distorted thoughts and twisted truths – hidden beliefs exposed — part two

 

Now that you have considered some of your beliefs around the larger issues of life and discovered the power of a pause for noticing thoughts from  part one of this series, it is time to look deeper into the twists and turns of a thought process.

You may recall the following breakdown of the hundreds of encounters we have on a daily basis:

Situation
Thought
Feeling
Action
Result

Knowing at which point, how and how often to pause in this process can be a challenging. We have so many thoughts in a day and cannot possibly stop at each one to consider the underlying assumptions lurking behind.

 

But some of our thoughts hold more weight than others. The work is to focus on the ones that move very quickly from a simple, fleeting thought to a full-length movies of epic proportions.  Sit.  Start small.  Look for patterns.

sidewalk cafe

 

Effective Hiding Spots for Funky Thoughts

The following areas are indicators of where twisted truths and distorted thoughts like to hang out and make up stories. Noticing when you are experiencing repetition or intensity in any of these areas is a good start.

 

1. Attachments, Obsessions and Addictions

Beyond some typical addictive activities used for numbness from some real or perceived
discomfort (substance abuse, eating too much or too little, excessive screen time,
compulsive sexual behaviour ), what would make your grasp tighten a little if it was pulled away from you?  The glass or two of wine each evening to take the edge off? A shortened deadline so your finished product could not be perfected? Being right at any cost? Notice.

 

2. Aversions and Avoidances

What do you ignore or avoid at all costs? Confrontation? Self-reflection? Taking
responsibility for your own actions and their consequences? Displeasing someone?
Collaboration? New experiences?  Old, boring experiences? Being alone? Notice.

 

3. Physical Symptoms
What is your body saying to you? Communication from your body could be in the form of pain, pleasure, numbness or a sense of not having any awareness of your body at all. Or it could be through repeated minor conditions, illnesses or even long-term, chronic diseases. What is your body saying in health, dis-ease, in motion and at rest? Notice.

 

4. Overwhelming Emotions
When it seems as if the emotions will swallow you up, what is hiding in that moment? When you find yourself swimming in an ocean of fear or terror, rage, jealousy, boredom, ecstasy or euphoria, obsessive desire, isolation and loneliness or despair, Notice.

 

5. Relationships Obstacles
No relationship is perfect. But what could be learned from looking at those messy sticking points, the raw-nerve moments, the chronic misunderstandings or the inelegant dance moves of two partners out-of-step? At home?  At work?  With friends?  Family?  Notice.

 

6. Feeling Hurt, Stuck or Incompetent
What lurks behind the reaction “what she did really hurt my feelings, how could she do that to me”? What is the “should” belief lingering behind believing that our present situation finds us stuck in a rut or trapped in our own life? What belief is getting its mail forwarded to the hiding spot behind your reaction of feeling incompetent or unqualified?  Notice.

 

Hidden Thought Patterns Revealed in Distortion

We are so competent at distorting thinking that we don’t even recognize we’re doing it. Once you start noticing where your distorted thoughts regularly hide, here are some common cognitive distortions from PsychCentral.com that you might discover there.

 

Filtering: Filtering out the positive and only seeing the positive

Polarized Thinking:  Seeing situations as black & white, with an all or nothing attitude

Over-generalization:  Creating a general outlook based on one incident

Jumping to Conclusions:  Assuming an outcome even without proof

Catastrophizing: Expecting that a disaster will be the outcome

Personalization: Taking the words and actions of others personally

Control Fallacies: Believing you are a victim of fate or that you life is externally controlled

Fallacies of Fairness: Assuming that everything in life is ultimately supposed to be fair

Blaming: Holding others responsible for our pain and discomfort

Shoulds: Having clear rules about how we and all other should behave

Emotional Reasoning: Believing that what we feel is the concrete truth

Fallacy of Change: Believing that people will change if pressured enough to do so

Global Labelling: Using emotionally-laden language to make a global judgement

Always Being Right: Thinking that being wrong is an unthinkable situation

Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: Keeping score of giving in hopes of getting back in return

 

That’s a boat-load of noticing to do!

sunday walk sights1

 

Self-care Homework

1.  Continue to practice the pause from part one of this series to help you with the noticing.

2.  Keep a small notebook handy to record what you notice will help you focus on the one or two thought patterns that are causing you the most concern and prevent getting bogged down with trying to deal with too many patterns at once.

 

Writing down what you notice will also help for the next blog post when we discover how the words we use reveal which distorted thoughts we default to most often. Then we will consider the impact of allowing these thought patterns to go unchecked.  

