Ten thoughts that are holding you back.

Woman thinking

Unhelpful Negative Thoughts.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Ten thoughts that are holding you back.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

1. Second place is the first loser.

The idea that if you’re not first place, you’re a loser is known in cognitive behavioral therapy as All-or-Nothing Thinking. Among students, there is a particularly troubling belief that if you don’t get an A, you’re a failure. This type of thinking leads to perfectionism. People tell themselves that they’re not perfect, then they are worthless. The result is that any minor flaw or failure to succeed can lead to overwhelming depression. Believing that one flaw in your appearance or one mistake in life means you are worthless sets up an impossible task. No one is totally perfect, and everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

2. Bad things are always happening to me.

You’re on your way to work when you get a flat tire. You interpret this as a sign that nothing in your life will go the way you want it to. Realistically, if you think about things, you’ve made dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of trips to and from work without getting a flat tire. But you leap to the conclusion because something happened once; it will always happen.

Some people believe because they went out on one date with someone they met on an online dating site, and it ended badly, that you can’t meet an honest person through a dating site despite the large number of other people who have met their current partner through that very same site.

The technical term for all of these thinking errors is overgeneralization. Believing that because something undesirable happened to you once, it will continue to happen no matter what you do. I’ve seen people who lost a job either by being laid off or being fired who told themselves because they lost that one job, they would never be able to hold a job again. This kind of thinking leads to deep depressions. Giving up after one failure is guaranteed to keep you from ever reaching your goal.

3. Dirty glasses.

When you’re wearing dirty glasses, the whole world looks filthy. One rude person can convince you that the world as a whole is cruel and insensitive. The technical name for this issue is mental filter. People with this way of thinking cannot see anything positive and see only the negative. Just because you can only see the negative does not mean the world is without its positive. Cleaning your glasses, which includes a change in thinking, means that the positive then life begins to get through.

4. Not counting the points you make.

People with depression fail to give themselves credit for what they accomplish. The only thing that counts in their reckoning is the shots they take that miss. The technical name for this is disqualifying the positive. This kind of unhelpful thought involves only tallying up your shortcomings while minimizing or ignoring completely all of your accomplishments.

People with the habit of disqualifying the positive always find a way to turn their successes and failures. Should they manage to get a job, they dismiss this as pure luck. They’re likely to tell themselves the only reason they got the job was because no one else must’ve applied. They’re able to dismiss the sunshine by telling themselves the storm must be on its way.

In this condition, every positive is dismissed, saying it doesn’t count. While every time and negative experience happens, this only confirms the pessimistic person’s view of themselves, others, and the future.

5. Leaping over the facts.

This unhelpful thought involves moving from limited information directly to a conclusion. One example of this trait is people who believe that they can discern what the other person means even when they don’t say it. The practice is a form of mind-reading in which they attribute a whole different meaning to what the other person said.

Another form of ignoring the facts involves making pessimistic predictions. In this form of fortune-telling, you act as if you had a crystal ball and predict such things as “there’s no use in trying because nothing will ever turn out all right anyway.” Once you learn to predict only negative outcomes, there’s no point in trying.

6. Pole vaulting over mouse droppings.

In this form of unhealthy thinking, people turn the smallest possible problems into catastrophic outcomes. This thinking distortion is perfect for people given to catastrophizing. You forgot to do something at work. Your magic magnifying mind turns this into a whole series of events, from your boss being mad at you to getting fired. Once you develop this habit, you can turn the slightest mistake or error into an insurmountable obstacle.

The reverse of this is certainly possible. You tell yourself that whatever you’ve done can’t possibly be good enough, and therefore none of your accomplishments in life mean anything.

These two tendencies to blow minor problems into major disasters and to turn significant accomplishments into dust bunnies blowing in the wind are sometimes called magnifying and minimizing.

7. Believing everything your emotions tell you.

Feelings, also known as emotions, are messengers that come to tell you something. They don’t always get the story correctly, and sometimes they exaggerate or minimize. Just because something feels scary and dangerous does not mean it is. Emotional reasoning, believing because you have a feeling that it must be true, can lead you down a lot of wrong paths. Focusing only on emotional reasoning is likely to take you in the direction of either chronic depression or debilitating anxiety.

