It took approximately 41 years for me to understand that I am not my experiences, my feelings, or my thoughts.
Up until then, I truly believed that my experiences revealed to me, and everyone around me, the essence of who I was. Failed endeavors proved that I was a failure. Broken relationship proved that I was unlovable. Poor decisions proved that I was incompetent.
This belief system primed me for believing that everything I thought and felt was also a description of me. “I’m a loser”, “I suck at __________”, “I will never be able to ___________”. Everything was a muddled mess of negative thoughts and perceptions about seemingly negative experiences. The process of pulling them apart was gradual, painful, and untimely liberating.
Psychologically speaking, I was living from a place of Cognitive Distortion aka Unhealthy Thinking Patterns. There are several common Cognitive Distortions, that most people use. For example: “Blaming” others (“You hurt my feelings”), and thinking in “Shoulds” (I really should go to the gym”) are super common, however, living from these places in a chronic way that impairs your happiness and/or relationships, is sign that you may need support in breaking out of these thinking patterns (see above).
Other common Cognitive Distortions are:
Seeing only the negative and can include magnifying the negative.
“Black and White” Thinking
Seeing thing as either/or, for example: good or bad, worthy or not worthy, fair or unfair.
Making a general conclusion based on a single piece of evidence.
Jumping to Conclusions
Assuming we know what someone is thinking, or going to do. Assuming we know hat is going to happen. Usually doing so based on past experience or from a place of fear.
Believing that what others do or say is a reaction to them. For example: A friend is in a bad mood and you think it has something to do with you. Personalization can also be compare ourselves to others trying to determine self worth.
Believing what we feel must be true. “I feel stupid, so I must be stupid.”
Being able to identify what kind of Cognitive Distortion you are having is the first step in changing the habit. How can you change what you can’t even name, right? Knowing that my funky thinking actually had a name helped me understand that it was a common enough pattern to be categorized and written about. In other words, it wasn’t just me.
Simply challenging these Cognitive Distortions was’t enough for me thought. I had to dig deep, and do a lot of emotional healing through re-parenting. Although I still have these thoughts from time to time (as I said, most people do), they are no longer behind the wheel, driving my life into a pit every change it could get.
For more more examples of Cognitive Distortions: visit: http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/
If you are finding that these thinking styles are negatively impacting your life. I highly encourage you to hire a counselor, or purchase any workbook for depression, self-esteem, or anxiety, or do an online search for: “challenging cognitive distortions” to yield several resources. One I really find helpful is: http://healthypsych.com/psychology-tools-challenging-cognitive-distortions/