If you’re feeling anxious and you’re not quite sure why or you haven’t really thought about your anxiety then why not try to find out a little bit more about it.
One of the things you can do is to establish the type of thoughts that you are having (your cognitive distortions).
I’ve compiled a bit about them below and perhaps you might like to see if you can relate to any of the different types of anxious thoughts. I’ve also put an exercise at the bottom which you can do, if you want to of course.
So, what type of thinker are you?...
Let’s start with
1. The “all or nothing thinker”.
In other words do you put your thoughts into black-and-white categories such as...
”I am a success” or “I am a failure ”
”I am really good at this“ or “I am really bad at this“
If you are an “all or nothing thinking“ then it is likely that there is no room for grey areas.
OR maybe you are...
2. The “Jumping to conclusions or mind reading” thinker
Do you find yourself jumping to conclusions? Here’s an example...
Your boss asks you to call in to see him on your way out later and you assume that it is going to be about something Negative. You don’t even consider any other options.
Similarly are you a mind reader and find yourself second guessing others thoughts in a negative way? Do you assume that people are reacting negatively to you even when there is no evidence for it?
Or Do you find yourself interpreting the meaning of a situation?
Do you see a friend of yours on the other side of the street and when she doesn’t acknowledge you and continues walking, you interpret that to mean that it’s something to do with you, whereas it may be that she has something weighing on her mind and she hasn’t even noticed you.
So... Is this you? Are your anxious thoughts like those of a fortuneteller or a mind reader, always jumping to conclusions and expecting that the situation will turn out badly?
Next up is...
3. The “shoulds” thinker
This person carries around a massive bag of things they ought to do and ways in which they think they ought to behave.
Perhaps you criticise yourself or others by using “should”. Do you find yourself using the word “should“ to describe your every day life?
I should have done…. You should have done...
I should never have…. You should never have…
I should be doing…. You should be doing…
So... Is this you? Are your anxious thoughts always involving “should”, “shouldn’t” “ought” and “musts” - believing that things should be a certain way.
Let’s move on...
4. Introducing the “magnification or minimisation” thinker who is otherwise known as “the catastrophiser”
Magnification is as it suggests… You blow things up out of proportion i.e. exaggerate or make a mountain out of a molehill.
Minimisation is when you minimise the importance of something such as your achievements.
I don’t think I need to expand too much on that one as it’s pretty obvious a mountain or a mole hill – it’s a drama either way.
What about this one next. Can you relate yourself to this thinker...
5. Maybe you Are you a “blamer”
Do you find yourself always blaming others for what is happening to you or perhaps you find yourself accepting the blame for others.
Let me give you an example:
“this is my fault” - You find yourself taking personal responsibility for something
“She did this” - you blame others for something which was your fault.
and now over to number 6 in this series...
6. “The emotional reasoning“ thinker
This is the one where the thinkers emotions can cloud any reasoning. The thought pattern is… If I feel it, it must be true.
A couple of typical example of the “Emotional reasoning” thinker are…
I feel unloved and so I must be unlovable.
I feel like a failure and therefore I will fail my exams.
This type of thinking is so subtle that it can cause us to choose reactions which are hurtful.
What about this one...
7. Are you a labeller? Do you always allocate labels to yourself and others?
So this thinker is very specific and is the extreme form of the all or nothing thinker. Labelling is not only irrational but can unfairly generalise the person in a derogatory way.
Let’s not forget ...
8.the “over generalisation” thinker.
Is this you? Do you see everything as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Are you constantly using the words “always“ or “never“ such as “it always happens to me“ or “I never get the girl“.
So now we come to the penultimate anxious form of thinking known as...
9. The “mental filter“ thinker
This thinker struggles to hold onto any of the positive for instance Claire did a talk at work and Claire is a “mental filter“ thinker. Quite a few of her colleagues told Claire what a great job she had done however one of her colleagues was mildly critical and Claire, rather than holding onto all the positive reactions she got, hung onto and obsessed about the one minor negative reaction. So in short, the “mental filter“ thinker dwells very much in the dark and that certainly doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
And now to the last of the different forms of thinking (cognitive distortions) and this one is…
10. “Discounting the positive” thinker
This sounds a little bit like the mental filter thinker however this person takes the joy out of life and insists that the positive doesn’t count i.e. “Anyone could’ve done that“. This then leaves the person feeling as though what they have done is not adequate or good enough.
So I think that just about sums up the different types of anxious thinking and all that remains to be said is ... here’s the exercise which I mentioned earlier which you might like to have a go at. Its quick and simple.
1. Choose a couple of days from the week and then have a think about what happened during that time.
2. Then have a think about what your feelings were that surrounded what happened and how you reacted to them.
3. Can you relate them to one or more of the categories explored above?
I hope that you got something from this blog and if you are feeling overly anxious and want some counselling then give me a call to arrange an appointment or to ask any questions. 07478754839.
Don’t struggle alone!