Tag Archives: self fulfilling prophecy

The power of thought

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The power of thought

Photo by withbeautiful

Few people realise just how powerful their thinking is. The thoughts you choose to focus on and the beliefs you choose to hold on to as true for you, can create heaven or hell. The power of thought is closely looked at by cognitive behavioural therapists (CBT). It is widely accepted that thoughts lead to feelings and these feelings then influence our behaviour.

If we have negative automatic thoughts, they will lead to negative emotions and the ensuing behaviour will then be in line with those negative feelings.

Example:

THOUGHT: I am unattractive

FEELING: Sadness, anxiety

BEHAVIOUR: Avoidance of the opposite sex, avoid dating etc

If the thought was different but still valid, say for example: “I am not perfect but I have many qualities and characteristics”, the feelings would be more positive. This thought is more neutral and will lead to a happier feeling, say, a feeling of hope. The behaviour from this may be that the person ventures out to meet others.

Our thoughts are often habitual and we don’t even realise the repetitive negative dialogue that is occurring. We limit ourselves when we belittle ourselves and criticise ourselves. One of the cornerstones of CBT is to look at our thinking and get into the habit of questioning the validity of thoughts. Thoughts are nor facts – they are merely our perception of the world. They can be changed and they can be challenged.

CBT therapists challenge thinking by looking at the evidence for the thinking and then consider alternative ways of looking at a situation. Remove the negative automatic thoughts and aim for more neutral interpretations – that one simple trick can overhaul a life from misery to surviving and coping. It is a skill that can be learned. Being an effective ‘thought manager’ is one of the best skills you can ever learn if you care about your state of mind.

Be aware of your ‘mental diet’. What do you tell yourself about the world and about yourself?

Try completing these sentences, without thinking too much about it…

  1. I am…
  2. Others are…
  3. The world is…

The above exercise can sometimes help reveal your underlying thoughts about the world. If  you have answered negatively, you will probably find that you spend a lot of time feeling low. Negative thinking can be toxic – comparing ourselves to others, assuming what other’s might be thinking, over generalising, rigid thinking – all of these types of unhelpful  thinking (and others )are unhelpful and can lead to unnecessary anxiety and depression.

CBT is great because you can see results fairly quickly. The strategies and interventions need to be repeated for them to become part of your natural behaviour but it’s well worth it. Don’t just accept your thoughts without any challenge or evidence- they aren’t always accurate or necessarily based on what is really going on in reality.

Mandy X

 

Are you approachable?

 

friendly photo

Are you approachable?

Do you ever think about how you are coming across to others? There can be times when we are giving off negative body language to others but are not aware of this. Often, negative body language comes from what we are thinking about. If we are self conscious and self focused, we may feel stressed and this will show in our body language.

Cognitive behavioural therapy deals with many issues and among those is social anxiety, also known as social phobia. When we suffer from social anxiety, we are often plagued by self doubt and worry too much about what others think of us. We focus on how we are coming across and this self focus ends up making us feel even more anxious. Ironically, when we care too much about being liked and/or being popular, we can end up making the situation worse for ourselves by placing too much pressure on our behaviour.

An analogy that helps my clients is to ask them to think about a row of shops. If you are walking down a street full of shops, you will be unlikely to enter into a shop that looks as if it is closed, has the door closed or has the shutters down etc

On the other hand, a shop that has the door open and looks inviting is more likely to get interest from passers by. I call this “shop open” and “shop shut” body language. Regularly monitor yourself to see whether you are giving off approachable “shop open” body language or unfriendly “shop closed” body language. Shop open body language consists of:

smiling, making eye contact, shoulders back etc

Sadly, when we are shy or feel anxious socially, our thoughts tend to be anxious in nature and this affects our body language negatively. What ends up happening is known as a self fulfilling prophecy – the very thing we fear comes true. If you feel anxious, try focusing on something external instead of  focusing on yourself. This is a great trick to lessen anxiety  in social situations. Focus on others, find out more about them…

In the future, remind yourself to give off “shop open” body language and you will immediately see a change in how people treat you and communicate with you.

