Friday, November 5, 2010

Unhelpful Thinking....

If you have spent a few days identifying your automatic thoughts you have possibly noticed some patterns of similar, repeated thoughts.  We tend to have some common unhelpful thinking styles that have become habits in our thinking. These unhelpful thinking styles generate many of the distressing thoughts that lead to distressing emotions. 

These thinking styles could also be called mind traps because we get caught in them.  Here is the list, look through it and see if there are any that are getting in the your way -
  • All or nothing thinking: You see things in black and white - if your performance falls short of perfect you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Overgeneralization: You focus on the negative outcomes of events and use those outcomes as a general rule for everything in your life.  you use terms like every, all, always, none, never, everybody and nobody.  "I'm the one that always struggles" "I never do things right"
  • Jumping to Conclusions: You make a negative conclusion even though there is no evidence to support it.   Ex: you conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you without even checking it out as fact. You create situations based on emotions not fact.
  • Magnification or minimization: When thinking about yourself or others, or a specific situation you magnify the negative qualities or minimize the positive qualities. Only seeing how bad or how much you messed up something or not seeing how good you are at something.
  • Emotional thinking vs Rational thinking: With emotional thinking you believe that your feelings are true judgments about who you are or the situation you are in.  Rational thinking looks at the evidence not the emotions.  Emotions will lie to you - they aren't permanent and they are not accurate descriptions of who you are or the situation you are in. 
  • Should statements:  Oh we all do this one....You have a fixed idea of how things "should" be and get angry when your expectations aren't met. 
  • Labeling:  The worse version of overgeneralizing.  Instead of just being negative about yourself you label yourself or others or situations without looking at all the facts: 'I'm a loser" "They are just mean and evil!"
  • Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which in fact you were not primarily responsible. Taking blame for things that you had no control over. 
So what you do now is go through this list and pick out the thinking styles that seem familiar to you - you recognize this pattern in your thinking.   Next post we will talk about how to change them.

"Lean on, trust in and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding."  Proverbs 3:5

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