Two powerful belief-changing techniques are being introduced here. The first is learning to spot distorted beliefs, test them, and change them if they prove to be distorted. A second method is the Belief Repeater Method, which undermines the credibility of a belief by writing the belief over and over while in a neutral state. The belief loses its emotional support. Without that emotional support, the belief becomes unbelievable.
The cognitive-behavioral revolution in modern therapy has developed many new approaches to unseating distorted and self-defeating thoughts. At Emoclear we recognize the value of belief change as one of the ways to undo intense and enduring emotions, break out of distorted views of ourselves, others, and the world, and end self-defeating behaviors. The basic idea here is that how we think about an event, ourselves, or others helps stimulate our emotional reaction.
When we get angry we often combine should rules and negative self-labels along with catastrophizing and “I can’t stand it-itis” to heighten our angry arousal. Example: “That driver shouldn’t have cut me off–He’s totally worthless. It’s awful that he cut me off–I can’t stand it.”
Visit the the Self-defeating thoughts page here.
If we feel guilty we may believe we shouldn’t have done something and we’re worthless for doing so. When we’re anxious we might “fortune tell” that something catastrophic is going to happen. If we’re embarrassed we might believe we must not or should not do something silly, weird, or dumb. If we do we become silly, weird, or dumb. You see how our thoughts and evaluations factor into our emotional reaction to an event.
- From Your Emotional Power
Language and its meaning are highly important in creating our emotional reactions and sensations. Clues that we’re employing distorted and upsetting thoughts can be found in emotions that are intense, uncomfortable, enduring, and attention grabbing. Automatic & habitual, distorted beliefs occur without reason or reflection. Here is a checklist of words and phrases we find in distorted thinking.
Awfulizing: Here we make inconveniences or uncomfortable situations into disasters, catastrophes, something awful, horrible, or terrible. When awfulizing we magnify our problems and fail to notice the positive or the neutral in our experience. Awful, horrible, and terrible generally imply 100% negative experiences. Very few experiences are fully awful. Believing a situation is awful will make it feel that way. Most so-called awful experiences could be made much worse. If you awfulize you could see your experience as “inconvenient”, a “hassle”, or “uncomfortable”. “Difficult” & “tough” also work better.
Typical awfulizing words: “awful”, “horrible”, “terrible”, “disaster”, “holocaust”, “the worst”, “doom”, “total hell”, “catastrophe”, “the pits”.
To test your situation to see if it is really awful–ask the following questions:
Does feeling awful actually prove the situation is awful?
Does your belief create your feelings of awfulness or horribleness?
What is your exact prediction? Specifically what will happen?
If you believed the event was inconvenient, would you feel differently?
Is this event as horrible as I believe it is? Or is it very uncomfortable or inconvenient?
Is there anything positive or neutral in your situation? A valuable learning experience?
How long will your situation last? Can you cope with it?
How is a disadvantage or inconvenience awful?
Could this situation be made much worse?
Is this circumstance difficult or unbearable, unpleasant or devastating, uncomfortable or intolerable?
Is there evidence that would dispute this belief?
If the worst occurs, can you consider other options or plans of action? Could you cope with it?
How does your difficulty compare with: (1) Being roasted slowly? (2) Dying gradually and agonizingly from a rare disease? (3) Seeing loved ones paraded into slavery? (4) Being tortured slowly by terrorists?
Is your situation truly awful or is it an inconvenience?
Test your “awful” thoughts with the previous questions and if they fail the questions, convert your thoughts to “inconvenient”, a “hassle”, or “uncomfortable” or “difficult” or “tough”. Then practice thinking and feeling them until they become habitual and natural.
Can’t Stand-It-itis: Here we use evaluations like: “I can’t stand it.” “It’s too much.” “I can’t take it.” “It’s driving me out of my mind.” “It’s overwhelming me.” “When will this ever stop?” “Life must be easy.” With these phrases we make uncomfortable and frustrating circumstances into unbearable ones. “Can’t stand it-itis” resides at the core of impatience and frustration intolerance. If you’re doing something that better be done and you feel extremely frustrated, you might think: “I can stand it.” “It’s not too much.” “I can take it.” “I can hang in there.” “I’ve stood it before.” “Much of life is challenging–I can put up with it.”
Typical can’t stand it-itis phrases are: “I can’t stand it.” “I can’t take it.” “This’s driving me crazy.” “I’m being overwhelmed.” “When will this ever end?” “This’s killing me.” “I’m going out of control.” “Life should be easy.”