Still ahead, we will work through a process to re-wire our brains by flipping the distorted thoughts on their heads and creating a new result to the troublesome situation.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll see you back here next time!

 

where the wild things are – hidden beliefs exposed – part one

 

Hidden beliefs, core values and underlying assumptions are not quite so hidden from others as they are from ourselves. But to uncover them for us to see clearly, we need to look more deeply into where they hide.

Where did that come from?

Have you ever found yourself suddenly quite angry/ sad/ devastated/ ecstatic/ irritated/ fearful and much more so than the situation might typically call for?

Or found yourself taking someone’s comment or action personally and wondered why you were so upset about it?

What about experiencing the repetition of similar physical symptoms or obstacles at work or in relationships?

These are signals that hidden beliefs are secretly lingering in the deep, dark woods nearby.  But what exactly are these beliefs that are informing your thoughts, words and actions?  And are they beliefs that you still want to be informing your decisions?

Good questions.

 

a colourful friend

 

How the mind works

What we truly believe lives quite happily in our subconscious where it co-exists with all the information we have been tucking away there since we were toddlers.  The subconscious mind has the ability to receive and hold information that the conscious mind cannot.  The information it holds all gets labelled as literal and true.  So the filing cabinets of our belief system of literal truths sit there gathering dust while impacting our thoughts, word and actions without our expressed knowledge or consent.

 

Do you know what is in your filing cabinets?

If you haven’t visited your belief system filing cabinets for awhile now, how do you know what your beliefs are regarding:

  • Death & Life after Death
  • Love & Hate
  • Work & Leisure
  • Morality & Ethics
  • Happiness & Success
  • Physical Well-Being and Disease
  • Gender & Roles
  • Luck & Fate

 

How the hidden belief stays hidden

When we unwittingly react to situations, the helpful information about what we believe stays in the subconscious. When we choose to respond, we can bring the information to the conscious mind for processing.

On any given day, the following scenario takes place hundreds of times.

Situation
Thought
Feeling
Action
Result

 

A example of a brief interaction:

Situation     —    as you walk down the street, you are asked for spare change
Thought     —    “sure!” or “are you kidding me; get a job!” or “should I or shouldn’t I?”
Feeling       —    self-righteousness, judgement or resentment, fear or peace
Action         —    give, don’t give, or walk on
Result        —    a brief interaction with another human being for 15 – 30 seconds

 

What is not clear in this break-down of reaction to the request for money is the underlying beliefs that informed the thought and the eventual decision. Underlying beliefs about poverty, homelessness, work ethic, trust, money, your obligation and what others expect of you are wild things wandering in the forest of your subconscious mind and just waiting for an event where they can jump out to support a strong reaction.

If beliefs in your subconscious were placed there decades ago and are no longer useful then it is time notice our reactions and to transform them to responses.

 

Reaction to Response

In the above equation,

Situation
Thought
Feeling
Action
Result

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OVER IS OUR THOUGHTS

We can minimize exposure to some unwanted situations but we cannot predict or control every situation that we may face.  We can have feelings that may occasionally be overwhelming but feelings are there to be felt so eliminating them is not ultimately helpful and, in fact, they can be very useful towards a greater sense of self-awareness.  We can choose our actions but unless we know why we are acting (or reacting) the way we are, our choices are limited to those actions supporting our underlying, hidden beliefs.

 

To replace a reaction with response, we must consciously choose to pause before, during or after the “thought”.  Even if we make it all the way to action before we realize we are in a full-blown reaction, the pause gives the chance to go back to the thought that triggered the reaction.

Pauses can be as short as three deep breaths, counting to ten or as much as stepping away from the situation to take a moment.

 

SAM_2981

And what is hiding behind the thought that started the reactionary domino-effect to an unwanted action or result, is where all the wonderfully wild and transforming work is to be done.

Next time here, we’ll peek behind the thoughts and dig into common distorted thinking patterns that trigger unhelpful reactions to situations that could use a thoughtful response instead.  We will eventually get to a process to work through to unpack the hidden beliefs behind distorted thoughts and strong reactions.

To prepare for digging deeper:

 

1. Practice noticing

Your words
Your body’s signals
Your thoughts
Your reactions

 

2. Practice the power of the pause

In line at the grocery store
In traffic
In difficult conversations
In situations that regularly get a strong reaction from you
In silence

 

3. Practice big belief evaluation

Consider your views of some of life’s larger issues
Consider when those beliefs were anchored

See you next time for more digging and exposing of hidden beliefs!