Mandy X

The danger of Self fulfilling prophecies

 

self fulfilling prophecy

self fulfilling prophecy

The danger of Self fulfilling prophecies

We all have a tendency to use ‘confirmation bias’ to help us make sense of the world around us. Confirmation bias can lead to self fulfilling prophecies. Let me explain. Confirmation bias is the human tendency to look for evidence of our thinking. If we believe that, for example, all tennis players are arrogant, we will be looking out for examples and instances in life that confirm this belief rather than refute it. When we see anything related to a tennis player being arrogant, it makes us feel safe and gives us a sense of security that our beliefs and the way we see the world is accurate.

The problem with confirmation bias is that we tend to overlook/ignore evidence that contradicts our beliefs. In this way, our thinking can lead to self fulfilling prophecies. If we have a belief that we aren’t good in social situations, we will think about all the times we embarrassed ourselves in a social situation and this will reinforce our negative thinking. When we think and believe something, we tend to act in accordance with that belief. Our body language may change and we can give off signals that show us in an unapproachable light. Not making eye contact and avoidance will lead to others not talking to us and this then confirms our negative beliefs and the self fulfilling prophecy will be in full swing.

Watch your thinking, make sure that you challenge beliefs (see the blog post on the “cause of anxiety” for more info on conquering your fears) and don’t allow negative thinking to create self limiting beliefs and unwanted situations that you may inadvertently have created through your own thinking!

Mandy X

 

How to break through mental barriers

 

mental blocks

 

How to break through mental barriers

What’s stopping you from achieving your true potential or attaining your goals? We all have ideas of how we would like to improve our lives but very few of us actually set in motion the practical steps to improve our lot. Most just talk and never do.

Here are common things that get in the way and create obstacles to us achieving what we want:

  1. Negative thoughts/limiting beliefs

We all have stuff that our minds tell us that stop us from moving forward. We think about everything that could possibly go wrong, we lack self belief and we experience fear. All of these ‘nonsense’ thoughts stop us and effectively remain as mental barriers to self actualisation.

2. Unrealistic goals

Goals are sometimes set that are unrealistic or too big for us to achieve. You may lack the skills, time, money, health or other resources to reach your goals.

3. Avoidance of discomfort

Often we are unwilling to make room in our lives for the discomfort a certain challenge will bring.

4. Losing direction

At times we lose our true selves and move away from our core values. When we lose touch with, or forget what is truly important or meaningful we can end up on the wrong path and be unable to reach our goals.

Write down everything that has stopped you from following through:

1)

2)

3)

4)…..

 

Now revisit your reasons and label them as one of the four reasons above. Was it a limiting belief (I will fail; I’ll do it later, I’m too weak) or was it unrealistic? (you lacked money, time etc).

Was it avoidance of discomfort? ie. you were unwilling to make room for the anxiety, frustration, fear of failure or other uncomfortable thoughts/feelings…or finally was it losing direction?

How to fix it:

Go through your barriers one by one and work out how you can deal with them. Name the story (the thoughts you are telling yourself), accept the thoughts are there and acknowledge them for what they are. – They are unhelpful and judgmental. Recognise the critical inner voice and simply let it pass – like cars passing on a highway.

Acceptance strategies: name the feeling, observe it like a curious scientist, rate it on a scale from 1 to 10, commit to allowing it, breathe into it, make room for it, give it a shape and a colour.

Realistic goal setting: If you lack skills, set new goals around learning them. If your goal is too big, break it down into small chunks. If you lack resources, brainstorm how you can get them; if you lack time, what are you willing to give up in order to make the time? If the goal is truly impossible eg. due to health or financial issues, or external barriers over which you have no direct influence, then set a different one.

Embracing values to find direction: connect with what matters to you about this goal. Is it truly meaningful? Is it aligned with your values? Is it truly important? Is it moving your life forward in a direction you wish to go?

Using these ideas, write down how you can respond to the barriers you have listed above.

Finally, ask yourself this question: Am I willing to make room for the difficult thoughts and feelings that show up without getting caught up or struggling with them, and take effective action in order to do what matters?

If so, go ahead and give it a go.

If not, consider these three questions:

  1. Does this really and truly matter to you?
  2. If it does, then what is the cost to you of avoiding it or putting it off?
  3. Would you rather have the vitality-draining pain of staying stuck, or the life-enhancing pain of moving forward??

Mandy X