Advanced Skills in Counselling, BSIC, Advanced Trainee of Transactional Analysis, DCS, Hypnotherapist
NEGATIVE THINKING? DON'T DESPAIR, IT CAN BE CHANGED
When a person has been through difficult times like abuse, anger, fear, anxiety, alcoholism etc. In their lives, Often their mind starts having frequent negative thoughts and images which might say that “this the way life is and i cannot ever succeed in life and be happy”. The truth is that everyone has positive and negative thoughts as its normal. But some people tend to believe them as the universal truth and don’t see beyond the limiting nature of these thoughts. Such people will be fearful to make any changes in their life and often feel stuck in situations. They may experience an overwhelming amount of confusion and anxiety, which can be very detrimental in their wish to lead a satisfying and meaningful life.
For the person with social anxiety disorder (SAD), a social or performance situation may elicit thoughts such as "everyone can see how anxious I am" or "everyone is judging me". These thoughts often occur so automatically that the person is not aware of his pessimistic thinking.
People who are clinically depressed may experience bad thoughts more intensely, and view them as evidence that they are worthless or sinful people. The suicidal thoughts that are common in depression must be distinguished from negative thoughts, because suicidal thoughts can be dangerous.People who are depressed typically think in a biased, negative way. They have negative views of themselves (e.g. `I'm no good'), the world (e.g. `Life has no meaning') and the future (e.g. `I will always feel this way')
Negative thoughts like these have several characteristics. They are:
1. Automatic: they just pop into your head without any effort on your part;
2. Distorted: they do not fit all of the facts;
3. Unhelpful: they keep you depressed, make it difficult to change, and stop you from getting what you want out of life;
4. Plausible: you accept them as facts, and it does not occur to you to question them;
5. Involuntary: you do not choose to have them, and they can be very difficult to switch off.
Thoughts like these can trap you in a vicious circle. The more depressed you become, the more negative thoughts you have, and the more you believe them. The more negative thoughts you have, and the more you believe them, the more depressed you become. The main goal of cognitive therapy in counselling is to help you to break out of this vicious circle.
BECOMING AWARE OF YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
The first step in overcoming negative thinking is to become aware of your thoughts, and of their effects on you. Negative thoughts make you feel bad - anxious, sad, depressed, hopeless, guilty, angry. Instead of being overwhelmed by these feelings, you can learn to use them as a cue for action. Notice when your mood changes for the worse, and look back at what was running through your mind at that moment. Over the course of a few days, you will become more sensitive to changes in your feelings, and to the thoughts that spark them off. You may well find that the same thoughts occur again and again, because negative thoughts are repetitive in nature.
TYPES OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
1.MENTAL FILTER: When we notice only what the filter allows us to notice, and we dismiss anything that doesn’t ‘fit’. Like looking through dark glasses and saying that everything is dark and gloomy, not seeing that its actually sunny without the glasses on. Anything, which is more positive or realistic is sieved, ignored, dismissed or we make excuses for. Eg. A change in job means more problems.
2.MIND READING: We assume what the others are thinking about us and decide that they see us as a dumb and stupid person. Eg. My boss thinks that I am not capable
3.PREDICTION: believing that we know exactly what is going to happen in the future. Eg. I am going to fail this test.
4.COMPARE AND DESPAIR: We tend to see only the positive aspects of other people and in comparison, we see only the negative aspects of ourselves. Eg. My colleagues are so knowledgeable and skilled, whereas I have just started my career. Surely, the boss will favour them!
5.CRITICAL SELF: Putting ourselves down, blaming ourselves for situations and events that are not totally our responsibility. Eg. My son failed because I didn’t sit down with him to teach him.
6.SHOULDS AND MUSTS: Thinking or saying “I should”, “I must” puts a lot of undue pressure on us, setting us up for unrealistic expectations from self or others and may not be in touch with reality. Eg. I must always agree to what my father tells me to do.
7.CATASTROPHISING: Imagining that only the worst can ever happen if something doesn’t go our way. Eg. If I lose this job, then I will never get another good job.
8.EMOTIONAL REASONING: Sometimes, we tend to get swayed by our emotions and take decisions based on them, not realising that the emotional reaction is not in scale with the reality. Eg. If I am feeling bad, then it must be really bad. Or if I am feeling anxious, then I must be in danger.
9.MOUNTAINS AND MOLEHILLS: maximising the negatives or minimising the positives in any situation. Eg. The last time I went to the toilet, i slipped and fell... I will slip and fall every time I will go to any toilet.
10.JUDGEMENTS AND EVALUATIONS: Making judgements about events, ourselves, others, or the world, rather than describing what we actually see and have evidence for. Eg. My friends are always critical of the way I look and behave. They have never liked me for anything.
11. BLACK AND WHITE THINKING: believing that something or someone can only be good or bad, right or wrong rather than seeing anything in-between or “shades of gray”. Eg. My husband has never taken care of me and he’s always listening to his mother.
12.MEMORIES OF THE PAST: based on the experiences of the past, which were traumatic, we decide that we are in danger in the present, causing distress in the present. Eg. My boyfriend cheated on me, now I will never date again...all boys are like that.
Don't despair, if you find that you have many of these thinking patterns. Most of us have them. Remember, that these are just thoughts and they can be managed. By being observant, we can learn to challenge them and create more optimistic and helpful styles of thinking, which will elevate our mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
Counselling is a safe space where you can discover your negative thoughts, challenge them and modify them to suit your current needs and environment. This can help you to get more out of your life making you feel more in control, accomplished and satisfied.
Feel free to message me on personal chat for any questions and appointments. I do face to face and skype sessions too.