Realistic Thinking – Self Help Strategies

From AnxietyBC

http://www.anxietybc.com/self-help-cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt

We can all be bogged down by negative thinking from time to time, such as calling ourselves mean names (e.g., “idiot”, “loser”), thinking no one likes us, expecting something, terrible will happen, or believing that we can’t overcome something no matter how hard we try. This is normal. No one thinks positively all of the time, particularly when feeling anxious.

When we are anxious, we tend to see the world as a threatening and dangerous place. This reaction makes sense, because imagining the worst can help you to prepare for real danger, enabling you to protect yourself. For example, if you are home alone and you hear a strange scratching sound at the window, you might think it’s a burglar. If you believe that it’s a burglar, you will become very anxious and prepare yourself to either run out of the house, fight off an attack, or run to the phone and call for help. Although this anxious response is helpful if there actually is a burglar at the window, it is not so helpful if your thought was wrong: for example, it might be a tree branch scratching the window. In this case, your thoughts were wrong because there was no real danger.

The problem with thinking and acting as if there is danger when there is no real danger is that you feel unnecessarily anxious. Therefore, one effective strategy to manage your
anxiety is to replace anxious, negative thinking with realistic thinking.

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Realistic Thinking

Effectively managing negative emotions involves identifying negative thinking and replacing it with realistic and balanced thinking. Because our thoughts have a big impact on the way we feel, changing our unhelpful thoughts to realistic or helpful ones is a key to feeling better. “Realistic thinking” means looking at yourself, others, and the world in a balanced and fair way, without being overly negative or positive. For example:

 

Steps to Realistic Thinking 

  1. Know what you’re thinking or telling yourself. Most of us are not used to paying attention to the way we think, even though we are constantly affected by our thoughts. Paying attention to your thoughts (or self-talk) can help you keep track of the kind of thoughts you typically have.
  2. Once you’re more aware of your thoughts, try to identify the thoughts that make you feel bad, and determine if they’re problematic thoughts that need to be challenged. For example, if you feel sad thinking about your grandmother who’s been battling cancer, this thought doesn’t need to be challenged because it’s absolutely normal to feel sad when thinking about a loved one suffering. But, if you feel sad after a friend cancels your lunch plans and you begin to think there’s obviously something seriously wrong with you and no one likes you, this is problematic because this thought is extreme and not based on reality.
  3. Pay attention to the shift in your emotion, no matter how small. When you notice yourself getting more upset or distressed, ask yourself, “What am I telling myself right now?” or “What is making me feel upset?”
  4. When you’re accustomed to identifying thoughts that lead to negative emotions, start to examine these thoughts to see if they’re unrealistic and unhelpful. One of the first things to do is to see if you’ve fallen into Thinking Traps (e.g., catastrophizing or overestimating danger), which are overly negative ways of seeing things. You can also ask yourself a range of questions to challenge your negative thoughts (see Challenge Negative Thinking), such as “What is the evidence that this thought is true?” and “Am I confusing a possibility with a probability? It may be possible, but is it likely?”
  5. Finally, after challenging a negative thought and evaluating it more objectively, try to come up with an alternative thought that is more balanced and realistic. Doing this can help lower your distress. In addition to coming up with realistic statements, try to come up with some quick and easy-to-remember coping statements (e.g., “This has happened before and I know how to handle it”) and positive self-statements (e.g., “It takes courage to face the things that scare me”).

It can also be particularly helpful to write down your realistic thoughts or helpful coping statements on an index card or piece of paper. Then, keep this coping card with you to help remind you of these statements when you are feeling too distressed to think clearly.

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Check out the worksheet

http://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/RealisticThinking.pdf

 

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15 Common Cognitive Distortions

Psych Central – By JOHN M. GROHOL, PSY.D.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/0002153

What’s a cognitive distortion and why do so many people have them? Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves.

For instance, a person might tell themselves, “I always fail when I try to do something new; I therefore fail at everything I try.” This is an example of “black or white” (or polarized) thinking. The person is only seeing things in absolutes — that if they fail at one thing, they must fail at all things. If they added, “I must be a complete loser and failure” to their thinking, that would also be an example of overgeneralization — taking a failure at one specific task and generalizing it their very self and identity.

Cognitive distortions are at the core of what many cognitive-behavioral and other kinds of therapists try and help a person learn to change in psychotherapy. By learning to correctly identify this kind of “stinkin’ thinkin’,” a person can then answer the negative thinking back, and refute it. By refuting the negative thinking over and over again, it will slowly diminish overtime and be automatically replaced by more rational, balanced thinking.

Cognitive Distortions
Aaron Beck first proposed the theory behind cognitive distortions and David Burns was responsible for popularizing it with common names and examples for the distortions.

1. Filtering.

We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted.

2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking).

In polarized thinking, things are either “black-or-white.” We have to be perfect or we’re a failure — there is no middle ground. You place people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

3. Overgeneralization.

In this cognitive distortion, we come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something bad happens only once, we expect it to happen over and over again. A person may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat.

