Nearly at the halfway point, top effort that.
Before we begin, how have things been?
Last week we looked at Mindfulness and how it has emerged as a powerful way to maintain our equilibrium when dealing with difficult emotions.
This week is another packed one. We’re going to look at Problematic Thoughts, Twisted Thinking and Identifying and Breaking Negative Thought Patterns.
For something that can’t be seen, heard, or measured, thoughts have incredible power.
Before we go any further let’s do our Drill Review for last week.
- How did you find the experience of gratitude journaling?
- What mindfulness techniques did you choose to trial, how did you find them?
Fact, opinion or guess?
Fact. A Fact is a statement that can be proven true or false.
Opinion. An opinion is an expression of your own personal feelings/ emotions that cannot be proven. Opinions can be based on facts or emotions and sometimes they are meant to deliberately mislead others.
Guess. An estimate without sufficient information to be sure of being correct
Talk through these statements with your mentor and decide if they are a fact, opinion or guess.
- Nothing ever goes right.
- They shouted at me.
- I failed the test.
- I’m selfish.
- My feet are too big.
Now to put some of these principles into practice. As mentioned, recording our thoughts can be an exceptionally useful tool. Especially when it comes to differentiating between whether these thoughts are a matter of fact or opinion.
Now that we know that thoughts are based on fact or opinion, we would like you to think of 3 fact or opinion statements that apply to you. Really try to address your own problematic thoughts. Write them down and discuss with your mentor whether these thoughts are fact, opinion or a guess.
When our thoughts become distorted or exacerbated as a result of feeling anxious or low, we can call this Twisted Thinking.
There are different forms of Twisted Thinking which we will look at now. Twisted Thinking can be defined as when our thoughts become distorted or exacerbated as a result of feeling worried or low.
What is it?
Seeing things in extreme terms. People either love or hate you, you are either right or wrong, etc.
“She wants me to do more around the house. This means I’m completely useless.”
Should and Ought
What is it?
Thinking the way we want things to be is the way they ought to be
“I should have talked more on the date. I ought to be more confident.”
What is it?
Believing that one instance applies to all situations
“I couldn’t get out of bed today, i’ll always be a failure.”
What is it?
Thinking a situation is much worse than it is
“My friend is five minutes late to meet me, something bad must have happened!”
Glass Half Empty
What is it?
How are we viewing the events in our life?
“I only have 2 close friends, other people have so many more.”
Jumping to Conclusions
What is it?
Negatively interpreting an event without any good reason.
“There’s no point in me reaching out to my brother because I know he doesn’t want to talk to me.”
What is it?
Assuming our feelings convey useful information and basing our judgements on them.
“I feel so guilty tonight, that must mean I’ve done something wrong.”
What is it?
Assuming we know what someone else is thinking
“They saw me stumble and think i’m stupid.”
What forms of Twisted Thinking do you think you use?
Have a chat with your mentor and make a note.
When falling into Twisted Thinking, we should think about challenging this way of thinking. A few questions which can help us to re-evaluate our thinking include:
- Am I falling into a twisted way of thinking?
- Is there evidence for and against my thoughts?
- Is there another way to look at this?
- If it is true, what can I do?
When falling into Twisted Thinking, be sure to ask yourself: Is there evidence for and against my thoughts?
Take a step back and look at the facts. It is easier to focus on negatives when we are feeling low or anxious. Is there evidence for this thought? Remember when we looked at whether our thoughts are fact or opinion…
Is there another way of looking at this?
When we are affected by negative thinking, we often have a tunnel vision approach at looking at things in one way. Rather than looking at the thought as one defining fact, it may be more helpful to break down into a number of possible reasons.
Using the word perhaps can be helpful. For example, because I forgot to meet my friend I have decided that I am a bad person. Rather than seeing this as a defining fact, I could look at it like this:
- ‘Perhaps I am being too hard on myself.’
- ‘Perhaps I am a good person.’
- ‘Perhaps I am like everybody else who makes mistakes.’
- ‘Perhaps I have a lot of other things going on at the moment.'
