Friday, August 31, 2012

Fighting back against the C.D.s

Once you are familiar with cognitive distortions and recognize them in your own thought patterns, there are a couple of different ways to work on helping your brain move from cognitive distortion patterns to cognitive accuracy patterns.  One of these is talking back to them.  This involves three things:
1) Training yourself to recognize them, which you're well on the way to have done just by reading about them.
2) Learn why those thoughts are distorted.  You've already done this too, probably.
3) Talk back to them.

So, let's say you suddenly realize you are late for a rendezvous with friends with whom you are making a two hour trip.  Your heart sinks and you are gripped with panic.  First, ask yourself "what thoughts are going through my head right now?  What am I saying to myself?  Why is this upsetting me?"  

You may find that you've been saying to yourself "I never do anything right", or "I'm always late", or "they'll leave without me think I and everything I stand for is irresponsible and stupid", or "I'm such a failure" or "I really should have my act together better.".  Can you tell which C.D.s those are?

(all-or-nothing, overgeneralization, fortune-telling, mind-reading, labeling, should statement)

Just as fast as these thoughts run through your mind your emotions plummet.  They, not the situation, are the reason for your misery.

So, you consciously replace them, one by one with cognitive accuracies.  I actually find it helpful to do this part out loud.

"No, actually, sometimes I do do things right.  Everyone is a mix, including me."
"No, sometimes I'm on time. It's just this time that I'm late."
"Actually, they might be kind and wait.  They might be late too.  They might choose to denigrate me or they might choose to treat this with charity.  I don't know what's in their minds or how they will respond.  But I do now that my responsibility is to apologize and be gracious and I can do that.
"One mistake does not equal total failure.  I am good at some things and not so good at others, but I am working at doing better and can continue to do so."
"'Should' will only make me beat myself up.  'I plan to do better next time' is a better way of approaching this and I do plan to watch the clock more carefully and I can tell them so and do so next time.

As you scurry out the door.

Some people who find their cognitive distortions extremely discouraging find it helpful to actually write down the cognitive distortions and their talk-back cognitive accuracies either in the moment or later in the day.  There's something about writing it down and reading and seeing it clearly that makes it harder for your brain to believe "this talk-back stuff will never work for me".   (jumping to conclusions)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quick review

Quick review
The 10 cognitive distortions are
1. All or nothing thinking.  Everything's black or white.  One error means black.
2. Overgeneralization.  One negative means you can predict never-ending negatives.
3. Mental filter.  You pick out a single negative and dwell on it exclusively.
4. Disqualifying the positive. You reject positive experiences or comments because "they don't count".
5. Jumping to conclusions
                             a. mind reading. You assume someone is thinking negatively of you.
                             b. fortune telling.  You anticipate and expect things will go badly.
6. Magnification and Minimization.  You exaggerate the importance of goof-ups and mistakes and minimize the importance of the good things you do.
7. Emotional reasoning.  If I feel bad it must be bad.
8. Should statements. You try to motivate yourself with "shoulds", "musts" and "oughts" and the emotional consequence is guilt for yourself and frustration when you mentally use those words in connection with others.
9. Labeling and mislabeling. You attach negative labels to yourself and others.
10. Personalization.  You see yourself as the cause of an external negative event that you were actually not responsible for.

So, with that review, can you identify which cognitive distortions are in the following scenario?

You've been reading sections of "Teaching, No Greater Call" about classroom discipline and applying the principles in it to the Sunday school class you teach.  You've been doing it for several weeks and it seems to be making a difference.  Then, suddenly, things in the classroom take a turn for the worse as a couple of kids in your class start acting out and in three consecutive weeks you are back to where you started.  You feel bitter, disillusioned, hopeless and desperate due to thinking, "I'm not getting anywhere.  These methods won't help after all.  I should have things under control well by now.  That 'improvement' was a fluke.  I was fooling myself when I felt like things were going better, They really didn't.  I'll never be able to get these kids to pay attention."  Which of the following one or more cognitive distortions did you employ?

a) disqualifying the positive
b) should statement
c) all-or-nothing thinking
d) jumping to conclusions
e) emotional reasoning

scroll down

answer:  all of them.  Did you find some of them?  Good!  You could probably add "personalization" to the list if in fact the two kids are acting out due to chaos at home beyond your control.

Can you see how our thoughts and responses to a situation can create our emotions?  And how distorted thoughts can mess up our emotions?

The goal, then, is to learn how to think thoughts based in reality, things as they really are, not in distortions of reality.  And that can be done.  The first step is to start identifying those distortions.  And you just did that.

The next step is to talk back truth to them when they pop up in your brain.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Recalling an Adage

Thinking about things...

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack

Wise words

"Some things are more important than money.  And one of the things that is always more important than money is people."
~ E.  August 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Magnifying" a calling

Thomas Monson's message in this month's Ensign is about serving in our church callings which he equates with loving and serving as Jesus did and taking responsibility instead of seeking to be comfortable.

That article and its sidebar, of course, use quotes that refer to "magnifying your calling".  I've sat in on classes where teacher and students have discussed what that word "magnify" means or doesn't mean in that context where they have had a bit of a struggle creating a definitive definition.

Today I found this:

Magnify:  late 14th century, "To speak or act for the glory or honor (of someone or something)," From O. French magnafier,  from Latin magnificare, "esteem greatly, extol", from magnificus, "splendid".  Meaning use of a telescope or microscope is first attested 1660s.

It is relevant to note that the King James Version of the Bible was finished in 1611.

So, perhaps, if one is called by the Lord  to do some work in his Kingdom, then to magnify one's calling mostly just has to do with acting in that calling in a way that honors the divine nature of that calling thereby speaking and acting for the glory or honor of the Lord; speaking and acting in ways that reflect his way of loving and serving and that help turn others hearts to honor him, not making that calling bigger or clearer or more visible or detailed as later definitions of the word came to mean.

That makes sense to me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Florence Barclay

"To my thinking, offence has no possible place in a genuine friendship.  The one pained always forestalls offence by the realization of non-intention to wound on the part of the other."

~Florence Barclay, "The Broken Halo"