Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
– Henry Ford
The source of your distress might not be what you think…
Life gets tough.
At times it feels impossible to get a win. Frustration, regret, shame, and embarrassment can appear out of nowhere. It may be better on some days, worse on others.
Overall, the trend is heading in the wrong direction. Being bullied by bad breaks and misunderstandings has chiseled away morale. Frustrated by endless disappointment and failure, it’s obvious that something is not right.
“Is this how life will be for me now?”
“Even though nothing really changed, everything has started to suck.”
“My boss always disrespects me. My co-workers hated that presentation. What an embarrassment.”
“Relationships don’t work for me. I will be alone forever.”
But what if I told you it’s not the SITUATIONS that cause distress; it’s the BELIEFS you have about them.
Thoughts are famously confused with facts.
Ever notice how different people can experience the same situation but react completely differently?
Consider how people might react opposite to one another – one seeing rejection as a challenge and another as a failure.
Some people might feel disrespected by a look, while others might chalk it to a bad mood. More classically, when the stock market stumbles, Person A may say, “Oh no, it’s going to zero. Sell, Sell, Sell. You will lose everything,” and person B – “Wow, what an opportunity to double down and buy more for less!”
Throughout life, a “lens” develops – a perspective – that helps make sense of the world. These lenses aren’t perfect, yet do influence mood.
And for some, unfortunately, their brain has a way of negatively spinning the events, situations, and circumstances of their lives.
Your negative thoughts give you negative emotions!
Negative mantras such as “I suck at this,” “I’m a failure and undesirable,” and “I will be alone forever” can have devastating implications. They create a perpetual feeling of doom and gloom, even though they may not be true. In fact, there may be several different ways of interpreting the events that would prevent these horrible emotions and their hangovers.
Flawed narratives create unnecessary suffering.
Cognitive skills can empower the ability to identify these harmful thoughts and restructure them to be healthier, equating to a positive mood and more fulfillment.
“Cognitive” approaches to therapy short-circuit this automatic response…
The modality reduces suffering by examining and repairing the connection between thoughts and mood.
Here’s how we’ll do that: We will discuss the issues that raise the most concern, examining them to understand why they cause so much distress. This will uncover the specific elements that result in bad moods. Rather than falling into the trap that “this horrible thought is true,” we can step back and put the self-indictment on hold.
The brain’s alarm system gets deactivated, and new ideas become the foundation of a better mood.
There will be greater safety when all facts are reviewed, and several other perspectives are discussed. The brain witnesses how the concerns are being addressed, resulting in a more positive emotional experience. The brain won’t need to sound the alarm bells anymore – it will see that it’s under control. Rather than being controlled by emotions, cognitive skills allow the tables to be turned, resulting in the ability to control emotions.
Identifying logical errors…
Black and white thinking occurs when events are interpreted as “good/bad” or “right/wrong” – failing to account for the grey area.
Catastrophizing involves anticipating the worst possible outcome. “I didn’t get this job, and therefore, I will never get a job I want.”
Fortune Telling is another one! “He doesn’t like me. I saw the way he looked at me.”
Heaven’s reward is less talked about distortion, but it’s a favorite. This one occurs something like this. “I’ve been doing all of these great things at work. I showed up for her, brought her flowers, and took her to her favorite restaurant! She needs to trust me now.” The flawed logic here is that there was a belief that scores were being kept, that there was an expectation of a specific result rightfully owed to me for my efforts. Unfortunately, the other party may not think the same way!
Examining the evidence for your thoughts…
“Wait a minute, how do we know this is true?”
“Are there any other ways of understanding this? What would I tell a friend that was experiencing the same thing?”
“How would I feel if things were different?”
“How big of an issue will this be in five years?”
Reframing negative thoughts…
Finding a healthier way to think about issues can create a difference. Instead of thinking in absolutes, a more nuanced perspective gets adopted.
“Perhaps I could have done better in that interview.”
“He ignored me. Maybe it was because he had a lot on his mind.”
“99% of my worst fears never come true. Everything will work out.”
Learning new coping skills…
Finding ways to self-soothe and cope with life is essential in this journey. This is where positive and helpful ideas are put into action. Each person is unique, and therefore, finding the right tools is a personal process. Together, we can explore ways to relax, distract, and invest in self. Coping skills can include hobbies such as drawing/painting, building Lego – ( a personal favorite), reaching out to those we love, finding new friends, spending time with pets, meditation, prayer, and more.
DBT: A special kind of cognitive approach…
The “fancy” name for it is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, but don’t worry about that right now.
What’s important is that it’s very effective at changing your perspective and improving your mood. It’s particularly effective for personality disorders, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and more.
The practice of DBT helps you view issues on a spectrum, with one end being the “emotional mind” and the other being the “rational mind.” The goal is to move away from thinking in extremes – to move to the middle of the spectrum so that you can approach life with a “wise mind.”
DBT uses techniques you’ll find in other cognitive approaches (like the ones we talked about above), but it has some unique elements as well:
A touch of Zen in the cognitive world! Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and learning to accept things as they are. Letting go of judgment and learning to accept whatever life brings – understanding that the most important moment in life is this one right now.
Learning to cope with life’s challenges is what we’re here to do. Instead of falling apart and living in the problem, distress tolerance protects us like armor. It gets stronger with practice and going through difficult situations, coming out the other side in one piece. It arises after preparing for challenges and having a plan to manage them. When things start getting tough, coping skills come into play – they assist us in getting through everything – deep breaths, picking up the phone, energy saved up from all the therapy and preparation. No longer feeling helpless and afraid, we get to overcome challenges with courage together!
Relationships are difficult yet incredibly important to mental health and fulfilling life. Therefore, working on making them better should be an obvious priority. Learning to negotiate needs effectively, speak assertively, ask for what you want, communicate when things aren’t right. This is where we learn to connect better with others – no longer hiding from conflict and being prey to fear of rejection and setting boundaries. We will learn about communication and role play effective strategies to put these skills into action.
Learning to manage emotions can be a challenge. However, we can target the real issue rather than focus on the symptom when we understand where emotions come from. It’s important to recognize that emotions come and go like the weather and that there will be good days and bad. “Don’t take yourself so seriously!” Remember that there are things to do to feel better when upset, that it’s important to look at the facts. This is where our skills get “battle-tested.”
Stop getting bullied by your thoughts…
I’ve been using these approaches for years to help people just like you live a better life.
Don’t let self-doubt, embarrassment, fear, or uncertainty prevent reaching out for help. I can assure you that this process works.
Break free of the suffering!
I would love to help. Call me today, and let’s talk about it during your free consultation: (561) 717-3227.