See if you can really stand your situation by answering these questions:
Could you stand it? Have you stood it before?
Have you coped with a similar situation?
Could you stand it for 2 million dollars or some other valued reward?
If your brain is healthy–can you really go crazy or would you just get upset?
Have you ever lived without it?
What would be the easiest part of this situation to bear? The second easiest part to bear?
Where’s the evidence that it’s too much?
Can you stand it for a minute at a time?
If a miracle happened and you could stand and cope with this situation, what would you notice about this situation? How would you feel about this situation?
If your “can’t stand it-itis” fails to pass some of the previous questions, then change your thoughts to: “I can stand it.” “It’s not too much.” “I can take it.” “I can hang in there.” “I’ve stood it before.” “Much of life is challenging–I can put up with it.” Keep practicing your new thoughts until they feel natural and become habitual.
Shoulding: Here we elevate desires and preferences into arbitrary and ironclad laws such as shoulds, musts, oughts, got to’s, and deserves. Shoulding offers us little choice, creates pressures, and leads to anger, guilt, and shame. With shoulds we create new rules and play Jehovah with ourselves and others. If we are shoulding, we better use: “want”, “prefer”, “desire”, “would strongly like”, or “better do”.
Understand that everything is always as it should be. You may not enjoy the present, yet you better accept the idea that everything required to create current reality was done. The present should have occurred as it is now.
It is unrealistic and playing god to believe that reality should not have happened the way it happened. Reality is as it exists. Every prerequisite was met. To demand “it” should not have taken place will upset you and buy you 2 problems for the price of 1. And by demanding “it” should not have occurred, you fail to accept what happened.
If we don’t like the present, we may alter it if possible and prevent what occurred from happening in the future.
Reasonable “shoulds” refer to current reality and can be observed clearly by others. Unreasonable “shoulds” are based on the idea that things should occur because we demand they do. Not based on present observations, unreasonable shoulds are often grounded in the notion that what is correct for us is right for everyone. Example: Mensing’s truths should work for everybody.
Typical should phrases: “I should.” “They must.” “The world ought.” “I’ve got to.” “They have to.” “They deserve.”
To test your “should” laws & rules–ask the following questions:
What law in the universe says you must or they should?
What evidence is there that you or they must or should?
Who or what creates this commandment?
Would a want or a preference give you or them more of a choice?
Does being demanding and unyielding motivate you or others?
How would you talk a friend out of this must or should?
Are there others who don’t share your “should” rule?
Do you down yourself or others for not living up to your demanding rule?
Is your should rule humane?
Would you apply this same rule to someone you loved or was a friend?
Is this belief based on facts or is it reflexive and negatively judgmental?
Where is it written that what you want, you must get?
What are the advantages and disadvantages in choosing to prefer or want over shoulding or musting?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous questions, then change your beliefs to wants, preferences, and desires. Practice your new beliefs until they feel natural and habitual.
Labeling: Here we over generalize with the “verb to be” about ourselves, others, things, events, & the world. Example: “I’m no good.” “I’m worthless.” “I’m a failure.” “They are slobs.” “New York is a totally sick place.” “Everything is no good.” By over generalizing with “labeling” we, they, or it becomes one behavior, trait or quality.
Example: I failed a geometry test–I’m a failure. Or they behaved badly–they are bad.
Sometimes we might label the world, things, and events with an over generalized tag. Example: Philadelphia is a snake pit. Or my job is the pits. Obviously Philadelphia and jobs contain far more than negative qualities. If we label, it’s better to choose labels that carry the notion that we and everything in this world are multi-faceted and contain many, many positive, neutral, and negative qualities.
Recommended labels for the self: “I’m a multi-faceted person.” “I’m a person with many positive, neutral, and some negative qualities.” “I’m human with a wide range of qualities.” These labels apply to others as well.
Recommended labels for things, events, and the world: “It is multi-faceted.” “It has many positive, neutral, and negative qualities.”
If you are labeling, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you have millions of traits & behaviors? Are some negative, positive, or even neutral?
How can you just be one or a few traits & behaviors?
Can you choose not to rate yourself by a gross over generalization?
Is viewing yourself as just one or a few traits an over generalization?
List some of your many positive & neutral traits & behaviors.
