down at once. We end up spinning in the mud, getting stuck even deeper the harder we try, going nowhere. When we do this, our windscreen gets even more mud on it and our perspective becomes less unclear.