Have you ever noticed a pattern or cycle of the way you think? As a counselor, I see thinking traps my clients get stuck in all the time. My job is to teach them how to break negative thinking habits so they can overcome barriers.
Specifically, I am referring to negative thoughts that exhaust your motivation, confidence, or functioning. The good news is that this is normal for most people to deal with, and that through awareness, processing and various therapy techniques (ex., CBT and individual counseling) these patterns can shift.
Let's discuss the most common thinking traps, also known as cognitive distortions, counselors teach you how to break free of.
All or nothing thinking: you look at situations in absolutes, similar to black and white thinking; good or bad; "I never do a good enough job for my boss".
Magnification and Minimization: you over exaggerate the significance of something, or shrink it based off your emotions in relation to it. This includes personal achievements being unimportant, or minimal events being particularly harmful.
"Should" statements: criticism of self or others using the word "should" or "shouldn't". You're placing harsh expectations on a reality that is uncertain, which leads to disappointment, anxiety, an inability to accept things at face value.
Overgeneralization: viewing one negative event as a never-ending pattern of demise, defeat or failure. If it happened before, it is sure to happen again.
Jumping to conclusions: interpreting the meaning or outcome of an event that hasn't happened yet, without any evidence, usually based on emotions.
Personalization: you conclude that events are your responsibility, or assume that you could have helped the situation have a better outcome, specifically situations that have nothing to do with you. "My partner is always sad. I should be a better significant other."
Emotional Reasoning: you assume that your emotions toward yourself reflect reality. "I feel like a bad daughter, so therefore I must be."
Labeling: you use the verbiage "I am a mistake" rather than admitting to making a simple mistake. This can also relate to failures.
Discounting positives: you recognize only the negative aspects to situations rather than trying to see or admitting to the positives. Focusing on negative feedback, diminished gratitude.
Do you relate to any of these thinking patterns? If you do, try to highlight where you struggle the most. Is it related to something specific? Someone specific? Awareness is ultimately the first step to change and growth.
It can be helpful to write out some of the more prominent negative thought patterns. Do they create anxiety or other symptoms? Identify which thoughts are rational, and which are irrational. Talking with a counselor will teach how to do reality-based testing. This helps you to see if your perceptions are being filtered negatively.
At the root of each cognitive distortion is an irrational thought, feeling or belief. Some can impair you more than others, but you have the power to change.
If you or someone you know is suffering from negative thinking patterns, harmful irrational thoughts about oneself, or simply needs assistance in rewiring their thought patterns, contact a counselor at Orlando Thrive Therapy today. We are always taking new clients and offer a broad range of speciality care to our clients. To speak directly to the author of this blog, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thrive on!