Is it arbitrary to assign points to a trait or a behavior? How many points do you get added or subtracted for fallen arches?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, and then convert your beliefs to labels like: “I’m a multifaceted human with many positive, neutral, and negative qualities and traits.” “Others are multifaceted humans with many positive, neutral, and negative qualities and traits.” “The world is multifaceted with positive, negative, and neutral qualities and traits.” Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Negative predictions/Fortune telling: You predict the future will provide failure or danger. “I’ll screw things up and I’ll fail.” “I won’t get employment.” “She’ll drop me like a hot potato.”
What exactly is your prediction? When and where will it happen?
Is there any evidence that it won’t happen or that it will happen?
Is the evidence good?
Could you survive and accept this prediction even if the worst happened?
Isn’t it always possible that something good or bad could happen to me?
Have you ever made incorrect predictions previously?
What is the worst, best, and most probable outcome?
Write out three possible outcomes in detail.
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, then convert your beliefs to: “I’ll do my best to raise the probability of a positive outcome although I have no guarantee of anything good, neutral or bad happening.” Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Negative hindsight/Should’ve done better in the past: Here we believe we should’ve done better or said the right thing. “I should’ve known better.” “I should’ve never said that.”
Some questions to check out negative hindsight:
Did I really know better at the time?
What exactly was my regret?
Does having negative hindsight motivate me to do better now or am I just chastising myself?
What’s the evidence for and against my negative hindsight?
What’s the quality of that evidence?
Should you know what to do or say every time? Is that humanly possible?
Can you really foretell how things turnout or never make errors?
Did you make a good choice given the information and how you felt at that time? Didn’t your choice seem right or mostly right at that time?
How does making a mistake magically turn you into a negative label?
Would it be more beneficial to find a way to do better next time instead of pounding on yourself with a negative label?
What did you learn from the event? Can you do better the next time you run into similar circumstances?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, then convert your beliefs to: “I really didn’t know better.” “I did the best with what I knew at the time.” Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Needing non-necessities: Here we employ words like need, must have, got to have, require, and can’t do without. Our desires and wants become elevated into needs and dire necessities (water, food, oxygen etc.) for living and for happiness. Feelings of desperation and craving are set off by needing non-necessities. Overcome this challenge by knowing you desire or want what you don’t truly need. Better use words like: “want”, “desire”, “prefer”, & “would strongly like.”
If you have been needing non-necessities, ask yourself the following questions:
Would you die if you did not get it?
Is this truly necessary for survival or enjoyment?
Is this an important as food, oxygen, & protection from the elements?
Could you find pleasure doing something else or being with someone else?
Does your feeling of desperation or craving actually prove you need something or do they reflect your belief that you “need” something?
Is this something you need or something you want?
Can you accept yourself and treat yourself in a loving & caring manner?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, then convert your beliefs to: I prefer, I want, or I desire. Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Absolutizing: With this challenge we employ words like always, never, all the time, forever, totally, continually, not ever, eternally, unceasingly, absolute, incessant, Completely, entire, whole, and unrelenting.
Absolutizing words mean 100% of the time with no exceptions. Often these words are linked to anger, depression, and impatience. Example: Victor is “never” on time. Or Sally “always” gets it wrong.
If we are absolutizing we better use more accurate words like: “frequently”, “infrequently”, “sometimes”, “often”, “a good deal of the time”, “every once in awhile”, “intermittently”, and “partially”. These words lead to less upsetting emotional responses.
If you are absolutizing, ask yourself the following questions:
Does this happen sometimes, frequently, or even infrequently?
What percentage of the time does this occur?
What would the frequency of occurrence appear like on a gauge?
Is it really the entire situation or just a part or a percentage of it?
You mean always, in every single instance?
Does it ever stop? Has it ever stopped before?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, then convert your beliefs to: “frequently”, “infrequently”, “sometimes”, “often”, “a good deal of the time”, “every once in awhile”, “intermittently”, and “partially”. Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Mind reading/Jumping to conclusions: We assume we know another’s intentions, thoughts, motivations, and feelings without them actually telling us or against their protests. When we jump to conclusions we base our conclusions on slim or no evidence. Trying to read another’s mind or making inferences based on little evidence are samples of this kind of thinking. Example: She loves me because she smiled at me. Another form of mind reading is assuming that others should be able to read your mind and know what you’re thinking, feeling, and intending without you having to tell them.
If we tend to jump to conclusions, better examine our evidence closely or make sure we have enough. Better yet is to ask specifically what the other person is thinking, feeling, or intending. Otherwise we run the risk of seeing them in a distorted fashion. We may project others from our past onto mind read persons or we may project our own thoughts, feelings and intentions.
