So… you get a text from a friend who says she can’t make it to dinner after all. You…
a) think she has a better offer and never liked you anyway
b) believe she has let you down and decide to cut her off from now on
c) decide you are an idiot for thinking she would want to spend time with you
d) text her back to say “Ok cool – you will be missed x Let’s catch up next week”.
What if your thoughts don’t match up with what is actually happening?
We all have an automatic way we think about things – it’s like a super-highway which takes us at top speed towards a conclusion or a ‘truth’ based on the meaning we make from a situation. For many of us, these automatic thoughts are unhelpful and result in lowered self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
Often the habit is so ingrained we don’t even know it’s happening – the Unhelpful Thinking Style just gets more traction.
Good news is, we can actually change our habits – first step?? Awareness.
We need to know what we have been automatically saying to ourselves and what the patterns are.
Did you pick d)?
If not, take a look at the following Unhelpful Thinking Styles listed here:
Catastrophising: blowing things out of proportion, believing the WORST WILL HAPPEN! …even though in reality the problem is quite small and disastrous consequences are unlikely.
“Should”,“Ought” and “Must”: Oh yeah, nothing quite like putting pressure on ourselves when using these words – they imply we are powerless and not acting out of our own sense of what is right. Exchanging these words for ‘Could”, “Might” and “Will” create a whole new sense of choice and autonomy.
Emotional Reasoning: Just because you have a feeling something will or won’t happen, you believe it to be true. Kind of like knowing the future- and how many of us can actually do that?!
Magnifying and Minimising: Everything someone else does is a-mazing and your input was ‘nothing’ or somehow insignificant.
Mental Filtering: Only noticing the negative parts of a situation and filtering out the positives – “the whole 3 course dinner was ruined by those overcooked beans”.
Jumping to Conclusions: Classic mind-reading here –when we know what someone else must be thinking - and predicting the outcomes accordingly.
Overgeneralising: Taking an instance in the past and saying “you always do that”, “I never get a turn”, or “everyone else has a partner” etc.
Black & White Thinking: Good or Bad, All or Nothing – this type of thinking sees only one extreme or the other.
Personalisation: Blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong or even could go wrong! Taking full responsibility for things that aren’t even in your control.
Labelling: Often judgemental statements about self or others based on behaviour in a specific situation e.g “she’s an idiot” or “I’m such a loser” – even when there are other situations where that is not the case.
Some of the unhelpful thoughts we have are a mix of a few of the above styles.
Many of them we have learned (and often disliked!) from hearing our parents use them. Take a look over this list again this time noting which ones you mostly do, and put an M (mum) or D (dad) next to the ones that you’ve heard them use.
So that’s Step One – grow Awareness ✔
Next blog… how to change these unhelpful patterns
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Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.