Automatic Negative Thoughts

I am so surprised I haven’t talked about this earlier. Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTS as they are widely known in the psychological world.

Most of us all have ANTS to one extent or another. They are usually subconscious, negative and pessimistic self-talk that happens when we are under some sort of stress. Another thing I have realized about ANTS is that when used often enough as a coping skill they pop up in ever instance and not just in instances of stress.

For example, I have a friend that on a beautiful summer day will complain that the sun is too bright. On a cozy winter night will complain that it’s too stuffy. In any and every instance she is looking for something to complain about. She has become controlled by her automatic negative thoughts which.

The way to defeat ANTS is simple, but it takes practice and intention. In psychology they are called coping statements and I’ll give you some quick examples.

Negative Thought/Situation                                Coping Statement

No one likes me.                                                    I have no real evidence to show this and even
                                                                               if it were true, I dont’ care because I like
                                                                               myself.

 

I suck at everything I do.                                        There are some things I don’t suck at.

I am hopeless.                                                       I am not hopeless. I have felt this before. This
                                                                              feeling will pass.

There are an infinite amount of examples I can give and that you can think of. The trick is to turn your ANTS into positive or reaffirming thoughts. One last tip. Take a piece of paper and write down your automatic negative thoughts and then your corrections to change your ANTS into more positive or reaffirming thoughts.

I hope I explained this well, I was writing it while in the middle of many interruptions. Some people just don’t respect my privacy or my blog. If you have any questions or if there is anyway I can clear somethings up, please leave a comment or email at emancipatedmind@mac.com.

Psychosomatic

“What you don’t deal with mentally you will deal with physically.”

The above quote comes from one of my professors in graduate school, but I am positive he got it from out of one of the half dozen text books he made us read during our 2.5 years together. In any case, that quote has proved to be one of the most truest sayings and piece of knowledge I ever received.

Imagine being upset with your spouse about something, but never saying anything about it because you don’t want to “rock the boat” so you hold it in. Then you go to work where your boss constantly berates you, but again, you don’t say anything despite how angry he makes you. You keep all this stuff bottle in, and then you start suffering from migraine headaches or a stomach ulcer or anxiety attacks… you think they’re all unrelated when in reality it’s very likely that those physical ailments are being caused by your psychological stressors. I hope I’m not getting to technical at this point, but many things from colds to terminal illnesses could possibly have a psychological link to them. Think about the people you know who break out when they’re stressed or get gas.

Case example: For the past couple of weeks my blood pressure had been high, I had a migraine headache and all for no apparent reason. There had been no change in my diet or excercise plan and my doctor and I couldn’t understand what was going on. Then I thought about it. I had been stressing about a lot of different things, not really dealing with them but continuously pushing them to the back of my mind. Once I realized that, I started dealing with my stressors and trying to relax more. In the span of a week or so my systolic and diastolic pressures both dropped abut 20mmhg!

Think about what you’re feeling, how you are or aren’t dealing with it and the effects it could be having on your health now or in the future. One research paper I read stated that undealt with stress and depression could increase the risk of tumors and cancer. Take care of yourself both physically and mentally and live the best life you can.

***I haven’t had the chance to edit this yet so please forgive any typos/errors***

Self-Mutilation

When I first started this post I was going to write a long detailed post about self-mutilation, and I still can if you are interested, but I decided basically to get to the point of what’s on my mind.

The other day I saw a young beautiful, 18 year old college student who came into the hospital with approximately 50 razor blade cuts to each leg and the words “I am alive” carved into her left hand. This young woman is what we call a “cutter”, she cuts to soothe her emotional pain and to feel alive as the words etched into her blooded palm stated.

There was very little I could do for this young woman in the short amount of time I had with her for numerous reasons, but most importantly because she was in denial of her issues and I probably has borderline personality disorder (a lot of cutters have this disorder). I did try to offer her something, and the reason i am writing this post is because i want to offer it to all cutters as a way of at least initially soothing the hurt.

The next time you feel like seeing blood or hurting yourself, don’t pick up a razor, instead, pick up a red marker or red finger nail polish and mark on yourself the same way you would with the razor. The red will help give the allusion of blood without actually having to cut yourself. Even better, pick up a ice cube and hold it tightly in your hand. Let that pain serve as the pain of the sting from the razor. I propose this as just temporary fixes for the immediate and sometimes impulsive need to caught, but seeking therapy is most likely the only way to truly alleviate the pain behind the cutting. And if you really want help I can put you in touch with the right people or in the least, recommend a number of self-help books that can help you stop hurting.

