Ever hear a teenager say "well I don't want to exaggerate my feelings.. I'm just unsure if they will like me?" Probably not. Most of us have heard others say thoughts that exaggerate, catastrophize, and overgeneralize their feelings or emotions - and they aren't limited to teenagers. Research shows such a huge link between emotions and thoughts (or cognitions) that an entire psychological or therapeutic orientation has grown out of this connection. This orientation is widely used and accepted by all kinds of therapists and insurance companies alike.
Here are some points to help you become aware of your thoughts and determine whether they are unnecessarily affecting your emotions in negative ways. The following are "thinking mistakes" you may find yourself thinking:
- Mind Reading - believing that you know what people are thinking, yet haven't asked them first. Example: you don't receive a call back from your friend, you think "she probably hates me now."
- Telling the Future - thinking that you can predict the future and know that something will end badly. Example: you have a presentation, but think "it will go so badly, everyone will laugh at me off the stage."
- Emotional Reasoning - determining the reality and facts based on how you feel. Example: you're nervous about going to the holiday party, you think "I'm so nervous, everyone will see how anxious I am and no one will talk to me."
- Labeling- attaching negative labels to yourself, calling yourself names. Example: you forget to call your friend back after work, you think "I'm a horrible friend, I'm so stupid & untrustworthy."
- "Should" statements - using "should" to motivate yourself or punish yourself. Example: you write a report for work, you think "it shouldn't take me so long, it should have less errors in it."
- Overgeneralizing- making a conclusion based on one or two small aspects. Example: you hear someone at work doesn't care for you, you think "she doesn't like me, so everyone must hate me."
- Catastrophizing- exaggerating the likelihood that something bad will happen. Example: you're nervous about the meeting with your boss, you think "chances are that he's going to fire me, I won't be able to find a job and I'm going to be hungry & homeless."
If you become aware of these, take a breath and think about what you could stay instead. Instead of "I always do it that way" it could be "sometimes I do it that way" or "I often do it that way." Which ones have you found yourself saying or thinking?