Problems with mind reading may start when we:
Make conclusions based on past behavior.
Make conclusions based on the assumption of what we would think and feel in the same position.
Make a conclusion on what you desire the answer to be.
Make a conclusion on insufficient evidence or data.
Make a conclusion based on cultural stereotypes or personality differences.
Make a conclusion based on misperceiving what you see or hear.
Ask yourself these questions when you assume you know what the other person is feeling, thinking, and intending:
Is what you believe they’re thinking or feeling something they actually told you?
What’s the evidence that this is going to happen or are you going on an untested assumption?
How do you specifically know she or he thinks or feels this way?
Is it possible that these might be your own thoughts and feelings and not his/hers? Or do these thoughts and feelings seem like they belong to someone else in the past?
Describe in specifics what you believe they believe.
Have you ever been wrong at mind reading before?
What’s the evidence for and against reading another’s mind?
How do you know they disapprove you?
How might you feel and behave differently if you didn’t practice mind reading?
Are there any thought distortions you’re using to support your assumption that you know what they’re thinking, feeling, or intending?
Is there a pattern of thinking others don’t like you?
If you mind read, stop doing it and ask the other person what they’re thinking, feeling, or intending.
Impossible-izing: Here we make difficult tasks into impossible tasks by using words like too difficult, too hard, impossible, unbelievably hard, too much, can’t, and not a chance. Ask yourself if you could complete the task with the help of a support team, machines, or computers. Perhaps the task could be completed if you had new information. Further, could you complete the task if you just stuck with it or knew you would receive 2 million dollars or some other valuable reward? How would the task look to you if you broke it down into small manageable units rather that an overwhelming whole? Is it really impossible if you did it step by step? Remove “too” from difficult, hard, and much. Replace “can’t” with can and will do.
If you are impossible-izing, we better use words such as: “can”, “possible”,
“possible with help”, “difficult”, “hard”, “manageable”, and “strong possibility”.
If you are impossible-izing, ask yourself the following questions:
Can you view the task in small manageable units and do it step by step?
Could you do it for 2 million dollars or some other valued reward?
Could you complete the task if your life depended on it?
Could you do the task if you had more information, a brain trust, computer support, large machinery, a team, or some other form of assistance?
Is it really impossible? Has anyone accomplished this before?
If you previously made mistakes, does it hold that you will always make the same mistake?
Was a previous failure just an unwanted result or learning experience on the way to your goal?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, then convert your beliefs to: “Can”, “possible”, “possible with help”, “difficult”, “hard”, “manageable”, and “strong possibility”. Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Deservingness: With this challenge we believe we have a license from the universe that entitles us to get what we desire. Typical deservingness words are: deserve, special, merit, worthy of, right to, should have, mandate, or must get. Such thoughts fire up entitlement and anger. We may want or desire something, yet that does not prove we merit it. If you believe you deserve, better use words like: “want”, “prefer”, “desire”, or “would strongly like to have”.
If you have the challenge of deservingness, ask yourself:
Where did you get the license?
Does the universe single you out as a special case?
Where is the proof that you deserve?
Are you ordained, exempted, or certified special? By whom or what?
What happens if the person you are dealing with also has a special license?
Who or what creates your deservingness?
Where is it written in the Bible that you are a special case?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, then convert your beliefs to: “Want”, “prefer”, “desire”, or “would strongly like to have”. Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Unfair and Unjust: Believing others act unfairly or unjustly toward you, is buying the notion that everyone shares the same vision of fairness or justice. Observe labor/management disputes. Both sides often believe their wants are fair and just, yet their visions are seldom in agreement. Demanding fairness or justice is another form of
shoulding or deservingness. Typical unfair and unjust words are: unfair, unjust, isn’t right, inequitable. If we are employing unfair and unjust, we better use words like: “prefer”, “want”, “desire”, and “would strongly like”.
If you employ unfair & unjust thinking, ask yourself the following questions:
Does everyone share the same view of justice or fairness?
Is there a universal rule of justice that everyone recognizes?
Have you observed people or parties disagree over what’s right, fair, or just?
Why must others hold your view?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, then convert your beliefs to: “Prefer”, “want”, “desire”, and “would strongly like”. Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Overgeneralizing: Here several instances of a category are seen as an entire category. Over generalizing comes in two basic flavors. (1) An event happens and we conclude it will occur again & again. Example: I got fired, I’ll always be fired. (2) You evaluate yourself, another person, or the world by one or a few traits. Example: I got rejected, I’m a reject.
