Sometimes the most troubling barriers in life are so deeply rooted in our subconscious that we don’t know they’re there. They are ways of thinking—patterns that we develop that can limit us and how we operate in the world. They can undermine our confidence, prohibit our achievements and lead to depression and anxiety. Often these negative thinking patterns are developed in childhood, so they are difficult to shake. But if you can identify them, that is the first step toward freeing yourself.
Here are some common negative thinking patterns:
- With me or against me. This kind of thinking does not allow for any grey areas. Everything is good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. If you’ve been brought up to think this way, you miss out on important nuances or middle ground that might save or enrich your relationships. Points of view that might enhance your thinking can be lost to this dichotomous thinking.
- Should and shouldn’t. When you tell yourself that you should or shouldn’t have done something, you are being judgmental, and that usually results with you feeling of shame or guilt. When you tell yourself that others should have behaved toward you differently, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed. If a friend should be more grateful to you, for example, you find yourself feeling resentful and even angry when he isn’t.
- Constant crisis. This thinking distorts reality and puts you under the gun at all times—and also at the center of attention. You are often predicting the worst possible situation, blowing things out of proportion and generally exaggerating negative outcomes. At the same time, you may minimize the good things in life. Yes, you made the team, but it was only junior varsity. Or yes, you got a raise, but it’s still not enough to buy a fancy vacation. You discount the positive and are predisposed to see the negative.
- My fault, your fault. If you think everything is your fault, you attribute others’ behavior as a result of your own behavior. You think you should have somehow influenced someone else to operate differently and you blame yourself for circumstances that are, in reality, out of your control. On the other hand, if you blame everyone else for your problems, you have the opposite situation. You see everything as someone else’s fault. Either position in not good for your mental health.
We’ll talk more next week about thinking patterns, also known as cognitive distortions, that can interfere with your success in life. And we’ll explore how you can break these patterns and free yourself from negative thinking.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.