Your brain can be a trickster. Depression and anxiety create automatic negative thoughts that can become our internal dialogue. They are obstacles that influence our everyday life. Therapy is useful for identifying and giving voice to these internalized beliefs. And actively combating them.
Some examples of negative thoughts that can be harmful:
– All or nothing
Binary thinking. If you stick to your exercise plan for a month, you think you think you are the most disciplined person on the planet. If you miss a day at the gym, you think you have no discipline and give up and go back to being a coach potato. Being able to hold multiple opinions and thoughts, often contradictory ones, is mental flexibility.
Jumping to the worst possible conclusion, usually with very limited information or objective reason to despair. When a situation is upsetting, but not necessarily catastrophic, we may still feel like we are in the midst of a crisis.
Our “shoulds” come from internalizing others’ expectations and comparing ourselves unfavorably. This is the hallmark of regret, the what if, the opposite of living in the moment.
You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. These thoughts make you see only the negative aspects of situations and make you more inclined to give up on your efforts.
When you call yourself or someone else names or use negative terms to describe them. A lot of us do this on a regular basis. You may have said one of the following at some point in your life; “I’m a loser”; “I’m a failure”; “I suck,” or “I’m lazy.” The problem with repeatedly calling yourself names is that your brain starts believing them.
You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not responsible for. For example, you see someone scowling as they walk down the hallway. You automatically assume that they are angry with you, when they could’ve actually had a really bad day.
When you make assumptions, you’re usually filling the void of the unknown by imagining an undesirable outcome. In reality, a number of good things are often also possible.
Predicting an outcome, usually negative, even though you don’t know what will happen is the hallmark of fortune telling. These thoughts disregard data.
– Mind reading
When you think that you know what somebody else is thinking even though they have not told you, and you have not asked them, it is called mind-reading. Listen carefully to the other person instead of trying to predict what they have to say. See also Active Listening.
Blaming others for your problems and taking no responsibility for your own successes and failures.
Also see How to Practice Self-Compassion.