February 5, 2015

A Thinking Valentine

Categories: DivorceMental Health

453604591Rather than celebrating this Valentine’s day by sending your soon to be ex an envelope full of glitter why not give yourself a gift; something to help you on your way to your new future.

David Burns’ book: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy explores ways our internal monologue determines how we experience events, how we feel about ourselves, others and the world around us. And as Mr. Burns explains, there are 10 common things we do to sabotage our self-talk.

1. We forget that the world is full of shades of grey

When we fall into the habit of dividing the world into two categories (black and white, good and bad, all or nothing) we limit our options and may miss opportunities when they come our way.

2. We overgeneralize

It is far to easy to extrapolate from a past event and let it determine our future outcomes. It helps to remember for every incident there are specifics that apply only to that situation and not to the entirety of our lives.

3. We are often blind to the positive

Our subconscious has a way of latching on to the bad rather than the good in our lives (it’s a survival trait – our brains evolved to be far more impressed by the tiger lurking in the tall grass than by the fruit hanging from the trees). Unfortunately, by forgetting the positive, we develop unrealistic expectations about the current situation whereas having a balanced outlook by incorporating both the positive and the negative tempers our outlook and often can produce better results than we expect.

4. We assume we can read minds

It’s not logical, but on the rare occasion we think we know what someone else is thinking. Making inferences is natural, but the problem is inferences aren’t always based on reality; they’re just guesses and there’s no guarantee that they’re accurate guesses at that.

5. We think things are worse than they really are

It’s easy to get swept away in drama and catastrophes are about as dramatic as things can get (or so network news would have us believe). The thing is we often jump to dire conclusions without any evidence that what we are facing is actually catastrophic. Once again, taking a balanced approach and maintaining an awareness that there are many possible outcomes for each situation we find ourselves in can really reduce those stress levels.

6. We tend to let our emotions do our thinking for us

The problem with emotions is that they are not always rooted in reality. While our emotions are very real to us, they tend to put a damper on operating from our highest rational self.

7. We tend to categorize when we should be thinking

We spend our lives putting things into categories (there are things we like to eat, people we admire, places we like to visit, etc). The problem comes when these categories and the associated labels are based on single incidents – that guy who cut you off in traffic becomes a “loser” based on a single event, but when we rely on categories when we should be thinking, we may miss seeing opportunities.

8. We like to predict the future

At one time or another, we’ve all tried our hand at fortune telling – there’s no reason to go on a diet; I’ll just gain the weight back. The problem with self-prophecy is that it becomes self-fulfilling all too easily. We are the final arbitrators of our destiny and when we predict doom and gloom for ourselves, that’s often what we find ourselves working toward.

9. We want to believe the world resolves around us

When stress builds and emotions get hot, it’s easy to personalize things. Thing is, when we take a step back and consider that there may be other factors that may be influencing the situation, we end up seeing the bigger picture – it’s not that our friend no longer likes us; it’s just that they’re just having a really bad day.

10. We tend to measure ourselves against others

We all march on our own path through life and everyone’s path to the future is unique, and when we make comparisons between ourselves and others we aren’t doing ourselves any favors.


Bruce Cameron
Attorney, Cameron Law, PLLC

Bruce Cameron, JD, MS is a second career attorney, practicing Quaker, and advocate for small town law practices. His solo practice focuses exclusively on collaborative law and mediation with just a soupçon of estate planning for excitement. Bruce believes that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, like collaborative law and mediation, are powerful positive means to reduce the destructive conflict typical of litigation. He has found that a little peacemaking tends to produce better outcomes for his clients. Learn more at www.CameronLawPllc.com

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