Do You Indulge in “Stinkin’ Thinking”?
Stinkin’ Thinkin’, otherwise known as thinking negative
thoughts, is a common but unhelpful pastime. Imagine all the extra energy
and creativity we could muster if we weren’t bogged down by thoughts
of doom and gloom. Let’s have a look at some of the most common
forms of “Stinkin’ Thinking.”
- Black-and-white thinking
In this form of self torture, everything is either black or white,
good or bad. Common examples include: “It’s really bad
that we didn’t get that house at auction.” Yes, it might
be disappointing that you couldn’t afford the house, but another
house will come up, and it might even be better.
Or, “Getting a dog is a bad idea. I’ll ruin the garden.”
Of course, the puppy may ruin part of the garden initially but it
will also give you years of joy.
This is a favorite among Stinkin’ Thinkers. Here a single event
colors the rest of your day, week, or even life.
Favorite topics: “I failed the math test, I’ll never get
a good job now.” Or “I ate half a packet of Oreos. I’m
supposed to be on a diet. I’ll never lose any weight. I’ll
be fat all my life.” Gee, I could go on so easily, but you get
- Ignoring the positives
No matter how bad your life is, it is possible to find at least one
positive aspect to it. But Stinkin’ Thinkers can’t, or
rather, won’t. Since there are numerous examples of people coming
through traumas and stating publicly that the whole experience made
them stronger and that they would go through it all again to gain
what they have learned, it is possible to remain positive in just
about any situation. The act of counting your blessings is an old
one but it hasn’t lost any of its potency over the years.
Catastrophizing is all about blowing things up out of proportion,
or alternatively, minimizing any good things in your life. So if your
son pulls out of school early, a catastrophizing parent might say:
“I’ve tried to do my best for him, but now he’s
left school, he’ll never get a proper education, or a proper
job and it’s my fault. I should have got him a tutor. We can’t
afford to keep him forever, and he’ll end up on the streets.
You can see how easily this train of thoughts takes hold and the escalating
stress levels that accompany it.
Alternatively, catastrophizers also minimize their own skills or the
good in their life. That same son may be a very caring and loving
young man, who gets on well with young and old alike, but all those
people skills are ignored by the catastrophizer. The fact that the
son loves his parents and doesn’t want to move to another state
is not seen as a positive, but is buried instead under the “catastrophe”
that he has decided that at this point in his life, he wants to do
something other than attend school.
- Wearing the “blue” glasses
This is a term that refers to the act of dwelling on one negative
detail about a situation, so that the entire scenario takes on a negative
and depressing hue. For example, Leanne’s friend is less than
ecstatic when Leanne tells her the news that she is going back to
her ex-boyfriend for the third time. Because Leanne’s friend
isn’t as happy as Leanne would like her to be, Leanne becomes
obsessed by this, and ultimately gets so angry with her friend that
she ends the friendship. Leanne has let one incident where two friends
don’t agree cloud her whole opinion of the friendship to the
point where she pulls the plug on it. She has effectively put on the
“blue” glasses and refuses to see all the positives aspects
of the friendship.
- Mind reading
A favorite among Stinkin’ Thinkers, Mind Reading involves assuming
that people are reacting in a negative way about you without any evidence
to back it up.
- Fortune telling
Closely related to Mind Reading, Fortune Telling involves predicting
that things will turn out badly, with no evidence to back it up other
than “things always do.” Of course, thinking that “things
always do” is a form of Overgeneralization.
- The “Should” problem
The word “should” is perhaps one best left out of your
life. It is mainly used to criticize yourself and others and serves
no real useful purpose. “I should have got tutoring for James,
and now he’s pulled out of school!” James may have pulled
out of school anyway. Blaming yourself with a series of “shoulds”
keeps you stuck and less likely to be useful in the present moment.
“He should have addressed his drinking problem earlier and now
he’s been involved in a car accident.” Yes, it would have
been best if the drinking problem had been addressed earlier, but
it wasn’t and now the present situation must be dealt with.
“Shoulds” keep up locked in the past.
Calling yourself an “idiot” or a “fool” or
any other derogatory name not only dents your self esteem but derails
you from looking more closely at the problem and finding a better
way to go about it. Be kind to yourself and drop the names. Names
will actually hurt you in the long term.
- Playing “Atlas”
This game refers to shouldering responsibility for all the things
that go wrong in your life, regardless of whether or not you are to
blame. This includes being hard on yourself for getting the flu or
not accepting that your divorce involved the behaviors of two people,
not just you. Or you may believe you were retrenched for something
you did, rather than being able to see that powers other than yourself
were involved in the decision. Playing “Atlas” is certainly
a hard cross to bear through life.
Next blog, we will look at ways
to unravel “Stinkin’ Thinking.”
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