Buying Into Your Thoughts And How Not To
First of all, hi! I'm back! It's been awhile for multiple reasons. You'll start to learn more about that in this post and future posts. Okay now let's get back to it...
If you found the title of this post confusing, don't worry because if I saw this a few months ago I would have been confused. However, I have been in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is a talk therapy that focuses on how my behaviors, feelings, and thoughts all affect one another. I'm no therapist or mental health professional, but I am someone who experiences a lot of negative self talk which is a big contributor to my anxiety and depression. I want to share with you how I have interpreted my own mental illness and therapy to hopefully give support. For this post I'm going to focus mainly on thoughts and how I think they can be like a salesman. Sound strange? Keep reading and you'll start to understand!
When it comes to my anxiety and depression, my biggest enemy or challenge is myself. When I'm feeling overly anxious or depressed I have a lot of negative self talk. That's when my thoughts are trying to sell me something and are succeeding. During these moments, my thoughts are trying to get me to buy into more negative thoughts. Usually there's a hook; something to grab my attention to make me want to build onto that initial thought. They pull on my insecurities and fears to persuade me to engage. Once I'm hooked into one negative thought they only seem to multiply. Quickly. When one thought is selling, another one is buying into it.
Here's an example of what I mean by all of this buying and selling going on in my brain!
*Your friend doesn't text you back after 24 hours*
Is she mad at me?
She is mad.
She doesn't like me.
She doesn't want to be friends with me.
No one wants to be friends with me.
I don't have any friends.
How am I going to live without having friends?
I won't be invited to anything.
I want my kids to have friends.
What if they can't make friends because I don't have friends?
I shouldn't have kids.
If I don't have kids then what is my purpose?
I have no purpose.
I could have gone on and on with these thoughts, but I won't for the sake of your time and mine! These thoughts could be cycling for minutes, hours, days, months, or years. It starts to become habitual after awhile and believe me this is not a habit you want to pick up! Now that I have explained the process of buying into thoughts, I'm going to share with you how I stop the 'thought commerce' going on in my head. These three ideas are what I am learning from my own therapy.
How To Not Buy Into Your Negative Thoughts
1. Separate Yourself From Your Thoughts
You may have noticed that I have been referring to my thoughts as 'they' and that's because my thoughts are not all of who I am. They are just a part of me; they don't define me. This is something that I still try to remind myself every day. My therapist even said I could give my negative thoughts a name to make them feel more separate. Once I notice my negative thoughts coming in, she said I could think "Here comes _____ trying to ruin the day". I haven't named mine, but I do separate them from myself. This takes some power away from my negative thoughts and makes them feel more distant and less overwhelming. All this power that you thought your thoughts had is now transferred to you to help you fight against them.
2. Fact Check Your Negative Thoughts
Once you are able to separate yourself from your thoughts it makes it easier to challenge them. Nowadays one of the biggest things to do is to fact check people to see if what they are saying is valid. The same should be happening when we are caught in a cycle of negative thoughts. It seems kind of odd to fact check yourself, but it's very beneficial especially if you're finding yourself lost in your negative thoughts. One of the thoughts that I can fact check from my example is, I don't have any friends. I bought into it because being alone or abandoned is a fear of mine, which is why it was easy for me to engage and believe in it! However, I could have stopped right there and asked myself if that statement was true. I could have instead listed all of the friends that I do have. However, it's hard to challenge your thoughts because you just assume that they're true. Next time you are thinking poorly about yourself, ask yourself if it's even true. When I catch false thoughts, I sometimes say "Screw you" to it and then move on with my life! It's oddly empowering when you start challenging and beating your own thoughts.
3. Focus On Your Own Thoughts; Not Everyone Else's
From my example above, my initial thought was that my friend was mad at me because she didn't respond to my text. I engaged in this thought because I really don't like if someone is mad at me (I mean does anyone really like that?). I assumed that she was mad at me because my thoughts were telling me that she was. That was me putting my thoughts into her mind and assuming how she felt about me, which led to a downward spiral. This wasn't fair for me, but it also wasn't fair for my friend. That was me saying that my thoughts are what she is thinking, which is not allowing my friend to have her own thoughts. Instead of assuming that she was mad at me, I could have told myself that maybe she was really busy or I could have tried texting her again. Then end the thought there and move onto something more fun rather than beating yourself up with your negative thoughts. Also, I have come to realize the less time I spend coming up with other people's thoughts about me, the more time I have to fight my own.
You all know I'm not a mental health professional, so this is just how I have been interpreting my own therapy and putting it in my own language! If you also get caught in buying into your own thoughts, I hope this post gives you some tips, but also makes you realize that you're not alone. And you're not crazy! ... even if your thoughts are telling you otherwise!
It's been really difficult being away from my blog and you all. I've been starting posts and then deleting them for the past two months. However, I wanted to let you know that you are part of my motivation to keep fighting because I want to be here for you!