If you over generalize, focus on: (1) Frequency of occurrence. This will give you a more realistic view. (2) That you recognize everything and every person possesses positive, neutral, and negative qualities.
Here are some questions you can ask:
Are you or they just one trait or several, or many like most people?
Just because it happened once before, does it follow that it will ALWAYS happen?
How often does this happen?
How would the frequency of happening appear on a gauge set from 1 to 20 with 1 being “not happening” and 20 “happening all the time”?
What do you specifically predict about another’s behavior?
What’s the evidence for and against this belief? What’s the quality of that evidence?
Do others see this situation the same way?
If you see evidence of overgeneralization in your beliefs notice the actual frequency of occurrence. This will give you a more realistic view. Recognize everything and every person possesses positive, neutral, and negative qualities.
Viewing only the negative: This mindset has us seeing only the negative while filtering out the positive. Example: My administrative assistant did 7 really helpful things for me today, yet I only recall her failure to take a message when someone called.
If you sometimes view only the negative, practice looking at what good or neutral things happen in your life. You may want to make daily lists for several weeks to remind yourself of what is positive and neutral.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
Did positive or neutral things happen?
If someone else was watching this situation, what positive or neutral things might they notice?
What’s the evidence for and against noticing only the negatives?
What’s the quality of that evidence?
Would others see this situation the same way?
Notice what’s positive and keep a daily record of it.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of viewing only the negative?
What information are you ignoring or denying?
What happens to you if you acknowledge positives and neutrals?
What would happen if everyone adopted a code of viewing only the negative?
Make a habit of viewing the neutral and the positive as well.
Black and white thinking: Events are seen in black and white only with no neutral shades of gray. Or we see either/or situations, all or nothing, or one way or the other. These kinds of thinking signal we are not recognizing middle grounds, gray zones, average, or neutral areas. Most events don’t occur in black or white or all-or-nothing terms without middle grounds.
A black and white thinking example: If he’s not a good guy, then he’s a crook. Or if my performance wasn’t great, then it stunk. If your thinking sometimes goes to blacks and whites, look at average, middle grounds, neutral, and gray areas.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
Is there something average going on here?
Do you notice a middle ground?
How about a gray area?
Does this impose inhuman standards?
Can you define exactly what your labels are? (Loser, worthless, great guy, superman). Where does your label actually fit on a scale between 1 and 20?
How much of the time is the negative label true?
What is the evidence for and against this kind of thinking?
How would you prove black and white thinking is incomplete?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, notice: “Average, middle grounds, neutral, and gray areas. Practice the new beliefs until they feel natural and become habitual.
Faultfinding: Here we hunt for someone or something to blame. Example: If I didn’t send Cecil to art school I’d be a millionaire. In faultfinding we generally believe in one cause and one effect. Actually, if we look at a situation from different perspectives we can find multiple causes and multiple effects. Faultfinding is a serious waste of time that hampers finding solutions. Often when faultfinding is applied to a person, we label that person and defocus from the behaviors that require change. The human brain is a wonderful device. It can come up with tons of causes, effects, and reasons after the fact. Fault finding, when applied to people, creates anger and guilt. It wastes energy better spent on solutions and changes in behavior.
If you sometimes find fault, blame the entire universe for 2 seconds, then focus on what requires change.
Here are questions we can ask ourselves:
What were some of the other possible causes?
Would someone else see someone or something else to blame?
Is there a solution to find, rather then spend time blaming?
What is your specific blaming statement?
What is the evidence that supports your belief? What is the quality of it?
Considering possible causes of the event, what is the percentage of blameworthiness shared by the person(s), situation, mechanical failure, gravity?
Was dumb luck involved?
Remember refocus on finding solutions and taking action where required.
Nixing the positive: Here we explain away positive events. Example: I would not have passed the test unless I got lucky. Or winning the Nobel Prize was nothing much–I had terrific lab equipment. If you tend to nix the positive, practice accepting what good comes your way. Note how your efforts were involved in the positive outcome.
Here are questions to ask yourself:
What was your responsibility for this good thing happening?
Can you begin to notice the good things you did?
What is the evidence for and against nixing the positives?
Would you count these qualities or behaviors as positives if someone you really loved, liked, or admired had those qualities or behaviors?
What specifically are you discounting?
