Monday, January 25, 2010

Self-Defeating Thoughts 4

Okay, it's Monday at the office, time: 7:36 p.m. I haven't had a self-defeating thought all day. Not one.

Maybe it's not just work that keeps them at bay. Maybe it's concentration, a strong focus.

But I can't be this focused all the time. Obviously I need a leisure time strategy as well. Will ponder this. Am open to ideas that might be of use to me and other readers.

I do know that substituting a positive thought works some of the time. Maybe that practice could take hold and start to happen automatically.



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9 comments:

billie said...

Albert Ellis said that substituting a positive (nurturing, calming) thought to replace the negative one is basically what stops the self-defeating internal dialogue, because the mind needs something to fill that empty place when you take the negative away.

It's a practice I've taught all my therapy clients. Interestingly, I didn't learn about it in grad school, but when I was a therapy client many years before that. I discovered Albert Ellis on my own and took it to my therapist, who said it was a fine thing to try.

It made the biggest difference in my inner life of any single thing I've ever done. And naturally, what happened inside rippled out to everything else.

I can say from experience that I rarely have self-defeating thoughts. When things get crazy, I start thinking (with no effort on my part) "you're okay," "you're doing the best you can right now," etc.

Those were the nurturing thoughts I put in place of the mind-reeling negative ones years ago. I tried to imagine what I would say to a child who was upset, or to a friend who needed comfort.

It works. In the moments when we're unsure or have doubt, I think we need the ability to self-soothe through that moment, until we can apply some action to the situation, or let it go.

Peggy Payne said...

What I especially like about this, Billie, is how simple and effortless the replacement sentences are. Somehow I think I managed to complicate that too. One could use the same line every time, not one custom-tailored for the occasion.

Curious that you didn't get Ellis in grad school. I first read about him in something like Psychology Today. Think of him as REM Speedwagon: Rational Emotive Therapy?

billie said...

It is simple and effortless in theory - but I also know it is difficult to put into practice. Those negative self-thoughts are VERY ingrained. But it's like stopping drinking. You just have to take it one negative thought at at time!

At some point it does start to happen on its own. As you've illustrated in your past few blog posts, though, once you start doing it, and are committed to keep going, you get solid results.

Peggy Payne said...

I have a feeling that one kind of self-defeating (almost said "stupid" but caught myself!) thought that I block at the gate, disguises itself in some other negative form.

This morning I thought while driving along the highway: what if a hole suddenly opened in the floor of the car, between the pedals and my seat? It was quite vivid in my imagination and no doubt gave me some tiny blip of adrenaline.

Seems it's a matter of sticking with it, as you say.

So far, I'm as much interested in what I'm finding as anything.

I'm appreciating your thoughts on this, Billie.

billie said...

I just laughed out loud, b/c I occasionally have that exact thought! I don't consider it negative so much as just weird though! :)

I always say to myself, literally, "If that happened, I'd be fine so long as I didn't stick my foot down through that hole!"

Some of these thoughts are (for me) what I consider part of being a creative, imaginative person. I'm frequently running scenarios and dialogues in my head, and thinking things like "what if this happened?"

I chalk it up to a very active imagination and if it's alarming in any way, I counter it with a soothing thought.

There was a distinct pattern in my younger years (late teens, early 20s) where I spent a fair amount of time "whipping myself into a frenzy" over things that had not yet happened. I can still do it, but only to a small degree, if I let myself go.

But for the most part, and this is sort of miraculous to me, all the soothing thoughts I've plugged in over the years literally take over and keep me inside the guard rails.

Which is why I say this practice works. It eventually becomes second nature.

It's useful to me to think about this, as I am always fine-tuning and the onset of menopause is presenting some new challenges! :)

billie said...

As soon as I hit publish I remembered this example that you experienced with me.

Remember my first query letters and how I got so obsessed with the right stamps and the dove gray envelopes?

To the point that I consulted you about suitability of a certain stamp?

That was a fairly harmless one, because it didn't prevent me from actually sending the queries, but in younger years I would have been stymied by that choice and wasted a significant amount of time.

We humans are interesting creatures, aren't we? It's no wonder we love writing novels!

Peggy Payne said...

Amazing! I had totally forgotten your obsessing over stamp selection. (I regularly hesitate over appropriate stamp selection myself, but only for seconds, I'm happy to say.)

It's wonderful that thought substitution works so well for you that it's automatic. I think substituting thoughts is my next step. Right now, though, they're getting fewer and fewer.

Anonymous said...

Al Ellis, an earlier edition of CBT.

perhaps most therapists use most the techniques which really worked well for them in their personal treatment ?

anyway , for sure , Practice Makes Progress . so it's wise to practice the positive thots/feelings/actions/values that we want more, & more of.

or one can say "that's just my OCD____/whatever ; saying "hi " to a familiar old friend & after catchin'-up , lettig it go--mab in a half-second, if u like. AIKI

Peggy Payne said...

"That's just my OCD" is sure an excellent approach.

Sometimes I find though that I did leave the iron on. So I'm making a list of things that I need to be conscious of doing the first time I did it. Locking the office at night, for example, so I don't have to drive back.