If it is true, what can I do about it? If after re-evaluating all the evidence you feel your thinking is correct, there are a few things that you can do.
- Make positive changes
- Move forwards with what you have learnt from your mistakes
For example, I am a bad person because I forgot about meeting my friend.
- You may want to try and make it up to your friend.
- You may want to apologise.
- You may want to make more of an effort to be reliable.
We are all human and we all make mistakes.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Chances are you may still be using Twisted Thinking to some degree. This isn't about getting it right all the time. It's about gradual improvement.
This is a useful tool because it makes our negative automatic thoughts visible to us. They help us to identify patterns within our thinking.
Thinking back to week 2, we asked if you had any recurring thoughts. Review this again with your mentor and discuss whether you are still having any particular negative thoughts you are struggling to shift. Are these thoughts affecting your day to day life?
Once you have gotten good at recognising the thoughts that are tied to negative emotions, it’s time to take a closer look at those thoughts.
One way of Identifying and Breaking Negative Thought Patterns is to compare our thoughts to reality.
After telling ourselves something reasonable, are our thoughts a realistic reflection of the actual situation?
Follow the Facts. The following series of steps will allow you to identify possible twisted thinking.
Step 1: Look for evidence that supports your thoughts
Evidence for my thought
Step 2: Look for evidence that does not support your thoughts
Evidence against my thought
Step 3: Look for possible examples of twisting in your thinking
Was there any twisting in your thinking?
Step 4: Identify a more accurate and helpful way of seeing the situation
What is a more accurate and helpful way of looking at the situation?
Step 5: Notice and record any effects of the new thought on your feelings and behaviours
What are the effects of the new thought?
See how Konrad, a single dad of two children used this approach when they forgot to call their best friend on their 30th Birthday.
Event: Forgot to call friend on 30th Birthday
Thought: “I am a bad friend”
Emotions: Guilt and worry.
Behaviours: Kept putting off calling friend to apologise
Step 1: Evidence for my thought
- I forgot to call my friend on their special birthday.
- I haven’t caught up with my friend in a while and have ignored their last two texts
- My memory is not the best
- My friend is not going to want to speak to me now
Step 2: Evidence against my thought
- My friend knows I am busy with the kids and my life is not the easiest
- I have remembered to text or call him every other year
- Both of my kids were off school unwell and needed my full attention
- I am considerate that I have possibly upset my friend
Step 3: Were there any errors in your thinking?
- Jumping to Conclusions
- Emotional Reasoning
Step 4: What is a more accurate and helpful way of looking at the situation?
- I was busy looking after my daughters as they were sick and off school and did intend to call my friend. In the future, I will be sure to set reminders. It was not the end of the world and my friend was understanding when I finally called them.
Step 5: What are the effects of the new thought
-I no longer feel guilty or worried and it felt nice wishing my friend a happy birthday. I recognise that I am not perfect and that is ok.
With your mentor practice applying a negative thought to the Vicious Cycle from week 2.
See if you can recognise how your thinking patterns can affect your emotions and behaviour.
Following the Twisted Thinking process we looked at, now is time to complete a Thought Record.
List an event that has made you feel low, worried and/ or stressed recently.
- Is there any evidence for this thought?
- Is there any evidence against this thought?
- Were there any errors in your thinking? Refer back to the content above.
- What is a more accurate and helpful way of looking at the situation?
- What are the effects of the new thought?
Tons of information in this week we know, but its some of the most dynamic parts of Bazaar. This session looked closely at Problematic Thoughts, Twisted Thinking, the Vicious Cycle and Identifying and Breaking Negative Thought Patterns. For something that can’t be seen, heard, or measured, thoughts have incredible power.
This week, you will need to practise applying the Vicious Cycle model to any stand-out, negative events. Record your weekly thoughts, referencing ‘the event’, ‘your thoughts’ and ‘the result’.
Be mindful throughout your day about your thoughts and try to capture and clarify them in the moment without writing them down, this skill will come with practice. For more challenging thoughts, use the written technique to tune up your practice.
What are you grateful for?🙏
Write this down now.
❤️I do not have to linger in dark places; there is help for me here.