How to Combat Irrational Thought Patterns
Understanding The Feedback Loop:
- An environmental event happens
- Cognitions, perceptions (sensory input) We take in the event.
- Interpretation self talk (irrational ideas) How we communicate within ourselves about the situation.
- Emotional-physical system How we feel and respond to the event.
Sarah works at a coffee shop. Her coworker doesn’t show up for work, and now she is alone during the morning rush. The line is very long, people are starting to grumble, some even complain, she begins to stress and make mistake. Customers are more frustrated and she just starts beating herself up. I can’t believe I can’t get these orders right. There must be something wrong with me; I can’t believe people are being so mean. I’m not good at anything. All my hard work and efforts always goes unappreciated. When there is finally a break in the customers coming in, she starts to feel depressed, angry, and resentful.
Recognizing Irrational Self Talk:
Awfulizing and Absolutize: If you awfulize, you are always making things into a catastrophe, nightmare, and fear the unthinkable. The emotions that follow awfulizing, tend to be awful and your interpretation of the world. If you absolutize you use words like should, must, ought, always, never. You feel things have to be a certain way. Any deviation from that standard is bad. If someone doesn’t live up to the standard, then they must be bad.
- It s is absolutely necessary for adults to have love and approval from adults that are part of their personal life.
- I must be perfect and completely competent in all that I undertake.
- It is horrible when people or things are not the way I would like them to be.
- External Events cause most human unhappiness, people just respond to their environments.
- Fear and anxiety are expected when something is unknown, uncertain, or potentially dangerous.
- It is easier to avoid life’s difficulties and responsibilities than to deal with them.
- I need something stronger than myself to depend on.
- The past has a lot to do with the present.
- Happiness can come from inaction, being passive, and relaxing endlessly.
- I am helpless and have no control over what I experience or feel.
- People should be treated as fragile, because they are.
- Good relationships are based on mutual sacrifice and a focus on giving.
- If you don’t take good care of others they will abandon or reject you.
- If people disapprove of me, it must mean I am bad or wrong.
- Being alone is terrible.
- There are perfect relationships.
- I shouldn’t have to feel pain, I’m entitled to a good life.
- My self-worth depends on how much I earn and produce.
- Anger is wrong.
- It is bad to be selfish.
What are other irrational thoughts you may feel? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Tools and Rules to Foster Rational Thinking
- It doesn’t do anything to me. / We feel the way we think. The situation doesn’t create the feelings, the self talk does.
- Everything is exactly the way it should be. Trust you are on your life’s path and learning the lesson you need to in each moment.
- All humans make mistakes. Set yourself up with realistic expectations. We are human not machines.
- It takes two to have a conflict. Each person has to contribute something for a disagreement to continue.
- The origination of an argument doesn’t matter. How you move forward from here is the key.
Personal Growth Exercises:
Write Down the Initial Event
- What are the Rational Ideas
- What are the Irrational Ideas
- What are the Consequences of Irrational Ideas
- Dispute and Challenge the Irrational Ideas
Select the irrational idea
- Is there rational support for the idea?
- What evidence is there of the falseness of the idea?
- Is there evidence of the truth of the idea?
- What is the worst thing that could happen to me?
- What good things might occur?