One of the slogans in the program is "Think". Lord knows, I've done enough of that for several people. I think that I've analyzed and re-analyzed so much in my life time and yet the distortions of my thinking have only begun to be clear to me recently.
I've heard distorted thinking called "stinking thinking". I think that this is an apt name because when my thinking loses perspective, it means that my head is firmly stuck up my butt, and I need to get it unstuck. I've also heard this expressed another way: "When I'm in my head, I'm behind enemy lines."
I've had a lot of thought distortions that generally involved an ego that told me I was not liked, not good enough, not having any fun. So I would isolate myself which only made the thinking worse.
1. All-or-nothing thinking - I see things as black-or-white. I'm focused on perfection and if someone or a situation isn't "perfect" then it's a failure. I've learned that no one or thing is perfect. I'm only human. And today I celebrate my humanness rather than castigating myself.
2. Overgeneralization - I see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when thinking about it. I've learned that "always" and "never" are God words. I only have today and can start the day over any time that I want. There are second chances.
3. Mental Filter - I pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that my vision of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water. I've learned that I may get a critical comment, but I don't have to obsess over it for days while ignoring all the positive feedback.
4. Discounting the positive - I reject positive experiences by insisting that they “don’t count.” If I do a good job, then it's okay to feel happy. I don't need to discount good work that I do.
5. Jumping to conclusions - I interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support my conclusion. I need a reality check.
6. Mind Reading : Without checking it out, I arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to me. Another reality check is needed.
7. Projecting: I predict that things will turn out badly. Most of these thoughts start with "What if" and end negatively. I avoid what if statements because the scenarios are endless and never positive.
8. Magnification - I exaggerate the importance of my problems and shortcomings, and minimize the importance of my good qualities. I do an affirmation list to bring out my good qualities.
9. Emotional Reasoning - I assume that my negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. Just because I may feel sad, doesn't mean that I'm hopeless or somehow a second rate person.
10. “Should” statements - I tell myself that things should be the way I expected them to be. This leads to guilt and frustration. I don't want to "should" all over myself. I also try to avoid thoughts that start with "must", "ought", or "have to". Too many parental messages lead to stinking thinking.
11. Labeling - Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. I sometimes attach a negative label to myself when I make a mistake. Labeling is a way that I beat myself up and feed low self-esteem. I don't label others much. I've learned to accept that others have their own way of doing things. My acceptance of them helps me to think constructively rather than destructively. I can be gentle with myself too.
12. Personalization and Blame - Personalization comes when I hold myself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under my control. Personalization leads to guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy. I don't like the blame game or play it. I've learned to take my own inventory and not the other persons. As my sponsor says, when I speak negatively of others then it's reflecting what I think about myself.
What I've come to understand through working the program is that these thoughts represent my perception which may be very different from reality. So I need to do a reality check. I ask myself whether the sad, angry, lonely, anxious feelings I'm having are based on fact. Am I trying and convicting someone due to my imagination? How does what I'm thinking compare with the reality of a situation?
In addition to doing a check on the facts, I look at what is going on and what my role is in it. I also know that I can run the thoughts past my sponsor, go to meetings, and ask for spiritual guidance in lifting me out of my miserable thinking.
Just because someone says or does something that is unkind to me, doesn't mean that I need to own it or engage in distorted thinking. I can respond with healthy words and actions or I can choose to simply walk away. The slogan T.H.I.N.K. is a great acronym for any statement that I make: Is it Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary, and Kind?