Learn how to control your thoughts so they don’t control you
The thoughts evoke emotions, make you feel certain way and that consequently makes you behave in resourceful or less resourceful way. You’ve probably heard and read before, change your thinking, change your life. This sounds like a catch phrase with truth behind it.
In this article, I want to point out to you how your thinking can be holding you back.
How your thinking can be holding you back
Unless you’ve been practicing meditation for some time and managed to grasp one of the most difficult skills around - quieting your mind chatter, your brain works overtime, all the time, even when you’re asleep.
Random thoughts pop into your mind and take life of their own, take you around until you change your focus and interrupt them.
Psychologists and counsellors call these automatic thoughts. They normally pop into your head as results of an experience. Depending on your experience, what thoughts pop in.
It could be something like ‘I don’t seem to be able to do anything right’, ‘I seem to cause a lot of conflict’, ‘I don’t seem to be able to get along with many people’.
Of course, an automatic thoughts are not all negative. In fact, you may be experiencing positive automatic thoughts but if this was the case, I don’t think you’d be here reading this article, right?
The automatic thoughts say a lot about your core beliefs and vice versa, your core beliefs determine the thoughts you’re having. Least to say, this could easily become a bit of vicious circle for you.
So if you find yourself thinking the thoughts you don’t appreciate, think what core beliefs it’s stemming from.
If you’re experiencing many unhelpful automatic thoughts or even consider yourself ‘negative thinker’, I have two good news for you!
You can spend some time examining your thoughts which lead to core beliefs and with a lot of hard work and focus, you can tweak your core beliefs so they are more suitable and working for you.
This concept is straight forward but not easy.
Core beliefs are those things you consider to be facts. You believe they are the way you believe they are. To change them, you first have got to start challenging them and examine what they are and what other alternatives beliefs you could be holding on to.
You may realise that you’ve been letting them hold you back.
The way this works is: you may be holding on to believe that ‘you’re not smart enough’, therefore when it comes to time you want to find a different and more satisfying job than the one you have now, you may be thinking ‘I’ll embarrass myself by trying’, ‘What will others say if I don’t get the job’, ‘What if I get found out that I am not smart enough for the role’…
Based on these thoughts, you’ll start feeling bad, which will influence the way you’ll behave and the choices you’ll make.
The thoughts you’re thinking are not all true but we often act like they totally are. We accept them as they come, no questions asked.
Just think, how often do you challenge your thinking?
The way to minimise core belief that is no longer helping you, is by challenging the truths of the thoughts you think. Don’t accept any BS that pops into your mind and instead invest a little bit more time into filtering through it and picking the top ones. The ones that will support you and make your life experience much more pleasant.
Does that not sound like a good idea?
Here’s the thing, if you take every thought (and I am mainly talking about those unhelpful ones) as true, you accept your perception of the event or circumstance too until you start questioning yourself.
You can be so worried about your partner leaving you that you think yourself into your partner leaving you. And no, I am not joking here. You can bring on yourself the things you’re most afraid of. This is called self-fulfilling prophecy.
Your thoughts influence the way you feel and as result they influence the way you behave.
So let’s say you’re afraid your partner will leave you, you’ll start seeing things which are not there which will add more negative thoughts, you’ll feel bad and more than unworthy, hurt before you’re even hurt and you’ll behave angry, upset and pissed off with him most of the time. No one likes to spend time with someone who’s constantly pissed off with them, nagging them and causing argument with them so he’ll leave.
During the day, random thoughts pop out in mind at random times or as result of what you’re experiencing, you’re having chit chat with yourself at all times and you’re forming your own taken on your daily experience, you’re making assumptions about others around you into great extend based on the beliefs you’re holding on to, you’re forming your perception.
PSYCHOLOGY OR CBT MATERIALS LIST OUT THESE COMMON THINKING ERRORS or CBT
All or nothing
I am often described as someone who takes things to extreme. I may have argument with my friend and based on that I somehow get to thinking this is it, the end of the friendship. Instead of seeing this disagreement as something to work on, I see red and the end.
Another good example is when I often categorise things into right or wrong, good or bad, as if there was no in between, no grey, no middle. Again this is very extreme and quiet negative way of living.
I am strong minded person and very direct. I like to be straight with people rather than be two-faced with them. This often gets me into conflicts. When I have conflict with someone I often tend to explain it as ‘I just don’t get along with many people’. This is what overgeneralising is about, you take one bad experience and apply it and connect it with others which at the end you come to dramatic and final conclusion that you’re just not enough or too much of…
You may proclaim yourself as failure because you were not successful at securing one client even though in the past you’ve done it successfully many times.
Not seeing the positive
I think we all are guilty of this one, have you ever proclaimed ‘I’m having a bad day’. As the result of the one bad thing like argument with co-worker or telling off by your boss, you label the whole day as bad even though you came home, had a lovely dinner with your partner, received monthly pay, got a new client. But all these good things in your day got put aside, because you’re focusing on one event that did not go well.
Or you may say you’re bad at your job because the project you were working on got rejected
Unless person shares it with you, you don’t know what they are thinking. But often you like to assume you, in fact, do know. For example: you’re off sick and don’t get call back from your boss, so you’ll start thinking he does not like you, he must be thinking you’re skiving.
Or you’re at the meeting and your co-worker sits on the other side of the table, you start thinking they’re upset with you or don’t like you anymore.
