Do You Engage In Patterns of Destructive Thinking?
While we all have our moments of not engaging in the most productive or positive thinking, when you engage in a train of thought on a habitual basis it will form a pattern of thinking and behaviour that will negatively impact the quality of your life.
You will notice that destructive thinking is made up of bullshit including assumptions, rationalising, minimising, exaggerating, denial, and projecting, and that part of breaking your pattern is not only becoming aware of where you have a destructive pattern of thought, but also going on a low BS diet and consistently and persistently working to challenge these patterns.
These patterns of thinking continue because of ‘chasing the thought’ instead of challenging it. One thing pops into your head and it’s like ‘I thought it so it must be very important and right’ and then you run with it instead of correcting it.
Based on countless tales I’ve read over the years and observations, here are 9 very common patterns of thinking.
It’s About Me. When you make everything about you, you end up feeling victimised without realising that if you’re actually a victim of anything, it’s actually victimising yourself in your thoughts by persecuting you with Other People’s Behaviour. You look at life through a low self-esteem lens and somehow, it all comes back to you, even when sometimes, it has shag all to do with you. You take negative credit for everything and normally break down stuff into a conclusion of ‘I’m not good enough.’ This is ‘inverted ego’ issues where you’re on the flipside of the ego issue – you make everything about you to persist in an identity that says “I’m not good enough.”
Watch out for: Blaming yourself for another person’s relationship issues, engaging in conflict with people to fight your corner even when you don’t technically have an issue, blaming yourself for your parents actions,
When you have It’s About Me, you’re also going to be engaging in Jumping The Gun. You jump to and make a hell of a lot of conclusions without actually going through any due diligence or thought process. When you’re not jumping to conclusions that make it all about you, you’re putting 2 + 2 together and making anything from 5 to infinity and even when you get evidence to substantiate a counter perspective, you can be stubborn and stick with your conclusion even when you should revise it. You will find when you jump the gun, that you are highly likely to have assumption problems. This means that when you meet someone who possesses certain qualities, characteristics, and values, you’ll assume that they have others without substantiating it. You may say stuff like “They’re really intelligent, they have a great job, and are liked by a lot of people so they’ll make a great relationship partner”, or “They’re short so they won’t make a good relationship partner”. Or you see two people talking quietly and think, “They’re talking about me.”
Watch out for: Assuming someone who talks to you is interested in you, assuming that you’re in a relationship, spreading information about people as if it’s fact when it’s actually just an unsubstantiated conclusion you’ve jumped to, making judgements about your character based on what other people do, assuming that someone who shares the same interests shares the same values.
It’s All My Fault. This type of thinking represents this idea that you have superpowers where you can basically perform Jedi Mind Tricks and ‘make’ people change themselves or make one false move and be responsible for an entire situation. What you may not realise though, is that while you may think that assuming the blame or taking it on is ‘responsibility’, it’s actually avoidance of it. You’re a perfectionist blame absorber – you’re either all to blame or not at all. You are making yourself inextricably linked with people when this is just not the case. You are an individual identity – every single person on the planet is operating under their own thinking, motivations, fears, doubts, insecurities, etc. Ultimately, unless you are wholly and solely involved in something with no other parties, you cannot take the blame. Own your own and let others own theirs.
Watch out for: Taking the blame for everything, apologising to people and them looking at you with a blank face because they don’t know what you’re apologising for, apologising to abusers, being abused, trying to get your parents to change, being a Florence Nightingale and trying to fix/heal/help, struggling with rejection and criticism, being passive and then blowing up like a pressure cooker.
Everything Is Shite. Ever been around someone who objects to everything with a prediction of crapness or doom? There’s no good men/women left to date, everybody cheats, everybody is out to get you, the world is going to collapse by the end of the year, there’s no point trying, I’ll go for the job but I won’t get it, I’ll go on the date but they’re not going to be interested, I’ll go on the date but I don’t see it going anywhere, that’s great that you met somebody but just be careful because I went out with someone who cheated on me. Everything is shite or certainly you can find the shiteness in just about anything with this thinking. What you must recognise here is that you are behaving in the way that you think – I had to explain to someone who has just graduated but doesn’t want to work in a job because she feels that she’s better than that and wants to write, that job interviewers can spot an unenthusiastic person from 50 paces. They would rather give the job to someone with less qualifications who will work hard than someone who is just applying to get on the job ladder and clearly has no interest.
