September 18, 2017

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How your distorted thoughts could be affecting your relationships—Part III

By Maggie Dulcio, LMHC, CAP

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This is the conclusion of our three part series on how our distorted thoughts could be affecting our relationships. In this post I will address the last four distorted thinking patterns. In the last post, I addressed filtering, polarized thinking, overgeneralization, and mind reading. Finally, in this entry I will focus on catastrophizing, magnifying, personalization, and the shoulds.

  • Catastrophizing We expect, even visualize disaster. We notice or hear about a problem and start asking “what if”? What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to me?

Catastrophizing Cathy has always been an early bird. She has her morning routine in place.  She gives herself two hours in the morning.  She wakes and set up time to meditate before she hits the shower, have her breakfast and get ready for work. One morning Catastrophizing Cathy forgot to set her alarm and woke up one hour later than usual. All she could visualize was that this was going to be a terrible day, she thinks to herself that she is going to have to rush out the house.  She thinks “what if I get a speeding ticket or if I get into a car accident?” Catastrophizing Cathy left the house and didn’t get a chance to do her meditation.  As she is going out the door, she says to herself “this day is going to be disaster”. Catastrophizing Cathy left the house feeling very anxious, worried that something terrible is going to happen. She is very irritable and very short with her coworkers when gets to work even though she got there on time and nothing terrible happened on the way to work.

This is the person that’s always expecting something bad to happen and they allow that thought to control their behavior or their interaction with others.

  • Magnifying         We exaggerate the degree or intensity of a problem. We turn up the volume on anything bad making it loud and large and overwhelming.

Magnifying Mark has been working on this project at work with a couple of his co-workers for the last week or so. Magnifying Mark has been on edge about having to work with two of his co-workers on this project. Magnifying Mark likes to work alone so that he feels he has control over the situation.  Today is the last day to complete the project and they are adding the final touches. One of his coworkers was supposed to bring a bleu folder for the report that they are presenting.  The co-worker indicated that he could not find a bleu folder and brought a black one instead. Magnifying Mark becomes outraged and feel that his co-worker is trying to sabotage his work.

This is the person who takes the smallest issue and turn it into this big problem that cannot be resolved.

  • Personalization We assume that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to us. We also compare ourselves to others, trying to determine who is smarter, more competent, better looking, and so on.

Personalization Paul has few friends, he’s more of a loner. It has always been a challenge for Paul to keep friends.  He’s main issue has been with thinking people are judging him.  Last year, Personalization had a major misunderstanding with some of the guys at work.  He thinks those guys are immature, they like to pray pranks and have little respect for others.   In the last incident, Paul had been at a work event with those guys at work.  He noticed his coworkers were snickering and laughing. They were facing his direction. Personalization Paul thought they were laughing at the way he was dressed.  He decided to finally tell those guys how he feels about them. It turns out that those guys were not paying attention to Personalization Paul but was laughing at a video from one of their phone.

This is the person who makes everything about them.  At times, they may not even be able to show empathy because they are so consumed by their own feelings and are not able to understand how someone else may be feeling about a situation.

  • Shoulds We have a list of ironclad rules about how we and other people should act. People who break the rules anger us, and we feel guilty when we violate those rules.

Shoulds Shane identifies as being from the “old school”. He believes as a man he should be the provider working and that his woman should be at home taking care of him, the house and the kids. Shane has been married for five years and three children with Diane. The family had fallen on some hard times. Diane used to be a stay-at-home mom.  Against Shane’s wishes she went out and found a part-time job to help support the family. On a few occasions Shane has come home and dinner has not been prepared. Shane believe that this has been Diane’s lack of familial responsibility and that she is neglecting her role as a wife and mother. This has been the source of many arguments in the last few months.

This is the person that as a set of beliefs that even if they have not worked for them, they continue to hold on to them and will not bend time despite the circumstances.

Our thoughts can twist the facts to have us believe those distorted thoughts are real.  This can affect the way we treat others or the way we feel about ourselves.  At times we need to challenge our thinking and replace them with reality-base thinking.  If we don’t control our thoughts, they will control us!

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