4. Jumping to Conclusions.

Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.

For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but doesn’t actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly, and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.

5. Catastrophizing.

We expect disaster to strike, no matter what. This is also referred to as “magnifying or minimizing.” We hear about a problem and use what if questions (e.g., “What if tragedy strikes?” “What if it happens to me?”).

For example, a person might exaggerate the importance of insignificant events (such as their mistake, or someone else’s achievement). Or they may inappropriately shrink the magnitude of significant events until they appear tiny (for example, a person’s own desirable qualities or someone else’s imperfections).

6. Personalization.

Personalization is a distortion where a person believes that everything others do or say is some kind of direct, personal reaction to the person. We also compare ourselves to others trying to determine who is smarter, better looking, etc.

A person engaging in personalization may also see themselves as the cause of some unhealthy external event that they were not responsible for. For example, “We were late to the dinner party and caused the hostess to overcook the meal. If I had only pushed my husband to leave on time, this wouldn’t have happened.”

7. Control Fallacies.

If we feel externally controlled, we see ourselves as helpless a victim of fate. For example, “I can’t help it if the quality of the work is poor, my boss demanded I work overtime on it.” The fallacy of internal control has us assuming responsibility for the pain and happiness of everyone around us. For example, “Why aren’t you happy? Is it because of something I did?”

8. Fallacy of Fairness.

We feel resentful because we think we know what is fair, but other people won’t agree with us. As our parents tell us when we’re growing up and something doesn’t go our way, “Life isn’t always fair.” People who go through life applying a measuring ruler against every situation judging its “fairness” will often feel badly and negative because of it. Because life isn’t “fair” — things will not always work out in your favor, even when you think they should.

9. Blaming.

We hold other people responsible for our pain, or take the other track and blame ourselves for every problem. For example, “Stop making me feel bad about myself!” Nobody can “make” us feel any particular way — only we have control over our own emotions and emotional reactions.

10. Shoulds.

We have a list of ironclad rules about how others and we should behave. People who break the rules make us angry, and we feel guilty when we violate these rules. A person may often believe they are trying to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they have to be punished before they can do anything.

For example, “I really should exercise. I shouldn’t be so lazy.” Musts and oughts are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When a person directs should statements toward others, they often feel anger, frustration and resentment.

11. Emotional Reasoning.

We believe that what we feel must be true automatically. If we feel stupid and boring, then we must be stupid and boring. You assume that your unhealthy emotions reflect he way things really are — “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

12. Fallacy of Change.

We expect that other people will change to suit us if we just pressure or cajole them enough. We need to change people because our hopes for happiness seem to depend entirely on them.

13. Global Labeling.

We generalize one or two qualities into a negative global judgment. These are extreme forms of generalizing, and are also referred to as “labeling” and “mislabeling.” Instead of describing an error in context of a specific situation, a person will attach an unhealthy label to themselves.

For example, they may say, “I’m a loser” in a situation where they failed at a specific task. When someone else’s behavior rubs a person the wrong way, they may attach an unhealthy label to him, such as “He’s a real jerk.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. For example, instead of saying someone drops her children off at daycare every day, a person who is mislabeling might say that “she abandons her children to strangers.”

14. Always Being Right.

We are continually on trial to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable and we will go to any length to demonstrate our rightness. For example, “I don’t care how badly arguing with me makes you feel, I’m going to win this argument no matter what because I’m right.” Being right often is more important than the feelings of others around a person who engages in this cognitive distortion, even loved ones.

15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy.

We expect our sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if someone is keeping score. We feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come.

So now that you know what cognitive distortions are, how do you go about undoing them? Read how in Fixing Cognitive Distortions.

References:

Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York: New American Library.

Burns, D. D. (1980). Feeling good: The new mood therapy. New York: New American Library.

 

Dr. John Grohol is the founder & CEO of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues — as well as the intersection of technology and human behavior — since 1992. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking and is a founding board member and treasurer of the Society for Participatory Medicine.

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Weighing up the Problems that Could Recur if I Drink Again

Negative things that may happen if I drink again

  • Gain weight
  • Get depressed or angry
  • Make bad decisions
  • Spend too much money
  • Loose self-esteem
  • Loose respect & self-respect
  • Binge
  • Possible relationship issues
  • Get back in the habit of hiding drinking

Positive things that may happen if I don’t rink again

  • Positive self image
  • Look/feel healthier
  • Continue to save money
  • More in control of situations to make better decisions

Pick your battles (aka your interaction with Alcohol)

Don’t be shy to say NO to invitation to Happy Hour, parties or gatherings. Sometime you are better off away from temptation that to try to face it.

Your friends and family will understand, and if they don’t well too bad.

 It is important to remember that will-power alone does not equal skill-power and a person who places themselves at risk without the skills and tools to cope with a situation will frequently slip or relapse. – Substance Misuse WorkBook p.15 http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/