“Life consists in what a person is thinking of all day.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We have over 50,000 thoughts running through our heads on any given day. Our mind is flowing in a constant stream of thought, whether we’re aware of it or not. Our beliefs are at the core of this process. They influence our attitudes, perceptions, feelings, and ultimately the action we take. Fortunately, we have the amazing power to take control of our mind by examining our beliefs and the self-talk that comes along with them. Our beliefs and self-talk can be either constructive or destructive. Destructive beliefs appear as that negative harsh voice in your head telling you all the reasons you’re not good enough. Destructive beliefs are lies we learned from being maltreated by others, whether family, friends, teachers, or the media, and because of these lies we believe we cannot be who we were designed to be. That is unless we identify and overcome these destructive thought processes and beliefs. We can learn to identify negative self-talk and combat them with healthier more adaptive thinking. First thing first, be aware of any twisted thinking you may be prone to engage in.
Twisted thinking comes from four main irrational thinking styles.
Demanding – This is where you criticize yourself and others with should, ought, must, and have to statements. “This shouldn’t have happened! This can’t happen!” Awfulizing – This is making mountains out of mole hills and blowing things out of proportion. “This is horrible, terrible, and awful!” I can’t stand it itis – You dwell on the negatives and view the negative event as a unmanageable defeat. “What happened is so bad I can’t stand it!” Condemning – We start to blame people, whether ourselves or others for the problem. “Someone has to pay for what happened!” The feelings that come from these type of thinking patters are real, but they are not accurate, and don’t have to be acted upon. Use your feelings as signals to begin examining your thoughts and beliefs. This can require looking for lies in the way we are interpreting and making sense of things.
“Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.” – William James
When you’re thinking goes down this crooked path there are few things you can do.
7 ways to untwist your thinking
The straight-forward approach – Substitute a more positive and realistic thought for the destructive thinking that is leading you to feel badly. When you notice your feeling upset or distressed consider what thoughts are related to this, and find a new more adaptive thought to help you feel better and take charge of the situation. This is where affirmations come into play. The Cost-benefit analysis – List the advantages and disadvantages of a negative feeling or attitude. For instance, “I am such a loser.” It’s clear that this type of thinking isn’t helpful. Get highly logical and consider which thoughts will get you closer to what you want, and which thoughts will hold you back. If we know it’s a harmful thought it can help to discredit it. The Double-standard technique – Instead of putting yourself down, talk to yourself in the same compassionate way you might talk to a caring and dear friend. We are our own worst critics so be careful not to be excessively judgmental of yourself. Be an encourager to yourself as you would to others you care about. Thinking in shades of gray – Instead of thinking about your problems in black and white categories, evaluate them in shades of gray. There are many perspective, opinions, and beliefs we’ll run into in the world, so begin to open your mind to new ways of viewing things. Particularly if it will help you accomplish what you want in life. The survey method – Do a survey to find out if your thoughts and attitudes are realistic. Ask several friends what they think or feel about a similar situation. Get feedback from other people to gauge whether the way you see yourself or a situation is accurate. Worst case scenario you can gain insight into areas of improvement. Best case scenario, you learn that people view you with respect and appreciate you. Be specific – Stick with reality and avoid judgements about reality. Instead of thinking of yourself as totally defective, focus on your specific strengths and weaknesses. Be as objective as possible when it comes to your thinking. When our feelings take over it’s easy to get lost in thought and start to take our feelings at face value. The acceptance paradox – No one is perfect. Instead of always defending yourself against your criticisms, accept your shortcomings and weaknesses with complete tranquility. We can improve some weakness, where other things are simple out of our control. Learn to accept what you cannot change. Changing the way we think about things is a fundamental approach to changing our life. It is up to us to stop living on autopilot, and to begin focusing moment to moment on what can help us be more upbeat, energetic, and happy.
This is where I provide my personal connection to the ideas in the post. I hope you will join the conversation and offer your personal connection to these ideas as well. I am prone to the demanding and condemning type of twisted thinking. I blame others when things aren’t as they “should” and blame and condemn myself when I “have to” do something or “must” get something finished but don’t have time. I have learned it’s much easier to blame the world for my problems, but easier doesn’t mean more effective. All it does it make me feel like crap! What do I do? I try my best to take the word “Should” out of my vocabulary. Frankly I also call people out when they use this word. It can completely change the tenor of a statement when these demanding words are removed. I also do my best to never play the victim. I have others point out to me when I am acting helpless like a victim. When I notice I’m complaining or being pathetic, I shift my focus to what I have control over and what I can do to change the situation. These are basic things I have learned to do over time, but they certainly help keep my thinking straightened out. What ideas to untwist thinking do you use? Which irrational thinking styles listing in the post are you most prone to? Photo by: skippyjon