Ignore these thoughts
Did you know that we have something like 80 000 thoughts passing through our minds each and every day? When you think about this, it is clear how important it is to become a good ‘thought manager’ who is able to separate the useful positive thoughts from the inane and the negative ones.
I am going to make that job a little easier for you by naming a few types of thought that are irrational. These thoughts are based on assumptions and are not based on evidence or fact. Psychologists call the “cognitive distortions” or errors in thinking. The first step is to identify these thoughts when they appear and then learn to dismiss them. They are inane useless thoughts that tend to increase anxiety and depression in those that pay attention to and ‘buy into’ these thoughts, accepting them as valid. They are not valid and the sooner you learn to poke fun at them and push them aside the better…
1) Black and White thoughts or All-or-Nothing Thoughts
Examples: I will always date the wrong people. Or I will never be able to succeed at this.
Words such as “always”, “never” or “every” indicate irrational thinking. In reality it is highly unlikely that you have never succeeded or have always been a failure. There will be examples to the contrary to prove this thinking inaccurate – it is therefore irrational and does not deserve your attention at all. Learn to replace these thoughts with more realistic ones such as “I may not be succeeding this time around but that does not mean I am a failure. I don’t get it wrong all the time”. (instead of I “I never succeed”.
2) Catastrophising or Awfulising
Examples: This is the worst mistake I have ever made. I will end up alone forever now. My whole life is a mess and it will never come right.
This occurs when we exaggerate how bad things are. It usually starts with one negative thought and we get taken on a journey, spiralling downwards into a pit of despair. Don’t do it – don’t allow yourself to get ‘taken down’. Stop the thought process in its tracks – it’s irrational and does not deserve your time and energy. The reality is probably not as serious as you have led yourself to believe. Calm down, ignore the drama related thoughts and remember that our ‘maps’ (our perceptions) are always different, to some degree from the ‘territory’ – ie. what is really going on in reality.
Examples: “That person didn’t say hello to me, I wonder what I have done wrong?”
This thought occurs when you blame yourself for things that are not your fault. Many things that happen in life have very little to do with us but we tend to attribute negative outcomes to something we’ve done. Often, this is just how we see things and may have no bearing on reality. Learn to keep an open mind and not automatically assume it was something you did/didn’t do.
4) Negative Filter
Examples: I have lost some weight but I still have nothing to offer anyone. Or There’s no point in trying because even when I try I make mistakes.
This thinking involves constantly reemphasizing and negating the positive experiences for unreasonable and illogical reasons. A person focuses on the negative or upsetting aspects of an event while explaining away or ignoring the positive aspects.
Example: I must be successful, competent and achieving in everything I do if I am to consider myself worthwhile. Or My last partner was horrible to me so I am not going to date again because all future partners will be the same.
This occurs when we take isolated cases and use them to make wide geenralizations.
6) Emotional Reasoning
Example: I felt so upset by what they said, they must’ve wanted to hurt my feelings.
This thinking happens when we assume something to be true because we feel the associated emotion. Just because we feel a certain way about an event does not mean that we have understood the event accurately. We may have experienced something that triggered an insecurity in us and the thoughts associated with that may not be reasonable/rational.
7) “Shoulds” and “Musts”
Example: “I should be more outgoing”, I must try harder.
“Should” and “Must” places unnecessary pressure on us and can lead to guilt (we all have far to much of that going on already!). Instead of “should” and “must” use “could”. You have choices…you can prefer something -this gives you choice. “should” and “must” can make us feel trapped, as if we have no choices. Stop making unrealistic demands on yourself.
8) Egocentric Thinking
Example “Why don’t people realise what’s going on? I’m not going to listen to this rubbish”
Egocentric thinking involves believing that everyone thinks exactly the same as you, or that because you think something, it must be right.
We can all possess the tendency to expect others to behave in a way that we want them to, or think that they should behave. But ask yourself – “Why should they behave in that way?” The more rigidly we hold these expectations for others the more disappointed and angry we will become when they let us down.
Challenge irrational thinking by asking yourself these questions:
What real evidence do I have for this?
If it concerned someone else, would I think differently?
How likely is it that what I think is true?
What other explanations could there be?
If it is true, what is the worst possible thing that could happen?
How did I deal with similar situations in the past?
Is there any point in thinking about this?
Our thinking can make life feel like heaven or hell. The quality of the content of your thoughts can make or break the quality of your life. It really is the secret to a happier life…
Photo by ** RCB **