Thinking Problems: Correcting Our Misperceptions
It is no secret that the majority of us with anxiety have "thinking" problems that sometimes tear us down and make us feel miserable and depressed. Although some of these "thinking styles" may come very naturally to us, it is always possible to change or restructure thinking so that we can be more rational, allowing life to be more enjoyable and productive.
Our emphasis in therapy is always toward the practical: That is, how can I take the information I learn in therapy and apply it to my daily life, so that my life can be calmer and more peaceful, and I can better cope with the difficulties I face in life?
Here are some "thinking problems" that many of us share.
I think and act based on how I feel. Example: "I don’t feel like doing this, so I won’t".
Solution: Many times if we act first (even when we don’t "feel" like it), our feelings and thoughts begin to change for the better.
Negative/vicious "cycle" thinking
I dwell on negative events or worry excessively about what might happen in the future. When I get into this "vicious cycle" of thinking, it is hard to think realistically and remember all the good and positive things in your life.
The negative things we dwell upon are not helpful to us at all. They lead us to think even more negatively and we get stuck in this cycle of "over thinking" and the "racing" thoughts about negative events that have happened and which we think will continue to happen.
Solution: Learn to put a stop to this negative vicious cycle of thinking and to replace these ANTs thoughts with rational, progressive statements and thoughts that are more realistic.
I blow things all out of proportion. Someone does something or says something to me that I perceive negatively and I make a much bigger deal out of it than I should. This magnification then leads to the vicious cycle of negative ANTs thinking we just discussed.
Solution: Realize that I am probably making a mountain out of a molehill. And even if I’m not, WHO CARES? Do I need to deal with people who are always putting me down or who are projecting blame at me?
Sit back and calmly assess the situation. If someone is trying to make you feel miserable, that is THEIR PROBLEM, not yours. You don’t have to agree with them and give in to their negativity. And if they’re not trying to blame you, isn’t it possible you blew the situation all out of proportion and are reading meaning into the situation that wasn’t intended to be there in the first place?
All of us have many more positive elements of our personality than we realize. In addition, we have the capacity to strengthen and increase our good qualities. It is very true that anything you learned that is negative and that holds you back from happiness can be unlearned. Labeling yourself as "I can't drive on the freeway, I'll have a panic attack!", "I’m just not too smart", "I fall apart in stressful situations", or "I’m just no good at meeting other people" only limits your ability to change, adapt, and be happier.
Solution: It’s better to say, "I don't think I’m good at dealing with stressful situations now, but I believe I can get better". In fact, with the right information and the right motivation, this is much more than possible, it is almost a certainty. No one has to live by labeling themselves negatively, and limiting what they feel they can do, when the mind and thought patterns can be changed. Thankfully, there are many more healthy and positive solutions to these problems than any of us recognize.
Our goal should be to live happy, content, and peaceful lives. This may take some shifting of priorities, changing of thoughts, and some motivation, but it is always possible and always well worth the effort.
The truth always conquers the lies (if you let it).