About Thought distortions
Above all: we like to think that we can read minds. We can’t!
A few examples of catastrophizing language: It’s a total nightmare / Complete failure / I’m completely useless / We completely messed up.
Stop and breathe, take an observer perspective and ask yourself: is this a fact or am I making up a story?
Facts and Stories
Reality is subjective, it’s largely our own perception. For any situations, there are two separate things going on. There’s what actually happened, the facts, and what we make it mean, the story. This is how we make sense of the world. Our minds are set up to conflate the facts and the stories into the same thing.
If you hear the words ‘He always does this’, ‘She never does that’, ‘Nobody works well with’, ‘Everybody thinks that about them’ you are probably listening to a story.
Practice separating in your mind what are the facts of a situation and how much is the story.
Inner judge and inner lawyer
Once the stories have eclipsed the facts, our minds now seek evidence to support the view that we have taken and discard any evidence that is not consistent with this view. It’s reassuring to be right. We have evolved an in-built tendency to form rapid judgments about others.
We have an inner judge in our minds to form rapid judgments about others, based on whatever evidence is available.
Then we have an in-built lawyer to keep seeking evidence to confirm that we are right and dismissing any evidence that does not fit with this. This is called the Confirmation Bias.
And the inner judge is not neutral, if he feels any uncertainty he is more likely to be on the safe side and condemn people. This it is known as Negativity Bias.
It’s really hard to be objective in any situation to counter this confirmation bias.
When giving feedback we are rarely objective and impartial: we all have our own interests in a situation. That’s ok, so long as you are clear about it. We can only really give feedback if we start by understanding others. What is going on for them? How do they see the situation and how do they see themselves? It is almost certain to be different from the way you do. Most of us make the mistake of simply giving feedback from the position of our world view and assuming that it’s the right and only one.
Exercice: Driving practice
Accepting the traffic lights as red, breathing and relaxing.
Accepting that sometimes people do not thank you when you let them through, allow that to be ok.
Letting others into a queue of traffic: you may arrive 30 seconds later but in a much more calm and resilient head-space.
Exercise: Gratitude lists
Every morning when you wake write a page of:
I am grateful for …
to reboot your brain into a more peaceful space. Let it be a stream of consciousness. It’s fine to state small gratitudes: running water, food in the fridge… and ok to repeat similar ideas day after day.