You may believe that you’ll never make your business success because right now you’re at the beginnings and you’re struggling to find clients
Or you may believe that you’ll always struggle for money because you’re in financial difficulties right now.
Or you’ve just come out of the long term relationship and because it did not work out for you now, you may start to believe you’ll end up alone and you’ll never find someone who’ll care for you.
The same as the thoughts are not always facts, the emotions are often not fact either. The emotions come from the thoughts at the end of the day.
You may feel like a loser at the end of the unsuccessful project or after failing exam, but that does not mean you are loser.
We put names to people and things often as result of one incident rather than group of similar incidents
Your co-worker has done mistake and instead of acknowledging it was a mistake you’ll label him as ‘idiot’
As much as it’d be handy to predict the future sometimes, no of us are able to do it, but often we think we can.
‘I’m not going to pass the test’
‘Tomorrow is going to be a tough day’
The world does not revolves around you but you often think it does.
Your co-worker does not go for break with you, so she must be mad at you
Your friend is not responding your message for several hours, so he must be upset with you
Comparing the amount of success others achieved and you leaves you thinking ‘what’s wrong with me, why can I not make it work’
The good news is, once you’re aware of these thinking errors, it’ll be easier for you to spot them and challenge them.
More you’ll do it, more evidence you’ll gather and you’ll be able to see that what you’re thinking is not always the truth. Challenging these untrue thoughts and thinking errors will help you come up with more realistic thoughts.
Changing the way you think will not be instant, after all, you’ve been thinking this way for a long time but if you persist, the change will start happening and you’ll notice the difference in the way you feel and behave as well.
This is not to say that once you start challenging your thoughts, you’ll enhance negative once for only positive. By challenging you’ll learn not to accept just any thought.
Optimistic people live longer according to research. Their heart health is twice better than heart of pessimistic person, they are better at regulating stress. Optimists earn more money, they are more likely to find the jobs they actually like and enjoy or get promoted. They have happier relationships and their performance is better.
Being overly optimistic could backfire. You may end up not preparing for driving theory test because you optimistic that you’ll pass and that might back fire.
Or the same way, you may sabotage yourself at work.
Of course, you cannot only see the good things and deny all the negative stuff. What you’re aiming for is realistic yet positive view of the world. By noticing your negative thoughts and understanding what core beliefs they come from, you’ll be now more likely to challenge it and change it to something more productive for you.
By changing your thinking, you’ll change your mood and your behaviour.
Every time you’ll challenge negative and unhelpful thought, you weaken the unproductive core belief.
HERE ARE 4 QUESTIONS YOU CAN START ASKING YOURSELF:
1. What’s the evidence this is true?
2. What’s the evidence this isn’t true?
3. What’s another way to look at this situation?
4. If this were true, how bad would it be?
You used to be friend with someone and now he doesn’t respond your calls. You may start assuming that he’s mad at you or has some sort of issue with you.
We often make assumptions and believe their truth, often enough the same as the thought, they inaccurate and untrue.
Often we think that the if the things don’t go our way, it’s the worst thing in the world. (Refer back to thinking errors section)
Of course, negative outcome brings discomfort but it is something you can handle.
What’s the evidence this is true?
What the evidence this might not be true?
What’s another way to look at the situation?
If it were true, how bad would that be?
Just by asking these questions, you may gain a different perspective on what you’re thinking and what’s holding you back. It may help you identify and gather evidence for thinking error you’re making, give you different perspective and therefore keep your thinking more realistic, rational and logical.
You make the best decisions when your emotions and logic are balanced. When your thinking is irrational, it’s the best not to be making any decisions.
WATCH HOW YOU TALK TO YOURSELF!
Just because you think something does not mean it’s true. And I am not saying this to you because it sounds good or because I want to give you some sort of empty positive thinking advice. No! But we’ve covered earlier the thinking errors we all do, you may often fall in the trap with all of them or only a few.
You will not know until you start to pay attention to the thoughts you’re thinking and the way you talk to yourself.
You may have heard this one before - we are our own worst critics. Is this right for you? Are you often very critical of yourself? Do you often find faults in behaviour or performance you’re just done even though other people praise you and are proud of you?
The thoughts you’re thinking are exaggerated by you (you often fall into trap of one of the thinking errors covered earlier)
Replaying the events over and over in your head to the point you wish you could switch of your brain for a bit. Dwelling on the past unsuccessful or embarrassing moments.
Look out for statements with words like Never, Always in them and start challenging them. ‘I never do anything right’ - never? Was there ever time in your life when you in fact did something right?
Let’s say your thoughts are the truths - how bad would the worst case scenario be?
I think it’s important to mention here is that this is not going to be easy process, changing the way you think, will take time and a lot of effort. Without effort, you’ll easily fall into the old way of thinking.
If the negative thoughts were only thoughts not affecting anything else, would that be enough to enjoy your life? No, it would not. You’d turned any event, situation or experience into negative one. Eventually, it’d take a tall on you. You may be doing it now, hence you reading this trying to find the way to permanently stop this negative cycle.
Depending on the thoughts you have, it reflects in the way you feel and consequently actions you take or decide not to take. If you’d like to learn more about Thoughts - emotions - behaviour connection, try out coaching with me. Learn how to control your thinking to feel better and get the results you want. Schedule session here.
Do you feel your emotions, your thinking or your behaviour holds you back? How so? I’d like to hear from you in the comments below.