Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I know just what you're thinking!

So, friends, are you depressed?  A little self-loathing?  Is the world getting you down?  I thought I might give you a little primer on this cognitive behavioral stuff ... from a rank layperson.  I had a major MAJOR change in my emotional/psychological life from a brief encounter with this stuff.  I thought I'd go through the list of cognitive distortions (what Stuart Smalley might have called "stinkin' thinkin'") that, from what I understand, form the basis for a lot of our bad feelings about ourselves.  For more, you can see the book Feeling Good by David Burns, which is sort of the bible of the CBT folks ... and/or find a good CBT therapist to work with.

Today's stinkin' thinkin' is Mindreading.  Do you ever get the feeling that someone isn't telling you something?  And that thing must be something negative about you?  For example, you're having lunch with a friend you normally have a great time with, but she's really quiet that day.  Do you start to wonder if it has anything to do with you?  Do you think maybe you might have offended her, and now she's having second thoughts about your friendship?  Despite any actual evidence to support this, you start to feel concerned and anxious?  That's Mindreading.

Another way Mindreading has affected me (and I used to do that first one a whole lot too) is to want someone I care about to know what I need without my telling him/her.  For example, if you loved me, you would anticipate that I needed help with a household chore and pitch in without my having to ask you.  If you can't read my mind, well, maybe you just don't love me enough.

Apparently, sometimes people have things on their mind other than wondering what's on mine.  Sometimes it just has nothing to do with me at all.  It helps to ask for help, for example.  (I've also learned that, if someone is helping me, I shouldn't criticize the way they're doing it!)

So try paying attention to when you're doing this kind of thinking.  See if you can reframe the thought.  For example, "Gee, Pam is awfully quiet.  I asked her how she was, and she just said 'ok'.  I guess she's not ready to talk about whatever's going on.  I'll let her be.  She might not have gotten enough sleep, for all I know. Who knows?  She'll tell me when she's ready, if there's anything to tell."

This mindreading stuff has kept me up nights.  I hardly ever do it anymore; it's a big relief!

A lot of times, when you're really stressing about something, it seems like a lot of these distortions are going on at the same time.  It's so useful to look at a feeling that just seems like fact, and then reconsider it.  As they say, feelings are not facts.


Tavie said...

This is... very useful.

I put that book on my Amazon wishlist (where I keep track of books I want to get)

Wincey said...

It's very useful!

Not Necessarily Reality said...

.....but.... I'm really concentrating on what I need from you.

I haven't thought about this before but it is what I do.

Thanks, Ade.

Wincey said...

More to come -- and I'm guessing all my depressed friends do this stuff. And not doing this stuff can really help the depression.

Jen said...

When I'm stressed out, I get a little paranoid and think that everyone must be talking about me and what a bad job I'm doing. A lot of my negative self-thought is centered around work.

Wincey said...

I used to do that an awful lot. When I was a kid, I was always worried that people were talking about me behind my back. Now I just don't care if they do or not.

Jen said...

I've tried to improve on this. If nothing else, I'm attributing bad motives/unkindness to other people, and they don't deserve that.

Wincey said...

That's true. And you can't control other's thoughts or behaviors anyway, so there's no use sweating over it.