As a child I was always fascinated when magicians claimed to able to use their minds to conjure up intriguing tricks (rabbits in hats and the like). Although I was fascinated, I never truly believed they could make things happen with just the power of thought. As an adult, I’ve realised I was wrong. Our thoughts are probably the most powerful things we have in our lives.
If you aren’t convinced, try this experiment over the next two days. Spend the first day allowing yourself to feel frustrations intensely. Let yourself listen to those negative thoughts that always try to creep in. Give yourself the chance to really feel the self-doubt. Feel that road rage – let it overtake you with gusto. Get truly angry about the poor service at the coffee shop.
For the following day, have a go at some cognitive reframing (changing thought processes) Acknowledge that the self-doubt exists, but that you intend to chase your dreams regardless. Sing loudly to your favourite song in the car, rather than being consumed by the unavoidable traffic. Be grateful that you managed to get a coffee before work.
You probably won’t ever try this experiment because you can no doubt predict you would have infinitely happier day on the second day of the experiment. It also seems a little peculiar to deliberately intensify negativity within our lives. However, this is what many people do everyday without even having awareness that they are doing so.
With small adjustments, you can make enormous changes to your career, family life, happiness and self-esteem. The process is known as cognitive reframing or changing how you choose to think. That’s all. Nothing magical or unachievable.
As humans, it is natural for us to utilise unhelpful thinking styles occasionally. We all do.
Here are a few examples of unhelpful thinking styles:
Overgeneralising: ”Nothing ever works how I planned”
Jumping to conclusions: Presuming what others are thinking or predicting what will happen in the future
All or nothing: “Either I do it perfectly or I won’t do it”
Eliminating the positive: Focusing on the negative and deciding what you have achieved does not count
Catastrophising (my fave word – I’m a bit of a geek): Blowing things out of proportion
Minimisation: Making something seem more trivial than it is
Emotional logic: “I feel nervous so I must be a fool”
Shoulda’s: ”I should do …” , “I need to do …”
Loose labelling: Labelling self or others negatively
Blame: Blaming self for something that’s not entirely your fault or placing blame solely on others.
Don’t be worried if many of these resonate with you. We all use them at some point. When you are finding yourself using them often and your thoughts, choices and activities are being affected adversely; it might be time to do some cognitive reframing.
It sounds like a lot of work and it does take effort, but the beauty of our thoughts are that that are CHANGEABLE and CONTROLLABLE. We have the ability to make significant changes to our lives, just by changes to our thoughts.
Jacqueline Potter, BSc (Psych)
Jacqueline is the author of the eBook, Cirque du Mummy, an entertaining and honest summary of the realities of motherhood. She is currently writing a book detailing her challenging history, with the goal of helping others overcome struggles. Jacqueline completed her BSc (Psych) at the University of Southern Queensland and is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association. Jacqueline's Avidity Association office is located in Paddington, Queensland and she is available for counselling, group therapy or mentoring in her office and Skype or phone counselling within Australia.