Anger, depression, and anxiety are challenging to overcome. It helps to know your enemy...
When you're upset, what should you do? What can get you out of a rut when everything in the world seems negative? Just trying to think positively would be wonderful if it worked, but it usually doesn't. You just end up trying to convince yourself to change how you're thinking - which can make things worse.
Part of the problem people get stuck in is that there are multiple ways to think negatively. What helps for one type of negative thought may be useless for another. That's part of why you may find that the more you try to get out of a bad mood, the more you get stuck in it.
Let’s imagine you’re talking to someone and they’re upset about their job. It could be one of many reasons:
- They know their boss thinks they're dumb, even though the boss hasn't said so.
- They have to go to the same job every day, even though they don't want to.
- They are the worst employee there, even though they try hard to improve.
These are all very different problems because the indicate very different ways of thinking. Thus, they require very different solutions. Let's go through that list again:
- They think they know how another person thinks of them. They are trying to read minds.
- They believe they must do something. They think they are a prisoner with no choices.
- They are judged as bad. They don't measure up to other people.
Those are three remarkably different kinds of problem: mind reading, imprisonment, and comparative judgement. Each is a very different way of thinking, and has to be handled differently.
- The first implies the ability to know the thoughts and feelings of other people with psychic powers. It brings up the question: "How do you know what they think?"
- The second implies that all other options are gone. It begs the question: "Are there other options?"
- The third implies impartial judgement. It begs the questions: "Who says? By what criteria?"
As you become more adept at taking apart your thinking, you'll discover new options in how you handle negativity. What seemed like an impossible problem can turn into an easy challenge to overcome. What used to overwhelm you can transform into a source of entertainment. And, what was once a weakness, can become recognized as a new strength.
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