Controlling Negative Thoughts (Part One).
Caught in the web...
Welcome to a new week. I hope you had a great weekend. If not, this week is another opportunity to go at it again! I am rooting for you!
Before we dive in, I have a gift for you at the end of this note. If you make it to the end, I’ll be waiting to hear from you. Enjoy!
One of the things you want to deal with to optimise your mental health and life is negative thoughts.
These are unintentional mind filters that could cause you to perceive the world more pessimistically (or negatively) than it actually is. Most people conveniently use these cognitive biases to explain everyday situations.
A person caught on the web is always giving negative explanations about themselves, others, a situation, or the world around them. These negative thoughts are built on cognitive distortions. You need to learn to put your negative thoughts on trial. This simply means questioning them.
It has been established that thoughts affect feelings and, consequently, behaviour. Most likely, your mood may be a result of the things you're thinking, and you cannot help but act along that line. So to change your mood, you need to change the way you think.
The more you challenge negative thinking, the more you can improve your life. It is possible to fix cognitive distortions to deal with negative thinking.
First, you will need to identify the kinds of negative thoughts you have and write them down. It is like tracking. Once you do, you'll figure out that it's not the situation that always upsets you but your thoughts about the situation.
PsychCental captures “15 Cognitive Distortions to Blame for Negative Thinking” and you are likely to be caught in this web. This includes;
1. Filtering. Mental filtering is the draining and straining of all positives in a situation and, instead, dwelling on its negatives. Even if there are more positive aspects than negative in a situation or person, you focus on the negatives exclusively.
It’s performance review time at your company, and your manager compliments your hard work several times. In the end, they make one improvement suggestion. You leave the meeting feeling miserable and dwelling on that one suggestion all day long.
2. Polarization, or all-or-nothing thinking. Polarized thinking is thinking about yourself and the world in an “all-or-nothing” way. When you engage in thoughts of black or white, with no shades of grey, this type of cognitive distortion is leading you.
Your coworker was a saint until she ate your sandwich. Now, you cannot stand her. Or, you got a B on your last test, so you have failed at being a good student, despite getting only A’s before that.
3. Overgeneralization When you overgeneralize something, you take an isolated negative event and turn it into a never-ending pattern of loss and defeat. With overgeneralization, words like “always,” “never,” “everything,” and “nothing” are frequent in your train of thought.
You speak ”You speak up at a team meeting, and your suggestions are not included in the project. You leave the meeting thinking, “I ruined my chances for a promotion. I never say the right thing!“
4. Discounting the positive. Discounting positives is similar to mental filtering. The main difference is that you dismiss it as something of no value when you do think of positive aspects.
If someone compliments the way you look today, you think they’re just being nice. If your boss tells you how comprehensive your report was, you discount it as something anyone else could do. If you do well in that job interview, you think it’s because they didn’t realize you’re not that good.
5. Jumping to conclusions When you jump to conclusions, you interpret an event or situation negatively without evidence to support such a conclusion. Then, you react to your assumption.
Your partner comes home looking serious. Instead of asking how they are, you immediately assume they’re mad at you. Consequently, you should keep your distance. In reality, your partner had a bad day at work.
6. Catastrophizing This is related to jumping to conclusions. In this case, you jump to the worst possible conclusion in every scenario, no matter how improbable it is.
This cognitive distortion often comes with “what if” questions. What if he didn’t call because he got into an accident? What if she hasn’t arrived because she really didn’t want to spend time with me? What if I help this person and they end up betraying or abandoning me? Several questions might follow in response to one event.
What if my alarm doesn’t go off? What if I’m late for the important meeting? What if I get fired after I’ve worked so hard for this job?
7. Personalization This leads you to believe that you’re responsible for events that, in reality, are completely or partially out of your control. This cognitive distortion often results in you feeling guilty or assigning blame without contemplating all the factors involved.
Your child has an accident, and you blame yourself for allowing them to go to that party. You feel that if your partner had woken earlier, you would have been ready for work on time. You also take things personally when you personalize.
8. Control fallacies. The word “fallacy” refers to an illusion, misconception, or error.
Control fallacies can go two opposite ways: you either feel responsible or in control of everything in your and other people’s lives, or you feel you have no control at all over anything in your life.
