Today I read a beautiful metaphor for being forced to perform more brain activity than needed if there would have been a proper and clear explanation:

The essay lacked a proper structure: "The reader had to perform mental gymnastics to understand it."

I think it's a beautiful phrase but I would like to have a larger arsenal of similar phrases with a similar meaning.

Do you know any?

  • Hi @Kris, I ment phrases with a similar meaning to 'performing mental gymnastics'.
    – RWB
    Sep 15, 2019 at 11:14
  • ... Your 'comment', if correct, means that your question needs correcting: 'being put through the wringer' and 'think very hard' are not synonymous. Sep 15, 2019 at 11:52
  • Thank you @EdwinAshworth. I found a nice solution in that question itself: "The unstructured essay made the reader feel like he was solving a very confusing riddle." Or a bit more provocative: "... made the reader feel like a detective solving a murder crime." Reading applications for being put through the wringer gives me the impression that one is most accurate in situations where the writer creates difficulty for the reader consciously. For this example, I would like it to illustrate that created confusion might be an effect of laziness but is not intentional.
    – RWB
    Sep 15, 2019 at 22:26
  • There's a quaint old expression, usually in the first person: "I'll have to put on my thinking hat." Sep 16, 2019 at 11:43

1 Answer 1


A popular option is "rack (or wrack) one's brains (or brain)". Like "I've been racking my brains trying to come up with the answer."

There is also a less used UK option - "chew the cud", which means a process of really poring over something and contemplating it deeply. Perhaps not exactly forced to think but close to it.

  • I'm very happy with your "rack one's brain" solution @NoTearsInMyTea. This time, I will choose the 'detective version' from the comment above, because of the provocativeness. But I will definitely try rack one's brain as well soon.
    – RWB
    Sep 15, 2019 at 22:40

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