Interesting start to the day… I accidently tipped an entire jar of Nescafe coffee into my bag.
After retrieving my essential bag items I then attempted to tip the contents into the nearest bin… but my emergency sanitary towel fell out… forgot about that.
So the good news is that today can only get better! Also, I shall now spend the rest of my life checking that lids are securely fastened.
Recently I’ve been thinking about mind reading. People with anxiety tend to possess a talent for it, almost like a super power. We can also predict the future. Sadly, nothing useful like when a natural disaster will strike or the winning lottery numbers… instead, we can foresee what will happen at social events and see the thoughts of every person there. Oh yes, it’s a skill!
For example, yesterday I emailed Dorothy (my puppy breeder,) but she didn’t reply. Now, seeing as she’s 72 years old I naturally presumed that she was dead and I wouldn’t be getting my puppy. (Seriously, this was my first thought.) I pictured myself at the funeral, acting like Alan Partridge; Excuse me.Yes I’m very sorry for your loss but where’s my puppy? Also, do you have the official Pedigree certificate? Fortunately I can confirm that Dorothy is alive and she emailed me this morning. I’m also clearly a terrible human being!
Anxious people are trained detectors of body language, tone and expression. Or at least, we think we are.
Does this sound like you:
If someone doesn’t smile as they pass you in the corridor, then they obviously hate you
If a person seems distant during a conversation, then they’re bored
If a colleague disagrees with you in a meeting, then they think you’re either stupid or incompetent.
If you answered yes to any of these statements then you’re probably a trained mind reader!
To complicate matters, mind readers can often recognise that such thoughts are irrational. But instead of feeling comforted by this, we punish ourselves, (or at least I do). You’re such a loser, why do you always think like this? Why can’t you just be normal? – Certainly not helpful.
In the last nine months I’ve managed to reduce these thinking errors with CBT methods. It wasn’t easy and I sometimes find that the thoughts creep back in if I’m having a bad day, but for the most part I can manage.
Rule 1 – Don’t be critical when you catch yourself thinking irrational thoughts. Instead, feel pleased that you spotted them. It’s a good thing and this is the first step!
Rule 2 – Take a moment to complete a ‘Thought Chart’ – you can find examples of these on this website: http://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets/cbt/none and I will complete my own version below. I also like to use the; ‘Thought Diary Pro’ app. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/thought-diary-pro/id387173290?mt=8 This is great because it enables you to be discreet. Nobody will know what you’re doing and you can complete a thought chart without feeling self-conscious (no, I’m not working on commission, I genuinely think this is a useful app!)
Rule 3 – Once you’ve completed the thought chart, praise yourself for doing it and engage in another task.
Thought charts can be time consuming, but the more you do them the easy they become. I’ve also mentioned them in the previous post; Triggers. If you would like a more detailed explanation of ‘thinking errors’ then please refer to this.
Ok, here’s my example;
A colleague has been in a terrible mood for the past week and has snapped at me a few times.
I must have done something to annoy her.
Perhaps she doesn’t like me anymore.
I’m so fed up of her being so moody, I can’t stand it.
What if she’s like this for another week?
Have been withdrawing into myself and listening to music
Deliberately haven’t spoken to her
Have been dwelling on the situation
Complained about her to my boyfriend
“She doesn’t like me” = Mind reading – You cannot possibly know what she is thinking. Nobody does!
“What if she’s like this for another week?” = Catastrophising – You’re jumping to the worst possible outcome. She might be moody for another day or two. But like all things it will gradually get better.
“I must have done something” = Personalising – You’re presuming that the situation is directly related to you. Unless you’ve done something awful such as; kissed her boyfriend, then it’s unlikely to centre around you.
“I can’t stand it” = Emotional reasoning – You’re presuming that because you feel overwhelmed at the moment then you will continue to do so all day. You can stand it.
New Rational Thought:
This is a person who you normally really like.
She is human and is therefore subject to mood swings and dark times, just like you are.
You have no idea what she might be dealing with privately at the moment. Rather than being distant perhaps you should be more available and deliberately strike up conversations, even if she doesn’t seem receptive.
Being around someone who is outwardly moody or negative can be draining and it’s ok to feel frustrated by this. However, try not to take it personally or presume the worst. Like most things, it will pass.
Will this matter to you in a week’s time?
I will stop by her desk for a general chat and be bubbly, no matter what the reception.
I will arrange to have lunch with a friend to inject some positivity into the day.
I have since discovered that my colleague’s father was ill and she was having a difficult time with her landlord. Both of which are perfectly valid reasons to be in a bad mood….. and surprise surprise, it had nothing to do with me!
Did I then punish myself for the thoughts that I had previously? No. That would be counter-productive. I can’t control the thoughts which pop into my head or my emotions… but I can alter them with a little effort.
Thought charts might seem self-indulgent and silly, but they are very effective.
The next time you feel insecure, angry or worried about a situation then why not give this exercise a try?
4 DAYS UNTIL PUPPY GATE!!! My anxiety reducing fluffy ball of love will be here soon J