Change

I hate change. I’ve hated it for as long as I can remember. Something about change to me is anxiety provoking. Some people, when faced with change get excited or see opportunity, I however usually become fearful and uncertain and that is something I want to start working on.

Doing some introspection about the way I feel when faced with change I realize I usually do whatever I can to prevent that change from happening to the point at times of becoming neurotic. I may beg, plea or even put myself in an uncomfortable situation if I think it will keep things from changing.

Once I realize that that isn’t working, I usually become dispirit, and then began to numb myself to the change that is coming  (one may call this acceptance).

My goal however is to start seeing change as something exciting and even when it’s not so exciting, it’s still an opportunity to explore a new and different situation. The leaving of a good employee may mean the hiring of a better one. A friend relocating to Ice Land may mean new opportunities to hike up Mt. Esja or walk behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. 

You just never know what change will bring about, so my goal and your new challenge if you too are fearful about change, is to start seeing the positive aspects of change and even if there isn’t any, try creating one! That’s what I’m doing 🙂

Relationships Part 1: How are you benefiting?

In graduate school I learned that no one stays in a relationship that they aren’t benefiting from in one way or another. Even people in seriously dysfunctional relationships are there because they are benefiting from it.

What got me on this subject is that I was listening to a radio show where this woman was saying she kept going back and forth in an unhealthy relationship where she said she wasn’t benefiting from it at all. After listening for awhile it quickly became apparent that she was most definitely benefiting from it… sexually. The clue was when she said, “The only good part about the relationship is that the sex is good”, so indeed she does benefit from this relationship. That same day, I saw a client who is in her second abusive relationship (at least) and I couldn’t understand why she was choosing to stay with these abusive men. After a brief assessment I found out that she had an alcoholic and abusive father, so being in these relationships benefited her, even if unconsciously because they served to help recreate the destructive pattern of abuse and fear she had growing up and unfortunately had become accustomed to and perhaps even identified with as love. Often children who grow up witnessing domestic violence grow up accepting it as an adequate form of love and companionship.

Look at the relationships around you, especially those you are most uncomfortable with for whatever reason and dig deeper to see where and how you are benefiting from it. That insight will serve as the catalyst needed to either break free from a destructive relationship or mend one that needs healing.

Appreciation

Sometimes making a person’s day, week or even year is as simple as saying “you’re appreciated”. I currently work at a place where hearing “thank you”, “good job” or anything remotely similar from management or even coworkers is as likely as being hit in the head by a piece of frozen ice off the wing of a 747. That’s why I make it a point to routinely tell my coworkers “good job” and to let them know how much their hard work and time is appreciated. It started off as sort of a joke to spoof management, but it ended up having the added affect of actually making everyone feel just a little bit and often time, greatly appreciated. Look around today and tell someone how much you appreciate them, even if it’s just yourself.

Lies vs Truths

I am firmly convinced that we are all liars. Now I know you may be saying “What? Not me! I am the most honest and genuine person there is.” And that might very well be the case, but you are still a liar.

What I am talking about here is internal dialogue, the thoughts we have about ourselves and the conversations we have about ourselves. More importantly, I am talking about the lies we tell ourselves, consciously or unconsciously..

Examples include; “I can’t live without him/her”, “Nobody will love me if I’m not perfect” and “I can change him/her after we are married.”

Think about those examples and then think about the lies you tell yourself. Now separate the lies from the truths. You won’t die if your mate leaves you. People who truly love you now and in the future will love you despite your flaws and chances are that you won’t be able to “fix” someone rather you are married or not and even if you manage to change that person its likely you will start to find them less interesting.

Sometimes the lies go even deeper. How many times have you called yourself a failure, stupid or a number of other insulting lies? Backing out of the garage you accidentally hit the mail box. You might get mad and call yourself an idiot and be upset with yourself for the rest of the day because of the lie you told yourself. The truth is, it was an accident. You are not an idiot. An idiot wouldn’t have a drivers license, have a job, be reading this blog, etc.

The trick is to regonize the truth from the lie which is sometimes hard because often we spend so much time convincing ourselves that the lies are the truths. The truths are sometimes painful and hard to accept, but usually always liberating and recognizing the truths from the lies will help you see the situation for what it really is.

Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty

The other night I went out to a dance club, a place I normally dread because it comes in conflict with my usual introverted nature. Another reason I hate going out to dance clubs is because I can’t dance! I usually end up standing around while my friends dance and feeling a bit silly. I have tried to dance on multiple occassions and never feel even remotely comfortable doing it or even asking a woman to dance with me which usually causes a wave of diverse, but usually always dysphoric feelings. After a couple of hours of being in this dance club, watching my friends have a good time, but feeling rather idiotic myself, a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years but had known since maybe 1st grade came up to me and asked “Why aren’t you dancing”. I explained to her that I couldn’t dance and felt stupid when I tried to dance. She smiled, approached me and proceeded to dance with me. It was wonderful. I was nervous, but she made me feel comfortable and encouraging in her attempts to show me that I could dance and not feel or look stupid. Our dance lasted all of two minutes, but it was enough to make my night and leave a lasting positive impression.

As I sit back to do some introspection there are many different ways I could go with this. I could look at and analyze my self-esteem, my neurotic anxiety or any number of factors in this situation, but what stands out to me, what seems to be the most positive factor here is my friends random act of kindess and senseless beauty. She made my day and it didn’t cost her anything except two minutes of her time. She didn’t have to be so kind, but she chose to be and helped create a lasting positive memory. With that, I would like all of us to commit a random act of kindness and senseless beauty today and everyday. It doesn’t take much, but it can create a lasting and positive impression and if you believe in karma, what goes around comes around and kindness begets kindness.  

-“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” (Aesop; 620BC-560BC), The Lion and the Mouse.

Five Stages of Grief

Looking at the Five Stages of Grief theorized by Kubler-Ross, I begin to realize that these stages not only quite accuratlely describe what one goes through during the loss of a love one (or even excepting ones own mortality when faced with a terminal illness), but it also describes what one may go through when faced with other losses that are hard to accept, including accepting that one is addicted to a substance.

I mention the latter because it was while leading a group therapy session for substance abuse that I realized this.

The five stages of grief basically are, 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression and finally 5) accepance. These stages don’t necessarily, but usally fall in this order.

If your boss comes to you and tells you that in two weeks they are eliminating your position and you therefore are out of a job you might at first not want to believe that is true, then after it becomes closer to a reality you might get angry with your boss, the company, yourself and then you might start praying to God to keep you from losing your job, or anxiously and perhaps desperately trying to find a way out of the situation, when you realize it is inevitable, you may go into a depression but eventually you will accept the reality for what it is and do what you have to do to cope with the situation.

With the guys in my substance abuse therapy, helping them see why they felt what they felt and helping them deal with it seemed to have a tremendous affect on helping them come to grips with their addiction and to start facing it head on instead of denying or avoiding it.

The reason I bring this to your attention today is to stimulate your mind and give you something to think about the next time you or someone else is going through some personal loss, rather it is infertility, a break up, or facing a long jail sentence. Understanding why you feel the way you feel goes a long way in coping with and stopping the pain and coming out of it a more enlightened and intouch person.

Under the Surface

One of the most fascinating things about humans and human behavior, is that we consciously or unconsciously cover things up or make things appear different then what they really are. We do this for several reasons, but often it is to protect ourselfs from some conceived threat (psychoanalyst would say to protect ourselves from something that threatens the ego)… this is often better called fear, anxiety, anger or depression. Often it is easier to deal with what’s on the surface, than what’s underneath the surface in an effort to avoid those feelings, but what is underneath the surface is the real issue and what really needs to be discussed. I’ll give you a quick example.

Suppose that you and your mate are constantly arguing over how he/she manages the household bills. You don’t like the way they decides how income brought into the house is and isn’t spent. You guys are constantly arguing over the bills, getting upset with each other and nothing ever changes. Maybe your mate doesn’t even understand why you are getting so upset and perhaps, you don’t either. Well perhaps it is because the household bills is the surface problem, the safe problem to argue about, but what’s underneath that, if you look deeper, is the real problem, what really needs to be addressed and changed in order for things to change and get better in the realtionship. Perhaps the real problem is that your spouse paying the bills, controlling the way income that comes in and out of the house is spent is making you feel controlled, unappreciated, like a child… the list of possiblities are endless, but the truth and the root of the problem is there if you look under the surface and I promise you, that if you do this, you will stop arguing or worrying about petty things and tackle the tough truth and meat of the problem which, although may be harder to look at and deal with, will make you a much healthier and happier person once it is dealt with.

So stop arguing over the way your spouse is driving if the truth really is you just don’t want to go their family reunion, your sisters wedding across country or to the football game when you’d rather stay home. Stop arguing over the way your wife doesn’t cook if the real issue is you wish she were more attentive to your needs. Examples are endless, but give looking under the surface a try and see if it won’t help you to become less angry, depressed and anxious and at the same time give you greater insight into yourself and your relationships.

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