The phrase “mind over matter” seems as though it’s a simple concept to follow. The reality is, is that the complexities that play out in our minds make it quite challenging to take an optimistic viewpoint in the situations we face.
One of the most gratifying moments when counselling our clients, is when they are able to distance themselves from the thought they are having, examine & challenge it’s distortion and come to a more balanced perspective; this often brings a sense of clarity and resolution.
My favourite quote is “we don’t have to believe what we’re thinking”.
I may be experiencing the thought that driving in a heavy rainfall next to a tractor trailer will lead to my death bed. suddenly I imagine images of news flashes, announcing my death become more vivid. Not to mention the memory of those dramatic movies illustrating the dangers of dark wet roads adding to my neurosis. The sweaty palms, shallow breathing takes me into a panic. It is then when I put on the mental emergency break and say to myself “STOP”. I remind myself “these are anxious thoughts”,“I don’t have to believe what I am thinking” “Thoughts are not facts or a prediction of the future. They are only a passing thought”. This psychological phenomenon is powerful and it effects us all. Unfortunately, it is one of the major causes to depression and anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is the clinical approach in treating these entangled thoughts.
One of the most gratifying moments when counselling our clients, is when they are able to distance themselves from the thought they are having.
Learning about the various ways in how these thoughts take form is the beginning steps to taking control over them. Here are a few of the many:
Polarized Thinking (Black & White)
We either label ourselves or others as “stupid or smart” “perfect or failures” there is no in between. This rigid way of thinking does not allow for us to take into consideration the middle ground of a situation. For example, we can have strengths and weaknesses. We can have achievements and setbacks. Often perfectionist thinking falls in this category, if you or another person’s performance doesn’t meet your expectations it’s considered a “failure”. This type of thinking can be problematic in resolving conflict in a relationships, as it does not allow to take in another person’a point of view or be able to compromise. Polarized views also present themselves in controversial religious and political debates.
When we sense a threat and we’re quick to predict a disastrous event to take place and minimize the presenting facts. Or we magnify an unpleasant event to be disproportionate with what is actually happening. Example, your in a crowded place and you think “what if a shooting breaks out and I get shot”. Often thoughts that begin with “what if” can lead to this thinking trap.
We walk into a social situation and we’re convinced people are noticing our grey hairs or we’re in conflict with someone and we’re very certain in knowing their intentions or thoughts. Our assumptions and conclusions can not be taken as facts. It sets us up to building resentments, make false accusations of others and misunderstanding. We can only describe what we’re observing. You can avoid mind reading by clarifying and stating “I noticed you’ve cancelled plans with me several times, wanted to know if you were still interested spending time with me”.
When we encounter a setback and we forecast that it will continue to happen over and over again. If a relationship did not work out, and you predict that all future relationships will fail.
We can instead find acceptance for what has occurred, evaluate how to handle it differently and grow from that experience. Also being open to the possibility that future relationship can bring greatness and some challenges.
This distortion is centred around ourselves and the ego.
When we interpret someone’s behaviour as being directed to ourselves. Your not chosen to be best man for your good friend’s wedding. You interpret this as not being worthy enough or valued enough. Personalization also manifests itself when we compare ourselves to others measuring up who’s better then the other.
We deflect responsibility from owning our own feelings and faults. This is often also a defence mechanism. This is when comments such as this are made,“It’s because of you I lose my temper, If you only ____ I wouldn’t get mad” Another tendency we sometimes have is to blame ourselves for other people’s behaviour. Example, “if only I would have given her more attention she wouldn’t of ruined her life like this”. This form of thinking can lead to guilt and feeding into other people’s helplessness. Each person is accountable for their own action and managing their own feelings.
Our emotions can blur our perceptions and choices greatly.
This is when we feel anxious of high heights and when presented with opportunity to travel via air-transit; we believe that our life will be endangered. Therefore, then leading us to avoid air travel at all cost. The distortion here lays in the belief that because I am feeling this , then it must be true. Our emotions don’t interpret facts, they are only a response.
From a very young age we are all exposed to stereotypical and judgemental labels. It becomes second nature to many of us in using these labels towards ourselves and others.
This way of thinking and communicating does not allow us to view and describe people and ourselves accurately. Example “ your a jerk” does not give that person information on how their behaviour is impacting us. Instead describing by stating “you disclosed my private information to others without my consent”. We often label ourselves as well, which leads to self-depreciating beliefs. Stating “I am fat” does not describe accurately our health condition and discourages us. A balanced perspective could be “I am 30lbs over my healthy ideal weight and feeling unhappy about this”. This way of thinking helps us see things for what they are while setting the stage for motivation and personal goals”.