Think about thinking

Those of us who suffer from clinical depression often find that our illness clouds the way we think. We think of ourselves negatively. That’s part of depression. Recently I have begun to understand (through guidance in therapy) that my thoughts are often flawed. You may have heard of cognitive distortions. Since learning about these faulty thinking patterns, I have begun to catch myself doing them and can now think about my thinking. Here is a list.

Perfectionism – This one is a big one for me. I must be perfect in everything, or I am a failure. It is sometimes called “all or nothing” thinking. I often find that there are no gray areas or compromises. I now see that when I have done my best it doesn’t have to live up to my idea of perfect.

Should Statements – When I do this, I am arbitrarily setting a standard that is just my opinion. I am thinking that I should be vacuuming the floor instead of writing. I think that I should be better backing up my car. It is alright that there is a bit of dirt on the floor (I’ll get it later) and those two dents in my bumper are no big deal.

Over–Personalization – I’m calling myself on the carpet. I take too much responsibility for situations that are not my problems. I try to fix others problems even if they don’t think it is a problem. I believe what other people say about me. That is their opinion. This kind of thinking causes me to meddle in other peoples lives and give too much of myself. I get my feelings hurt when someone criticizes me. Why do I think I need to rescue others or care what they think?

Selective Attention and Mental Filtering –  I let the positives in life fly by unnoticed and only hear the negative things. I worry about those negatives. Someone might say that I did a great job vacuuming, but you missed that spot. Which part of that statement did I hear?

Denial or Blaming – I think that I am helpless or hopeless. I don’t recognize my capabilities. I never kept my checkbook balanced as my Mom told me. I don’t acknowledge that never missing a payment shows that I’m doing an excellent job with my finances.

False-Permanence – I have made some mistakes in life, and I will NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF. I did learn something from those mistakes, and I have made some better choices. Those mistakes did not stick to me. The tree I hit while backing up will live!

Over-Generalizing – I’m an idiot, a failure, ugly and lazy. Someone may have said one of these things one time, and I believed them and continued to think that way about myself. I think I am ugly, but I look like my Momma, and I think she was beautiful.

Catastrophizing – I think if I wreak my car (that thing with two dents in the bumper), I will never be able to afford another one. That is WHY I pay my car insurance on time. I may think that life will never be happy for me. Depression fools us into believing that it will never go away and our life is a waste. It isn’t true. There will be times that are beautiful, and you can have a very fulfilling experience. One thing that will help is to practice changing your thinking.

Magical thinking – I tell myself that I would feel better if I were thinner or wealthier, or better looking. Honestly, none of those things would change my circumstances.

Emotional reasoning – Emotions are not a reality. I didn’t like the spaghetti I cooked last night so I can’t make it and won’t try that dish again. I left dirty dishes in the sink overnight. I’m a lousy housekeeper. I’m just learning these things, so I admit I continue to have this distortion. Sorry about that.

Mind-reading or Jumping to Conclusions – These types of distorted thinking are my most prevalent. I have convinced myself that others dislike me and that I am not useful to my family. I walk around thinking that she probably feels that or he doesn’t appreciate this. I think others think I am crazy.  All of these thoughts swirl around in my mind and cause me to lose sleep. Why should I feel this way when the opposite is the truth, and nobody is concerned enough about what I do or say to have an opinion?

Double Standard – I hold myself to a higher standard than I would my best friend. I expect myself to be stronger and able to withstand more difficulties. I don’t expect my friend to deal with such hardships. I am very compassionate toward her but not to myself.

Self-centeredness – I often focus more on my feelings and ignore how circumstances impact others. I can’t go to that party I get nervous at parties. I’ll look pitiful to my coworkers if I take my lunch rather than going out. I have to get over myself and join the rest of the world!

A fallacy of Fairness – This distortion is that things should be fair.  No explanation is necessary for that one folks.

Published by: Beverly Hughes

My journey through depression and anxiety has been a long fought battle. I have a Masters Degree in Counseling, but that only helped me to understand clinical language. I needed help and have learned so much about what I could do to help myself.

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