8. Ordering yourself around.

Constantly telling yourself that you should do something, or you must do something

Albert Ellis, one of the founders of CBT therapy, referred to this as “Shoulding on yourself, and musturbation.”  A life full of shoulds and musts is a life that is overwhelming. Telling yourself that you must do things can leave you feeling stressed and angry. Too many things you must do leave you overwhelmed and may ultimately end in apathy and lack of motivation. If you examine your shoulds and musts carefully, you’ll find that you do many things not because you want to but only because you feel you have to. Reducing the shoulds and musts in your life can lead to a much happier and more contented life.

9. Incorrect labeling.

Some labeling, to my way of thinking, can be helpful. I’m left-handed, for example. Being aware of this explains why some things are easy for me to do while other things which were designed for right-handed people are more difficult.

Labeling becomes a problem when one incident is generalized to your core being. One mistake in life doesn’t doom you to be a failure. Losing a tennis match or round of golf doesn’t turn you into a “loser.” Calling yourself these kinds of derogatory names encourages your brain to make those self-statements come true. Things you say to yourself for good or bad frequently come true. Telling yourself, you need to learn about something encourages you to study. Labeling yourself stupid because you don’t yet know how to do something interferes with your ability to ever learn that new skill.

10. Taking everything personally.

Remind yourself that not everything that goes wrong in the world is your fault. While you can influence other people, you generally can’t control their behavior. When someone else doesn’t do what you want them to, you assume that it’s because they don’t like you. This thinking error of taking everything personally results in you taking on responsibility for the universe. Taking things personally leads to guilt, shame, and many mental health problems.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now! And more are on the way.

For these and my upcoming books, please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

3 thoughts that create or worsen depression

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Depressed person

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Your thinking may be the cause of your depression.

3 thoughts can create or worsen depression, even when life is going well for you. These three thoughts sometimes are referred to as the cognitive triad. One of the challenges people with depression experience is avoiding falling into thinking patterns that make the depression worse.

Have you ever thought “I’m no good?”

People who mentally run themselves down create depression. For a long time, there was a widespread perception that acknowledging your successes would give you a swell head. Parents avoided praising children. People thought they could motivate others by pointing out all their faults. The idea that verbally beating yourself up will make you work harder and accomplish more is a fallacy. Constantly criticizing yourself results in you defeat even before you’ve begun.

Criticizing yourself, saying you’re no good, and rehashing all your faults often overlaps with perfectionism. It’s wonderful to strive to be and do the best you can, but disqualifying your accomplishments because of one in perfection leads to paralysis and the inability to do anything.

Learn to recognize your accomplishments and build on them. No one is perfect. But focus on all the less-than-perfect things you’ve done in your life will keep you from accomplishing the many good things you might have done.

Several unhelpful thoughts can become habits that lead to this type of thinking. Do you routinely disqualify anything positive? Do you have a mental filter in place that allows you to see only the mistakes you make? Have you drifted into all or nothing thinking where you believe you’re either perfect or you’re worthless? If these unhelpful thoughts are fueling your depression work with a professional to eliminate them.

Do you often think that people are no good?

Every day we hear the news, and it’s full of stories of bad things happening. All that negativity isn’t offset by that one feel-good story they run at the end of the news. While bad things do happen every day, it’s also true that a great many good things happen too. Spotting terrible events is easy. Learning to recognize the good around you takes practice.

Every day all around us, people are doing good deeds. Those good deeds, those good things, are not as exciting as the stories of awful events. The human brain is often biased towards remembering the horrible things. If you lived in the woods or the jungle and you ate a berry which made you sick, your brain will remember that forever to protect you from eating something poisonous. If you find something that tastes good as you walk through the woods, your mind may not pay attention to that good thing. There’s no guarantee that the next time you come this way, there will be more of that good tasting fruit.

To reduce your depression, learn to look for the good in others.

Do you tell yourself it will never get better?

Some people do this as a way of protecting themselves from disappointment when bad things happen. This approach can bias the brain even more towards negative, depressing thoughts. If you lose hope, of course, you’ll become depressed. Every day all around us some people are succeeding. Learn to look for the positive and your brain will become better at recognizing it when it does happen.

One of the secrets to becoming a happier person is to become a happiness expert. Seek out happiness and learn to recognize it when it walks past you. Whenever you have any of these three negative thoughts or to challenge them. Tell yourself you are okay the way you are. There are still good people in this world. And most importantly, don’t give up hope that the future may be better than the past.

Feeling helpless and hopeless are the chief ingredients in maintaining depression. Look for the hope in every situation. If you reach the state of being helpless and hopeless, seek help. Professional counselors or therapists can often see the good in you and the potential for growth when all you can see is darkness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel