Our brains don’t work with JUST facts. We make up stories that fit our perception of our own world. Are your stories distorted in any way? Are they positive or negative? Are they true?
Sometimes we don’t realize we are telling ourselves a story and most of the time we take these stories as the truth.
Take a step back today mentally and think about the story you tell yourself. You may find some flaws or distortions in the way you are thinking. Some distortions we find could be:
- All or nothing thoughts. Thinking thoughts in an extreme manner, with nothing in between. “I’m a horrible person.”
- Overgeneralization. Making a negative even further negative than actually is true. “I NEVER do well at work.”
- Mental Filter. Filtering out all the good stuff. “I didn’t get ANYTHING done on my days off.”
- Disqualifying the good stuff. When you think your “good stuff” doesn’t count at all. “I made it thru the weekend but even a clock is right 2x daily.”
- Jumping to conclusions. “She said she doesn’t want to hire me for the job. I’m unhireable.”
- Magnifying and Minimizing. “I messed up that out on first and lost us our first game, when Sarah played like a pro.” (even though Sarah missed a fly ball)
- Emotional Reasoning. This is when you assume your negative feelings are the TRUTH. “I felt embarrassed when I walked into the party full of people I didn’t know. I must have acted embarrassing.”
- Labeling and mislabeling. Making something small into a much larger issue. “I forgot dog food. I’m an idiot!”
- Should statements with a negative connotation. “I should have lifted more weight. What a loser.”
- Making things personal. “The neighborhood sale was not a success because I was there.”
If you find that you do any of these and want to start changing the way your story sounds to you, follow this exercise recommended by Burns’, “Feeling Good,” a CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy step by step book. It is as follows:
Make three columns in a journal. Label the first column as “story I’m telling myself” and in this column write the distortion you find yourself thinking. “I’m unhireable.” In the second column write one of the labels 1-10 above. Was it Jumping to Conclusions? Write that in column 2. In the third column write what a better version of that story could be. Instead of “I should have lifted more weight, I’m a loser,” write something like, “I will lift more weight next time because I found that it was too light today.” (without negative connotation)
The information I mentioned above are common practices of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. First you have to be aware of what you are thinking, then intentionally pay attention to what you are thinking and then change the negative to positive or productive thoughts. You got this!