You couldn’t complete a report that was due today. You immediately think, “Of course, I couldn’t complete it! My boss is overworking me, and everyone was so loud today at the office. Who can get anything done like that?”
In this example, you place all control of your behaviour on someone else or an external circumstance. This is an external control fallacy.
The other type of control fallacy is based on the belief that your actions and presence impact or control the lives of others.
You think you make someone else happy or unhappy. You think all of their emotions are controlled directly or indirectly by your behaviour.
9. Fallacy of ‘fairness’ This cognitive distortion refers to measuring every behaviour and situation on a scale of fairness. Finding that other people don’t assign the same value of fairness to the event makes you resentful.
In other words, you believe you know what’s fair and what isn’t, and it upsets you when other people disagree with you. The fallacy of fairness will lead you to face conflict with certain people and situations because you feel the need for everything to be “fair” according to your own parameters. But fairness is rarely absolute and can often be self-serving.
You expect your partner to come home and massage your feet. It’s only “fair” since you spent all afternoon making them dinner.
But they arrive exhausted and only want to take a bath. They believe it’s “fair” to take a moment to relax from the day’s chaos, so they can pay full attention to you and enjoy your dinner instead of being distracted and tired.
10. Blaming This refers to making others responsible for how you feel.
“You made me feel bad” is what usually defines this cognitive distortion. However, even when others engage in hurtful behaviours, you’re still in control of how you feel in most situations. The distortion comes from believing that others have the power to affect your life, even more so than yourself.
Your partner comments on your new dress, and you feel upset for the rest of the day. “You make me feel bad about myself,” you tell them.
10. Should I? As cognitive distortions, “should” statements are subjective, ironclad rules you set for yourself and others without considering the specifics of a circumstance. You tell yourself that things should be a certain way with no exceptions.
You think people should always be on time or that someone who is independent should also be self-sufficient and never ask for help.
12. Emotional reasoning. Emotional reasoning leads you to believe that the way you feel is a reflection of reality. “I feel this way about this situation, hence it must be a fact,” defines this cognitive distortion.
Feeling inadequate in a situation turns into, “I don’t belong anywhere.”
This cognitive distortion might also lead you to believe future events depend on how you feel. You may firmly believe something bad will happen today because you woke up feeling anxious.
13. The fallacy of change. This has you expecting other people to change their ways to suit your expectations or needs, particularly when you pressure them enough.
You want your partner to focus only on you, despite knowing that they’ve always been very social and value time with friends.
So, every time they go out, you let them know it’s not OK with you. Eventually, you know they will change their ways and want to stay home all the time.
14. Global labelling. Labelling or mislabeling refers to taking a single attribute and turning it into an absolute. This happens when you judge and then define yourself or others based on an isolated event. The labels assigned are usually negative and extreme.
You see your new teammate applying makeup before a meeting, and you call them “shallow.” Or, they don’t submit a report on time, and you label them “useless.”
This is an extreme form of overgeneralization that leads you to judge an action without taking the context into account. This, in turn, leads you to see yourself and others in ways that might not be accurate.
15. Always being right. This desire turns into a cognitive distortion when it trumps everything else, including evidence and other people’s feelings. In this cognitive distortion, you see your own opinions as facts of life. This is why you will go to great lengths to prove you’re right.
You quarrel with your sibling about how your parents haven’t supported you enough. You’re convinced this was the case all the time, while your sibling believes it varied according to the situation. Since your sibling doesn’t feel the same way, you become angry and say things that rub your sibling the wrong way. You know they’re getting upset, but you continue the argument to prove your point.
Do you see yourself in any of these negative thoughts? It is possible to begin to challenge these thoughts and break these patterns. Don’t miss the second part of this note (coming up next).
If you enjoyed reading my notes, please share them with others. You can also follow my page on FACEBOOK, TWITTER OR INSTAGRAM.
Now, just as promised. I have a free ebook for you titled: What To Say When You Talk To Yourself by Shad Helmstetter.
To get it, send an email requesting the book to email@example.com, and you will receive it in no time!
Thanks for reading Mental Health Notes! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
To read other notes I have written click here. Thank you!