wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Negative beliefs aren’t concrete

I’m the Queen of sweeping statements, generalising and jumping to conclusions. I tend to see the world in black and white, and ignore the shades of grey.

For example, yesterday I decided that everyone in London was an arse-hole. Why? Because a man was rude to me at Victoria station and a woman on the train didn’t quiet her child.

Scenario one: I was in the queue for coffee at Victoria station and I couldn’t decide what to order. When I got to the front I hesitated, so the man behind me muttered “For God’s sake!” Then shouted his order over me.

Scenario two: On the train, a kid (probably around three) started screaming blue murder. It went on for over fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SCREAMING! It was like Chinese water torture…. And her mother did NOTHING. Well actually that’s not fair.. she was on the phone to Spain after all. Maybe she was ringing the ‘help me, my child won’t stop screaming’  hotline! (As you can see, I’m not quite over this one yet).

These two separate instances were enough to convince me that everyone in London was horrible, (expect me.)
On paper it sounds funny.. because it’s obviously so irrational! But in reality I spent the rest of the day feeling angry. It weighed me down like a concrete block. I didn’t interact with anyone and my vision was blurred. I only looked for the negatives in every situation.
By the time I got home I was so fed up that I just wanted to crawl into bed and block everything out. Fortunately the sight of Rigby’s gorgeous face instantly made me feel better and after a quick cuddle I was revitalised. (Dan is gorgeous too, but you know).

However, for the first time I started thinking about ‘beliefs’ and how easily we’re led down a negative path.

I read somewhere that a ‘belief’ is basically an ‘idea’ that has evidence to back it up. An idea can be any old nonsense, but we need evidence to convert it in our minds. So my idea = ‘people are horrible’ and it was backed up by the two scenarios. This belief then had a negative impact on my thoughts, mood and eventually my behaviour. (Hopefully this is making sense)?!
Did this belief help me at all? Did feeling angry all day enrich my life? Did imaging how I would punish the individuals make the world a better place? NOPE. If anything it was a waste of energy. So why do we do it? And we all do…. Right?

I think it’s because we’re lazy. The truth is, we can all choose what we want to believe (within reason people. Gravity definitely exists.. I know, I’ve fallen down the stairs enough)! I mean personal beliefs. It’s far easier to believe the negative thoughts that we have, because challenging them takes effort. But in the long run it’s important to do so, because they not only effect your day, but your life.

How do we challenge them? Well it needs to be relatively simple, because I’m a lazy cow. So here’s my logic… If I need evidence to confirm something, then maybe I can use positives instead. Questions are good too.

E.g. Belief – everyone in London is an arse-hole.

Question – Eight million people live in London. Do you really think it’s fair to say that all of them are bad, based on two encounters?
Answer –  I have more evidence! Everyone on the tube is moody when I travel to work. I get fed up of it.
Question – Maybe everyone is just fed up because it’s so crowded? Nobody likes being squashed.
Answer – I’m still angry.
Question
– That’s fine, feel the anger for a minute and then let it go. Instead can you think of evidence to prove that people in London are good?
Answer:

  • The man at Brockley station who always smiles and says good night each day
  • The people who helped me when I fainted at Baker Street Station
  • The man who stopped when I was crying, to check that I was alright
  • The woman in Boots who helped me when I was so hungover I thought I would die
  • That really friendly girl at Shoreditch station who spoke to me about books

I could go on…

Sure it takes longer to come up with positive experiences, but they’re there. Remembering these experiences helps to take the sting out of negative thoughts.

Rush hour travel in particular is an anger trigger for me, (as I’m sure it is for most people). So I’m going to try and combat it by challenging the beliefs.. because I don’t want to travel angry every day!

As always distraction is good too. Music, podcasts etc.. Just put your head phones on and phase everything out, including the anger.

So the next time you catch yourself curling up with a negative belief try, ask yourself “will this belief enrich my life?” If the answer is no then you know what to do.

Categories: Anxiety

8 replies

  1. #1: I’m glad you didn’t make this assumption a week ago as I was in London last Tuesday/Wednesday and I’m not an arsehole.

    #2: I’m reading a management book on ‘Dealing With Difficult People’ and it asserts that negativity/pessimism are most definitely learned behaviours, because there is no such thing as a ‘negative baby’ and that babies are born into the world as a blank canvas upon which our parents (and others) paint their belief system.

    #3: What’s up with Victoria station being more like a shopping mall? Why is the only decent WiFi in the Starbucks outside on the Buckingham Palace Road?

  2. Excellent breakdown and example. Absolutely going to format my NYC (everyone is an arsehole) like this. 🙂 It was heartwarming to read your positive examples. It brought to mind something so simple that I had forgotten which was the 2 gossipy employees I had passed earlier at a CRAZY department store in NYC and about 10 minutes after my labeling I chased them down looking for a sentimental scarf I had dropped. They smiled and had picked it up keeping it safe if anyone came for it. I had judged and they in turn made my day.

  3. I TOTALLY do this! I can be having the best day ever, and then one person irritates me in some way and suddenly I hate everyone and everything!

    I love that someone stopped to see if you were ok when you were crying – that’s so nice!

  4. I totally agree with Stuart’s #2 about learned behaviour. And beliefs are just stories we have bought into. True, some will have really powerful reasons behind them but it still doesn’t mean that they’re truth and that we can’t rewrite them.
    Rush hour has lots of potential triggers – what about it makes you most angry? I hate the jostling – the feeling that I’m in a fight for survival.
    PS I wonder if you thought to tap when you were filled with steaming rage? Would have been a good time to do it and see where it took you. 🙂

  5. I actually tuned in right now to tell you about how I fixed the shower DURING A PANIC ATTACK! !!!!!!! Take that tiger, watch out Amygdala. This one is fighting back and it finally begins to show !!!!!!! 😀 😀 😀 😀

    Honestly you have no idea how much you helped me come to this point but I do. This post too has “soulmate level” (don’t be freaked out please I’m lacking a better word 🙂 ) , apart from the geographical differences I could have written this one word by word (apart from the essential dialogue which I’m even more thankful for because this is what I’m struggling with and have to practise more ).

    Thank you.

    PS : Pets first then everything else, I’m with you sister! ! 😛

  6. Great post – I can see you know quite a bit about cognitive behavioural therapy 🙂

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