While you may have the Everything Is Shite mentality, you may not be an equal opportunity doom forecaster and only forecast it for yourself with an I’m Doomed mentality. “Nothing good will ever happen to me”, “I know everyone will find love except for me”, “I’ve missed the last chance saloon”, “I’m 30 and not married so I’m never going to meet someone”, “I’m in my 40s and single again so I’m destined to end up alone and then I’ll die and I’ll be found three weeks later with Alsatians feasting on me.” When you ask someone with an I’m Doomed mentality why someone else is doing the same thing they say stuff like the other person is ‘lucky’, beautiful, slimmer, has more money, lives in a city, lives in a small place, is less hurt, less baggage, desperate etc.
Watch out for: Being called ‘negative’ and ‘pessimistic’, people not realising that you have a real genuine concern because they’re used to you sounding off, not being taken seriously because of a lack of action and too much talk, feeling like you’re being misunderstood, inadvertently saying/doing things that communicate your doomed perspective and then feeling rejected, sabotaging yourself.
Shady Mind Reader. The way you talk, you should be making millions from being a psychic because according to you, you know what ‘everyone’ is thinking or doing. “She thinks she’s so much better than me” – a friend said this to me after an acquaintance gave her a ‘funny look’. “They all think I’m not up to the job”, “He thinks I’m stupid”, “They’re all talking about me”, “They think it’s me that did it” or “They’re going to try and screw me over”, “They’re going to cheat on me”, “They’re going to leave me”, “They secretly want to be with someone who is [insert opposite of you]”.
Watch out for: Having a lot of battles in your head, judging people negatively without real basis, writing yourself out of possible friendships, relationships, and opportunities because you think someone thinks something that they don’t or is something that they’re not, repeatedly getting into conflict situations and possibly having to leave jobs or lose friendships, treating something you think as fact and falsely accusing people.
I’m Right aka I Don’t Do Admitting Mistakes aka Stubbornness. The first thing you must learn about being obsessed with being right is that you not only end up inadvertently pursuing this idea that everyone that contradicts you is wrong, but that you’re also suggesting that you have nothing new to learn. What’s so wrong with getting things wrong? What do you think is going to happen? Why do you think that it’s your way or the highway? Why overload yourself because you do know that people who think that they’re always right end up being burdened with stuff that they take on that they think others are incapable of? You may also find that you blame others and avoid taking responsibility and even inadvertently or consciously cast yourself as a victim and believe you’re ‘right’ to do so. When you have an I’m Right mentality, you’re actually creating a barrier to change – you are persisting in a mentality and courses of action in spite of compelling reasons to change tack and adjust. If you have an I’m Right mentality but you’re not happy, it’s because nobody who is obsessed with being right ever is that happy. It’s not that you need to switch sides and be ‘I’m Wrong’ but instead you need to be the human that you are and be prepared to be realistic and learn from the insights gained from your experiences.
Watch out for: Taking on too much because you don’t trust others to do it as well as you, sounding like a know-it-all, coming across as argumentative or even aggressive even though it may not be what you intended, telling people about themselves, feeling vengeful and even taking revenge, expressing your opinion and feeling like it’s not respected because of a negative reaction, staying in relationships or jobs long past their sell-by-date, being unable to progress ideas or a business because you won’t receive feedback, trying to make others change and even trying to guilt them into it.
I Feel It So It’s True. How many times have you said that you can’t do something that you actually can? Yep, likely quite a few times. Just because you think something doesn’t make it so. Just because you say that you don’t think that you can do something doesn’t mean that you actually can’t although what your feelings are telling you is that there is a confidence issue.
