Changing Patterns of Limited Thinking
Let us examine some patterns of limited thinking so we can analyze automatic thoughts uncovered earlier, so you can identify which pattern of automatic thoughts you use in difficult situations.
Then we will learn balanced, alternative self-statements that will become more believable than your painful automatic thoughts.
Please remember, automatic thoughts are not linked to direct sense impression, they are stored in the amygdala, linked to an emotional event in the past, and come up like a relex in 1/18th second.
The good news is they can be disputed, or replaced, and the new memory can be made very powerful, equally or more powerful, than the painful memory, with practice.
Identifying Patterns of Limited Thinking
1. Filtering-This pattern is characterized by a sort of a tunnel vision-looking at only one element of a situation to the exclusion of everything else. This filtering pattern "awfulizes" your thoughts by pulling negative events out of context and magnifying them, while ignoring all your good experiences. Your fears, losses, and irritations become exaggerated in importance.
Key words for the filtering pattern-terrible, awful, disgusting, scary, horrendous, ect.
Key phrase-I can't stand it.
2. Polarized Thinking-Black or white thinking with no shades of gray, especially in regards to self-judgements. You could believe that if you are not perfect, then you must be a failure or an imbecile. I have a client who is a carpenter who does this to himself, and he has struggled with double whammy of not having work, which he blames on his incompetance rather than the depressed housing market.
3.Overgeneralization-Making a broad, general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. Getting car sick means one can never ride in a car again. One cheating spouse means you can never trust again. Global label for persons, places, things.
4. Mind Reading-Making snap judgements about others, particularly about how they are reacting to you. Mind reading involves a process called projection, which means you think that people react to situations the same way you do. (Everybody reacts with anger to lateness).
5.Catastrophizing-Often start with "what if..." and are used to magify dangers. A failed job interview means you will never get another job.
Key words-all, every, none, never, always, everybody, 6. Magnifying-Emphasizing things our of their natural importance. Small mistakes become tragic failures. Everything becomes negative and difficult.
Key Words-huge, impossible, overwhelming
The flip side of this one is minimizing. Everything positive becomes is minimized.
7. Personalization-Two kinds, the first of which involves comparing yourself with other people, usually with them as superior, a also a tendency to relate everything around you to yourself.
8. Shoulds-You operate from a list of inflexible rules about how you and other people should react. The rules are right and indisputable. Any deviation from your standards is bad. You can "should" on yourself also.
Thought Journal Updated
Add three new columns to your Thought Journal, so now you will have the following columns;
Situation-When, where, who, what happened.
Feelings-One Word Summary rated 0-100
Automatic Thoughts-What you were thinking just before and during the unpleasant feeling.
Limited Thinking Pattern-
Balanced or Alternative Thought-
Now you can begin to practice writing alternative or balanced thoughts which refute or dispute the automatic thought and its limited pattern of thinking.
For limited thinking pattern #1, filtering, the antidote is to shift the focus from focusing on the negative/filtering out the positive to the positive. For example, if your thinking focuses on danger, then switch the thought to a safe place. (I know you can remember one) When you do that your feelings will change. However, the danger thought may return right away, so the balancing thought must be practiced frequently.
For example, while sitting in my office, I will ask my clients who are parents to remember holding their little one as a new born. About 99% of my clients, who just in the midst of telling my a tragedy, will smile. Some clients I will ask to actually hold their arms as if they were holding the baby. Then I ask them how they feel. Usually the response is good or loving.
Then I ask them a facietious question, is the child here? Of course, the answer is no, and then we have demonstrated that it is the thought about the baby which brings the feeling of love, and it is the thought about danger that brings the unpleasant feeling, so change the thought to change the feeling.
2. Polarized Thinking Balanced Thought-No black or white judgements and think in percentages.
3. Overgeneralization Balanced Thought-Where's the evidence to support my sweeping thought, remember there are no absolutes, and no negative labels.
4. Mind Reading Balanced Thoughts-Check it out (ask a question), where is the evidence to support your conclusion, consider alternative interpretations.
5.Catastrophizing Balanced Thoughts-What are the odds?
6.Magnifying Balanced Thoughts-Get things in proportion and no need to magnify
7.Personalization Balanced Thoughts-Check it out (is it really about me), we all have strong and weak points, comparison is meaningless.
8. Shouldy Attitude Balanced Thoughts-Flexible rules, values are personal.
Continue for a week with your Thought Journal, identifying your automatic thoughts and analyzing them for limited-thinking patterns.
After a week, you should be adept at recognizing your habitual patterns of limited thinking. You will begin to recognize your automatic thoughts popping up in stressful situations.
Eventually you will recognize limited thinking patterns in real life, and correct them with balancing or alternative THOUGHTS as you go.
As you go? Yes, just that fast, you will recognize and let go of a limited pattern of thinking.
Use This Tool to Clarify Working Memory
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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