Distorted Thinking

Have you ever started a day and you just don't feel there? Your mind is somewhere else, your body is exhausted or just can't do anything right, and you're left standing there, wide-eyed, saying something like: "I'm seriously not here today."

This could mean you're just over-stressed, or have too much going on. But maybe your lack of focus/strength/power/energy comes from the fact that it's leaking out in other areas of your life? Maybe the way you are thinking about a situation in your life is consuming your focus/strength/power/energy?

It's important to have a clear mind when approaching, well, anything. Dance lifestyle, a relationship, a career in any field. A peaceful mind helps us focus on the tasks before us, and decipher the path we are on.

Let's take a look at some distorted thinking and how that changes our lives (whether we realize it or not):

Filtering: When you take negative details and magnify them, while filtering out the positive aspects of a situation. Now dancers, you know you are guilty of this. The second we come off stage, we think, "I messed up that second part!" or "I forgot to lift my arm on count 5." We immediately filter our performance, and our first analysis pulls the negative. It isn't until later when we start saying, "Well maybe no one noticed... I did do a great pirouette."

Overgeneralization: When you come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. This leads to the thinking process of "if something bad happened once, it's going to happen over and over again." Wrong. Stay away from this blanket thinking. Who you are today is not dictated by yesterday or tomorrow. At any point, you can change, be that with dance or a career or a relationship.

Mind Reading: When you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do (without them saying anything to you). You just know how people are feeling toward you. Dancers, we do this with auditions. We think, "Oh they don't like me or my dancing. Maybe it's my style. Yeah, they don't like my style. I should've worn my hair down, or maybe the red top." In careers, people assume they know exactly what their co-workers and bosses think. We write the script for someone else without even taking the other person into account. Stop that.

Castastrophizing: Danger! Danger! You always expect disaster! You hear details about something, and suddenly your brain takes off thinking of every horrible "what if" as if it's going to happen. Stop worrying about what you go wrong. Can you imagine it going right? How wonderful that could be!

Personalization: When you think everything someone does or says is some kind of reaction to you. Also, this includes comparing yourself to others, trying to determine who is better. Sometimes people say silly things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes they make choices that have nothing to do with you. As hard as those facts are to believe, they remain facts. Personalization is something dancers struggle with constantly. We sit in class and compare ourselves to the dancers in the room, and we are harsh on ourselves. That is mentally and emotionally cruel.

Control Fallacies: Perhaps you feel controlled by external factors, now you see yourself as helpless or a victim of fate. The fallacy of internal control makes you feel responsible for the pain and happiness of others around you. Let go of these worries. First, you have a purpose - choose it. You have control - use it. If you want to change your life, do it! Also, go ahead and let yourself off the hook. You are not responsible for someone else's happiness. They are. You can just be a pleasant presence in their life.

Fallacy of Fairness: You think you know "what's fair" but other people don't seem to get it. Don't fall into this trap. It just breed frustration and continued stress for you, as you direct anger toward whoever doesn't "get it."

Blaming: Perhaps you hold other people responsible for your pain, or the other way around, you think you are responsible for their pain. Stop placing blame. Forgive them, if they hurt you. Free yourself. Accept an apology you may never get, and keep living. Or forgive yourself. Don't keep re-living a mistake. We all make them.

"Should": You know you have a list of how you and other people should act or how things should be done. Then, when someone breaks one of these rules, you get angry! What they should have done, or should have said cannot be a factor weighing your life down. People rarely do what we think they should. Why should they? Why should we do what they think we should?

Emotional Reasoning: So you feel something, and you automatically know that must be true! If you feel ugly, then you must be ugly. See the error in this logic? You can't always follow emotions that flow through your head. You can't always listen to every thought that crosses your mind. Sometimes, they just aren't true.

Fallacy of Change: You think someone will change if you just pressure them enough, or love them enough, or if they love you enough. Stop thinking that if you change someone, your happiness will increase. Change does not equate to happiness.

Global Labeling: When you take one or two qualities you dislike, and make a negative global judgment. This blanket thinking is what leads us into stereotypes, accusations, jumping to conclusions and just... wrong thinking.

Being Right: Do you feel continually on trial to prove your thoughts, arguments, feelings are correct? Breathe. Relax. Stop that. Nobody has you on trial. You can think, argue and feel whatever you'd like, without having to prove them to anyone.

Heaven's Reward Fallacy: You sacrifice and deny yourself of things, like someone is keeping score. There is no score sheet. Trying to live a good life (being kind, being understanding, being loving) is a wonderful thing, but don't beat yourself up if you make mistakes or make a bad decision. It is OK. And it is going to be OK.

Distorted thinking can truly distort our lives. When you feel yourself feeling weak or exasperated, ask yourself if you are applying distorted thinking to a situation.

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