“I feel deeply attracted to them so even though it’s an unhealthy relationship, I have to go back.” “I feel so rejected and hurt that it must mean that we should get back together because I’m in so much pain.” “I feel rejected so I must do something to stem the feeling” “I feel rejected so I am a reject” “I made a mistake so I am a failure” “I feel envious of my friend so they’ve done me something wrong” or “I feel envious so I’m a bad person” or “I’m afraid of being alone so I cannot be alone.” “I’m horny or having an orgasm so it must be love.”
Using your emotions to dictate your thinking can take you into a pretty precarious zone because you may be assuming meanings about emotions that are actually ‘incorrect’ or certainly unsubstantiated. You may also be mislabeling – the most common mislabel is bagging and tagging anything you don’t like as ‘hurt’. Some of this may also be situational so if you’re in a situation where it’s like an emotional rollercoaster, using your emotions as your guide, especially when they may be skewed by negative factors is very dangerous. What is very handy here is to understand where the emotion comes from instead of “I feel it so I must go and do X” even though X is not actually what is needed.
Watch out for: Ending up in fantasy relationships, casual relationships (booty call, friends with benefits, one night stands, flings), affairs, breaking up and getting back together, being Future Faked and Fast Forwarded, Future Faking and Fast Forwarding yourself and others, stewing in rejection for lengthy periods of time, struggling to let go even when years have gone by, having commitment issues, chopping and changing with the emotional wind, getting into conflict or cutting people off for the wrong reasons while often not getting into conflict or cutting off the people who you need to, not using your head along with your eyes, ears, and reality, saying that you can’t manage on your own, abandonment issues, and being paralysed by overanalysis, blame, shame etc to the point where you can end up with obsessing and anxiety issues.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda aka Living In The Past & Beating Yourself Up. All that the past can do is give you the opportunity to learn from the insights gained so that you can make different, better choices in your present and future. But when you get stuck on Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, you end up ruminating and wallowing in blame, shame, and guilt and of course feeling powerless because the past has gone by. Next thing, you’re so busy living in the past that not only is your present grinding to a halt because you’re not really moving, but next thing your future becomes your present. This mentality is having a regret bias and giving yourself a hard time for not handling things ‘perfectly’ even though there is no such thing and the idea is that life is full of lessons for you to learn from and also that actually, sometimes we’re so busy regretting that we don’t appreciate something for what it was.
Watch out for: Returning to a relationship again and again because you think you’ve learned something that you’d like to practice with them so you can have another shot at righting the wrongs of the past, not grieving the loss of a relationship, taking all the blame, punishing yourself by withholding love, care, trust, and respect, bringing your life to a standstill because you didn’t do things ‘right’ in the past, trying to get your parents to change, being a Florence Nightingale by fixing/healing/helping in an attempt to right the wrongs of your past and then ending up with more regrets when you don’t actually change the person and end up with more problems, carrying the same baggage, beliefs and behaviours and expecting different results often around the same types of people in different packages, and feeling deep regret when you realised that X months/years have passed and yet your mentality and actions haven’t changed.
Food for thought
- Do you recognise any of this destructive thinking in your own life?
- If you do, write down what type of thoughts you have and keep adding to the list as they pop up.
- Also make a note of the types of actions that you engage in that support your thinking (there is some even if you’ve never really thought about it) and situations that spring to mind that embody your thought pattern. This list is important as you can become aware of when you engaging in the thinking and be conscious and start to consider new thoughts and actions to replace them.
- Brainstorm some ideas of what you could do and think differently. Write down what you’re going to do next time and where possible, lay it out in steps so that you can see clearly what you need to do and how. A prime example of this is when contemplating how to deal with an ex.
- Also look at where you don’t engage in the thinking. Many students of BR school are actually very confident, conscious, have boundaries etc in their professional life or with friends but not in their romantic relationships. Identify the differences between both areas and identify the why between the disconnect so that you can have more consistency – it’s like having two identities.