I wanted to mention some habitual wrong ways of thinking, which support a continuing cycle of anxiety. Along with that, I want to present new ways of thinking to apply a constant pressure in the right direction. I'm not talking about Pollyanna-ish, wishful thinking. I'm talking about changing the the way our cognitive interpretation centers produce conclusions. We need to retrain the brain to start interpreting the input more realistically. It takes time. With months of practice, there is a subtle change. Years more moderate. Decades . . . significant.
I must also again state that for many of us, we can never have a fully healthy brain when it comes to anxiety . . . not in this lifetime. For some of us the genetics flaws or early childhood trauma are just too strong. I will also point out that this takes time, years or even decades. But substantial improvement can achieved. The list I'm about to share is taken from the book, Thoughts and Feelings, The Art of Cognitive Stress Management, by M. McKay, M. Davis and P. Fanning (1981).
Fifteen Styles of Distorted Thinking
1.) Filtering: looking at only 1 element of a situation to the exclusion of everything else:
Example: Employer compliments you for quality of project, but ask if you could get it done a little quicker next time. You go home having decided that your boss thinks you're dawdling.
Fix: Think about what you can do to correct your mistakes and to consider what you did right.
2.) Polarized Thinking: All or None/Black or White thinking. Everything is at the extremes and no middle ground, especially when it comes to judging yourself. You are either brilliant or an idiot. There is no room for mistakes.
Example: You are a complete looser because you took the wrong exit. and had to drive several miles out of the way.
Fix: Remember that all behavior and feelings fall along a continuum. Ask yourself, honestly, on a 1-100% scale, how often are you a looser.
3.) Over-generalization: Take a button and sew a button on it. Making broad, generalized conclusions based on 1 specific event.
Example: I'll never be able to be trusted again.
Fix: Avoid using words like all, every, always, nobody. Use words like may, sometimes, often.
4.) Mind Readers: Making snap judgments about others. Jumping to conclusions concerning what other people are thinking. No evidence, but it seems to fit.
Example: My husband only brought me flowers because he must be feeling guilty about something.
Fix: Better off making no inferences at all.Stick to what you know for sure . . . if you down't know, try to find out or forget about it.
5.) Catastrophizing (my favorite): A small leak in the sailboat means that it will surely sink. Usually starts off with "what if."
Example: What if my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. What if I don't get into the program.
Fix: As soon as you catch yourself, make honest assessment of situation in therms of odds and a percent of probability -- are the chances 1 in 20, 1 in 19,000 or 1 in a million?
6.) Personalization: Tendency to relate everything around you to yourself. When things go wrong, believe that is was directed to you personally or caused by you. Continually comparing yourself to others.
Example: I'm the slowest person in the office.
Fix: Force yourself to prove what the problem has to do with you.
7.) Control Fallacies: Seeing yourself as helpless and externally controlled or responsible for everyone around you.
Example: You have to right every wrong, fix every problem, take care of every hurt.
Fix: Besides natural disasters, you personally are responsible for what happens in your world. You make day-to-day choices that affect your life.
8.) Fallacy of Fairness: Seldom do people agree about what fairness is. Getting locked into your own point of view.
Example: If he loved me, he would help with the housework. If they really valued my work here, they'd get me a better office.
Fix: Outside a court of law, concept of fairness is too dangerous to use, instead say what you want or prefer.
9.) Emotional Reasoning: Belief that what you feel must be true. Emotions by themselves have no validity. They are products of what you think. If you have distorted thoughts and beliefs, your emotions will reflect that. Always believing your emotions is like always believing everything you read. Don't confuse thoughts with facts.
Example: I feel like a loser, therefore I am a loser. I feel ugly, therefore I am ugly.
Fix: There is nothing sacred or automatically true about what you feel.
10.) Fallacy of Change: The only person you have much hope of changing is yourself. This type of thinking assumes that others will change to suite you if you just pressure them enough. Usual result is that the other person feels attacked or pushed around and doesn't change at all. Underlying assumption here is that your happiness depends on the actions of others, when in fact, it has much more to do with the millions of large and small decisions you make during your life.
Example: If I can get my spouse to go out every other night with me, stop smoking, start wearing better clothes, and learn racquetball . . . our marriage will be much better.
Fix: Your happiness depends on you--you have to decide to stay or leave, say yes or no, continue at your job or not.
11.) Global Labeling: Labels may contain a grain of truth, yet ignores all contrary evidence, making your view of the world stereotyped and one-dimensional.
Example: All republicans are a bunch of money-hungry jerks. The person who refuses to do you a favor is a stupid fool.
Fix: Limit your observations to that particular case.
12.) Blaming: There is much relief in knowing who's to blame (someone else or you). Often involves making someone else responsible for choices and decisions that are actually your own responsibility. In blame systems, somebody is always doing it to you and you have no responsibility to assert your needs, so no, or go elsewhere for what you want.
Example: Blaming your friends for asking you to go to a lousy party.
Fix: It is your responsibility to assert your needs, say no, or gl elsewhere. Thre is a difference between taking responsibility and turning the blame on yourself.
13. Shoulds: Operating from a list of inflexible rules about how you and others should act. Due words: ought, must, should.
Example: I should be the epitome of generosity, unselfishness, courage, strength and dignity. I should be the perfect spouse, lover, parent, friend.
Fix: Think of 3 exceptions. Remind yourself it is impossible to be "perfect."
14. Being Right: Usually on the defensive, continually proving your viewpoint is correct. Having to be right makes you very hard of hearing . . . and lonely.
Example: I know I'm right. Don't you believe me?
Fix: Active listening, communicate by repeating what you think you heard in order to make sure you really understand.
15. Heaven's Reward Fallacy: Always doing the right thing in hopes of a reward. Sacrificing and slaving so you can collect brownie points.
Example: Housewife cooking elaborate meals for the family, keeping an immaculate home and waiting hand and foot on the family while waiting for special appreciation which never comes.
Fix: If doing good means you're doing things you really don't want to or are sacrificing things you resent giving up, you're not likely to reap any benefit at all.
I might come back and finish with another story about B . . . but again, I may have beat this dead horse long enough.