It is easy to fall into a negative and depressing thought pattern when you are going through something particularly stressful. The problem is when this pattern becomes the norm because it slowly works on eroding our self-worth. An example of such a thought would be for me to think that my recent job loss is my fault be cause I’m a terrible person. I don’t think that, but it is a perfect example of a self-defeating thought.
If I were to think like that I would likely spiral down into a deep depression and consider myself worthless. See how these self-defeating thoughts are bad news? Cognitive therapy deals with the idea of all of this – that certain thought patterns lead to depression and worthlessness by attacking the self-esteem.
It is important to be able to recognize defeating thoughts as they surface. Most times we do not even realize we are having self-defeating thoughts as they appear so quickly. There are some typical types of self-defeating thoughts out there, so recognizing these and then replacing them with more positive and realistic thoughts is the key.
1. The “I should have…” or “I should”
I am guilty of this one myself. I wrote on here that I should have gone about asking for a salary increase differently. A more healthy way would have been to have said “Next time I want to go about it differently.” A Common example of this thought pattern is “I should have known better.” You’re just beating your self up when you say this! Instead say, “Next time I will know better.”
2. Overgeneralizing things
This is something that I think is fairly easy to pick up on. Granted I am quicker to notice it in others than in myself. Overgeneralizing in this instance means that you define your life on negative experiences. Examples are “I always ruin everything” “Everyone hates me” “I can never get it right” and so on. Sure, you may ruin some things and some people may dislike you and you may have a hard time with things sometimes. I seriously doubt it is always or all of the time. The key here is to realize that it is not ‘everything’ and just ’somethings’ that may be bad at the current time.
3. Assuming the worst
Just because someone around you is angry does not mean that they are angry at you. People that assume the worst see an angry friend and just assume “He’s mad at me.” The newsflash here is that it’s not about you. People get angry for a lot of reasons and the only time you should assume it is your fault is if you know you did something really bad to get someone angry. And we’re talking about beyond the shadow of a doubt you did something to make them mad. Otherwise just think that they must be upset. In my experience, if it is your fault you will certainly know it!
4. Dwelling on the negative
I used to be the victim of this a lot. I used to think of it as ‘looking for a reason to be upset.’ It is quite ridiculous when I think about it now, but I would do something like get a bad grade in a class and spend the rest of the day obsessing over it. The rest of my day would be tainted by me dwelling on something negative and I would totally miss all of the positives that were going on. I think this is a fairly common thought pattern though. We spend so much time thinking and brooding about the bad that we have no time to see the good. What did I learn? As hokey as it sounds, don’t sweat it because in the grand scheme of things it’s probably not that important. So maybe I got distracted and let the roast burn and we can’t eat it for dinner, that doesn’t mean we can’t go out for ice cream and to a movie and still have a good time. See?
5. Blaming someone else
Ever blamed someone else for your crappy lot in life? Yup, that’s the blaming thought pattern. Yes, your husband cheated on you and then walked out on you and the two kids. That sucks, it really does, but he is not responsible for the rest of your life. I am a firm believer in the saying ‘You create your own destiny’ and that means if your life sucks then you need to take ownership of that because its probably your fault. For instance, I am in a lot of debt and I say it is because my parents did not teach me about money but I was the one charging the credit cards up like there is no tomorrow. I did it and now I have to fix it.
6. Creating your own catastrophes
I have a good friend that emails me regularly with this phrase: “Why does this always happen to me?” The most recent email with this phrase was followed by the catastrophe of a 15 year old freezer dying and needing replaced. My friend has convinced herself that everything that happens in her life is a major catastrophe. As you can see, it is really not that serious. That is what you should remind your self if you start falling into this thought pattern.
7. I feel it, so I must be it
Saying that you feel like a worthless schmuck does not make you one. Feeling ashamed about something does not make you bad. Feeling inadequate at your job does not make you inadequate. Remember that the way that you feel is not the way things are. It sucks that you feel like a loser, but you need to remember that these are just negative thoughts trying to take hold of you and not reality.
Those are some of the more common self-defeating thought patterns. You may be able to recognize some of these in your self as well as some that I have not listed. I have found that journaling is a great way for me to become aware of these negative thought patterns and to tackle them head on. Whatever method you use, you are sure to being seeing things in a different light once you can rid your self of self-defeating thoughts.