Clients often try to deny their emotions because they believe they should not feel the way they do. As a therapist, I encourage clients to accept their feelings and I try to validate them because, as I tell them, if everything you’re telling yourself right now is true, then of course you feel the way you feel. Then I challenge them to consider their thoughts and identify if they are the victim of negative thinking that is working against them.
Our minds are very creative playgrounds that don’t always read situations clearly. Often our negative thoughts arise automatically and, because once we think them, we believe them. Then, our emotions arise and they just confirm our ideas.
But you can’t always believe what you think! For example, if I say hello to a friend and she ignores me, I may think she is angry with me and become sad. Well, of course, I’m sad – my friend is angry with me! But what if my friend is distracted, worried, or feeling ill?
Negative Thinking Traits
Usually these negative thoughts follow certain patterns:
They are automatic (check out what Amen Clinics have to say about this here)
They follow certain themes, based on how we believe the world to be and our place in it
They are unique to us
They are self-perpetuating
They are usually believed
Negative Thinking Patterns
I use the word NARROWED as an acronym for common negative thinking patterns. While we may use all of these patterns at one time or another, we usually have a few that are our favorites. And over time they can create depression and anxiety in us. Take a look at the following list and see if you can identify your negative thinking patterns.
Negative thinking is focusing on the negative aspects of a situation or a person and ignoring the positive. Bland coleslaw means the whole dinner was a bust.
All or Nothing Thinking
All or Nothing thinking labels events, people, and outcomes as good or bad, perfect or worthless, winners or losers. It’s the kind of negative thinking that leaves no room for compromise, middle ground, or margin of error.
Ranking is comparing yourself to others or to your ideal to see if you fall short. One is always smarter/prettier/better or dumber/uglier/worse than others. The Ranker cannot relax for fear of failing to live up to their own or others’ standards.
Reading minds is thinking that you know peoples’ motives regardless of what they so or do to contradict your opinion. For example, when you receive a compliment and think, “He doesn’t really mean that, he’s just being nice.” Usually reading minds involves thinking that someone is motivated in relation to how they think about you.
Ought – to Thinking
Ought -to thoughts apply a standard of behavior on ourselves and/or others and we become upset when we or they do not live up to that standard. This type of negative thinking tends to assign blame and shame on the person being judged and irritation and pain on the judge.
Worsening the Situation
Making things worse with this negative thinking involves using loaded words like “horrible,” “terrible,” “disaster” to describe your situation, or using insulting and degrading words like “stupid,” “failure,” “disgusting,” or “hopeless” to describe yourself or another person.
Egocentric thinking involves taking personally the words or actions of another person because you believe that their actions mean to cause you pain.
This type of negative thinking involves worrying about negative future outcomes that may or may not happen. Often we create catastrophes in our own minds that prevent us from moving ahead.
Your Negative Thinking Patterns
Have you identified your most common negatve thinking patterns? Please comment below to share the one or two you use the most. Remember, you can’t stop negative thinking from arising but you can stop focusing on your negative thoughts. We will discuss how in an upcoming blog so follow us to learn more!