The Apple Store rejected me as a part-time specialist, which is their title for the people who wander around the store and answer questions and sell you stuff and never seem to have any time to help if you just want to grab something and go. I feel… well, rejected. Obviously.

I definitely had my self-protective instincts kick in right away, with the whole range of “well, they were so chaotic — late and no-shows to the interviews, not answering phone calls, sending emails with no way to respond — all for the best” and “it would have distracted me from my writing, just as well,” thoughts. But I’ve still been stuck, for days now, in ruminating. Most people probably think of ruminating as the cow-chewing-its-cud form of thinking, a slow pondering, but in psychology, it’s more specific than that. From wikipedia:

Rumination is the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions. Rumination is similar to worry except rumination focuses on bad feelings and experiences from the past, whereas worry is concerned with potential bad events in the future. Both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states.

So my ruminating has been rewriting and regretting my answers to the interview questions, of course. And, in the answers, a ridiculous amount of reflecting on my past. Oh, but wait… “ridiculous” is a value judgement, a self-condemnation of my thought process. My ruminating feels unhealthy. Regret is pointless. But it’s not ridiculous. It simply is.

One of the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (as mentioned previously, the kind of therapy that I would have liked to have practiced if I’d made it through therapy school), is “cognitive defusion,” which means learning to accept your thoughts as just thoughts. My thoughts have been stuck in rewind and I keep trying to break myself out of that by self-judgements. Stop being so stupid. Done is done. Etc. But those are CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) thought processes, trying to break out of my thought patterns by substituting different thoughts. (As might be obvious, “stop being so stupid” would not be the CBT therapist’s message of choice: a CBT person would suggest something more like, “there were other strong candidates.”) But it’s time to try a more ACT approach, which would be to look at my thoughts as what they are: reflections upon the past as a form of emotional control to avoid the feelings of sadness and rejection. So. I feel sad. I feel rejected. I feel disappointed. My hopes for that path to a richer life — one with more structure, more socialization, more activity — have been dashed.

I had dinner with C on Saturday night. We talked a little bit about my… career path? I suppose that’s the best way to refer to it. Apple hadn’t rejected me yet, but I was very much already ruminating and regretting my answers to certain questions. My first interview had a couple questions that I’d wished I’d answered differently, but my second one — well, I would have liked to re-do pretty much everything about it. I was really thrown off early on by trying to answer a question that should have been answered with, “Are you kidding me?” with honesty and depth instead, and then never quite feeling back on track. They were not hard questions at all and I don’t think my answers were particularly bad, but I guess I’d been expecting something different. Less bland, less questions with answers that seemed so obvious that they felt like traps. Oops, ruminating again.

Anyway, C pointed out that just because I’d decided not to be a therapist in the past didn’t mean that I couldn’t change my mind in the future. But it feels to me like my reasons for not continuing in therapy school are just as valid now as they were then. I thought back when I started that I was emotionally healthy and strong enough that I could help other people and then life hit me with a tornado of pain and I realized I wasn’t. C said something kind, along the lines of me being plenty strong but also really sensitive, that I would be an excellent therapist — in fact was already for my lucky friends — but that she could see that such an intense job might break me. She’s the only person I’ve ever known who seems to use “sensitive” as a compliment, not a pejorative. “You’re very sensitive,” in my life has mostly been delivered with sighs of annoyance, and she says it as if it’s a compliment. Digression, I suppose, but maybe not.

So where was I going with all this? Oh, right — being rejected by Apple has made me very sad, but in turn, it’s reminding me to work on my own stuff with the ACT tools that I learned years ago. Maybe I’m not ever going to be a therapist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t practice on myself. So I’m allowing myself to ruminate, trying to step back and look at those thoughts as what they are, simply thoughts, nothing that can hurt me. Well, no, that’s wrong — they can hurt me, because thoughts can cause pain. But I don’t need to let me damage me. I can just experience them for what they are and then let them go.

The “me damage me” was a typo. I meant to write “them damage me.” But I am leaving it for the potent reminder of what it is: any damage my thoughts cause is me damaging me.

One of the ACT elements is defining “emotional control” as a bad thing. It’s super important not to use the tools of cognitive defusion and acceptance as ways of feeling better. The point is not to control your emotions that way, but to experience your emotions and then move on to your actions. That said, though, I do feel better after having written this all out. And yes, probably as soon as I get in the car to go to yoga, I will start ruminating again. And when I do, I will notice myself doing so, and will label my thoughts as thoughts (an ACT technique where you literally think, “I am having the thought that…”) and when the thoughts bring up feelings, I will not tell myself I am stupid for having such feelings, but simply let myself feel them, however unpleasant they are.

Yoga time. Yay. It’s just what I need right now. I suspect it will make me cry, but hey, that’s okay, too.