Don't Believe Everything You Think
Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are all connected. The content of our thoughts have a large impact on how we feel and act in the world. Therefore, if we understand and are able to control how we think, then we are in control of how we feel and behave.
Imagine you are walking down a busy street and you see your friend approaching from the opposite direction. You begin waving and calling out her name to say hi, but she passes by without acknowledging you. What you say to yourself about this incident is called an automatic thought and it will determine how you feel. Here are some possible examples:
"she is so rude for ignoring me" you will likely feel anger
"omg she must be mad at me" you will likely feel worried
"she must have not seen me" you will feel compassion
"We may not be responsible for the world that created our minds, but we can take responsibility for the mind with which we create our world" -Dr. Gabor Maté
So how exactly can we take responsibility for our minds?
Below are 9 forms of unhelpful thinking styles that we all find ourselves engaging with at times. I guide clients to become aware of these, and I encourage you to go through them all and apply a relevant situation to understand how you may be engaging with some of these yourself. Once aware, you can turn this pattern around by examining your own thinking in order to come to a more balanced, rational perspective.
Focusing on only one part of a situation and ignoring the rest. Usually this means looking at the negative and disregarding the positive, and the whole picture is coloured by a negative detail.
Example: Looking in the mirror and seeing an imperfection, yet ignoring all the other beautiful parts of yourself.
All or Nothing Thinking
This involves seeing only one extreme or the other, a binary way of thinking. You are either wrong or right, good or bad, etc. There are no in-betweens or shades of gray.
Example: You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally bad. If you are not perfect, then you are a failure.
The tendency to interpret your experience based on how you are feeling in the moment.
Example: I feel uncomfortable in my outfit, I must be very fat.
Concluding that one mistake makes you a failure. When we overgeneralize, we take one instance in the past or present, and impose it on all current or future situations.
Example: Believing you are a failure in all areas of life because you received a low-grade on one test.
Jumping to Conclusions
We jump to conclusions when we assume that we know what someone else is thinking (mind reading) and when we predict what is going to happen in the future (fortune telling).
Example: "She doesn't like me because I am friends with her other best friend"
We catastrophize when we “blow things out of proportion” and view the situation as terrible, awful, and dreadful, even though the problem itself is quite minor. It is the tendency to blow events out of proportion, so that a tiny event seems like a major crisis.
Sometimes by saying “I should…” or “I must…” you put unreasonable demands or pressure on yourself and the result can be feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and shame. When directing these statements towards others, and they fall short of unreasonable expectations, you may feel frustrated and angry.
Blaming yourself for what goes wrong or could go wrong, even when you may only be partly responsible or not at all.
Example: If you have been broken up with, you may believe it is your fault and there must be something wrong with you. Likely, there were many external factors and perhaps they have their own personal issues to deal with.
Oftentimes we ignore our positive qualities and achievements. Instead, we focus only on the negative aspects, situations, characteristics or mistakes.
Example: Your partner bought you flowers, but instead of appreciating this thoughtful gesture you focus on how he did not do his dishes the night before.