What we tell ourselves about our experiences impacts on our emotions. How many times have we seen people in difficult circumstances who can maintain a positive demeanour in the face of adversity? And we wonder how they do it. The answer is that the story they create around the event or circumstance can be positive or negative.
So, what does this mean for us? It means that if we can a) spot the thinking style b) recognise what we’re doing and c) think how it could be re-framed, we have a chance of making something good out of the challenge we face.
- Over generalising
- Mind reading
This is when we think of an individual event as part of a pattern. One way of noticing when this is happening is tracking whether we use words such as ‘always’ and ‘never’. “This always happens to me!”
Does it ‘always’ happen to you? Has there ever been a time when this hasn’t happened to you? Has there been a time when it’s happened to someone else? If we look at reality, we may find this dramatic assertion simply isn’t true! We say these things to ourselves to prove that one bad moment is part of a pattern.
“What a complete idiot I am.” Well, are you really – do you have a qualification of any kind, ever held down a job, ever cared for a sick parent, ever brought up a family, ever maintained a friendship? Unlikely you are a complete idiot. Possible you’ve made a mistake, like every other human being who ever lived!
“She’s gone quiet. She’s probably thinking what I’m saying is rubbish.” People with low mood often assume the worst. The subconscious is good at being repetitive and negative. It loves to poke at a wound and see what pain it can provoke.
If someone is quiet when you’re speaking, think…Could they be listening carefully? Could they have had a bad day? Could they be tired? Could they be concentrating on something?
Noticing, thinking and reframing may seem hard work at first, but in time, we can teach ourselves to make this re-framing a habit, turning our negative thought pattern on its head and improving our perception and state of mind.