Keep a record of positives in a daily log. What do you notice after 7 days?
Accept what good comes your way. Be aware of how your efforts were involved in a positive outcome.
Gut Thinking/Emotional Reasoning: Here you base your evidence on your surface feelings. Feelings can be as distorted as the beliefs, images, and thoughts creating them. Feelings are not facts nor are they deeper intuitions. Your feelings mirror your attitudes and if your attitudes are distorted, you can guarantee your evidence will also be distorted. Example: I feel in my bones this isn’t going to be my year. Or I feel like I’m going to get assassinated if I go to next week’s Shriner’s meeting.
Examples of gut thinking: I feel stupid. It feels like nothing will ever change. The tense knot in my stomach proves she’s not right for me.
If you tend to gut think, check out the beliefs behind your feelings. Look at the evidence.
Examine your specific gut thought: What’s the difference between an emotion and a fact?
What’s the evidence for and against gut thinking? What’s the quality of that evidence?
What advice might you offer a friend who relied on their emotions to decide about reality?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Because something feels true or real, does that make it true or real?
Where’s the evidence that because something feels real, that it is real?
Haven’t people felt and believed the Earth is flat and that the Sun revolved around the Earth?
Are not our gut feelings spawned by what we believe? Can beliefs be false or distorted?
If your beliefs fail to pass the previous tests, notice: How anxiety or down feelings are created by anxious beliefs and down beliefs.
They are only evidence of you thinking anxious and down thoughts.
Expanding: Here we exaggerate small weaknesses or defects. Example: Making an error on the spelling bee was a disaster! Or my left nostril is slightly larger than the other–it destroys my face.
Here are questions to ask yourself:
Is this an exaggeration?
Am I making this larger than it actually is?
How might others view this?
Notice your exaggeration.
Contracting: Here we minimize assets or diminish the positive. Example: Winning the Super Bowl 3 years straight was nothing much. Or sure she’s brainy, but she never uses it. If we contract the positive, let us accept what is positive and enjoy it.
Am I minimizing what I do?
How might others view this?
Notice what is positive.
Perfectionism: We believe we can be perfect and live up to a superhuman standard. This thinking does not account for our innate tendency to make errors. Example: I should perform flawlessly and never make mistakes.
If you tend toward perfectionism, recognize you are a fallible human who can only do his or her human best. You do not need to be perfect to accept yourself and treat yourself in a loving and caring manner.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
What law in the universe says you must be perfect or perform perfectly?
Are not mistakes valuable learning experiences?
Can you learn from your mistake and do it over?
Accept yourself and do your human best.
Permanent conditions: Taking a temporary or time limited situation and transforming it into a permanent condition.
Examples: I lost my job–I’ll never work again. She shot my proposal down–I’ll never be married. He/she has always been that way; he/she will never change. They’re too old and set in their ways.
Questions to ask yourself:
Have I ever dealt with something like this in the past and did it change?
Isn’t this a time-limited situation?
Is this a failure or is it feedback about my progress?
How permanent is this situation?
Could things change?
Is there a specific behavior that can be changed?
Personalizing is a distortion where we: (1) Interpret innocent comments, questions, and behavior of others as an attack on ourselves, our abilities, our appearance, what we own, and personal worth. Example: Betsy tells Mary that her hair looks great today. Mary concludes her hair looked terrible previously. (2) We take personally random events and view them as attacks on us. Example: “That my dog got out of the yard proves I’m a bad pet owner.” (3) We attribute a large portion of blame to ourselves without noticing that certain events may also be caused by others. Example: My job ended because I failed.
Personalizing leads to hurt, anger, guilt, lost opportunities to connect with others, and an inability to notice other folks' points of view. To end personalizing it helps to learn to accept ourselves and to notice the distortion “personalizing”.
When we notice we’re personalizing, we can ask ourselves questions like:
What evidence or ideas make you believe this?
Is there such a thing as dumb luck?
Does taking things personally motivate you?
What’s the evidence for and against personalizing? What is the quality of that evidence?
Could their comments be meant positively? What did they specifically say?
What’s the evidence that their comments or laughter were aimed at you? Could it have been about someone else?
Are we hyper alert for others disapproving of us? Are we vigilant for or expecting negative evaluations from others?
Besides disputing our distorted beliefs and changing them to better fit with reality, here’s a method that can slice away feelings supporting distorted and self-defeating thinking: Belief Repeater.
Take care, Steve