Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.
Epictetus, born 55 A.D.
In my book “I’m a Type A—How the Heck Will I Ever Retire?” I talk a lot about how what we think influences our attitude, mood, and behavior. I discuss how, unbeknownst to many of us, we have a constant internal dialogue occurring in our minds, and how these thoughts are quite often negative and irrational. This is unfortunate, since this can cause us to be unhappy and lead to dysfunctional behavior.
You might say, “But Tim, I have read many of your articles on ‘Stress & Anxiety,’ and you are clearly a crazy person. I am a normal person, so why should I be interested in this?”
Excellent point. I am glad to have such perceptive (if not overly compassionate) followers!
Well, I think many of you “normal” people can learn a thing or two from wacky people like me. If you want to, say, lose a few pounds, wouldn’t you prefer to get help from someone who has studied about nutrition and weight loss for decades, and who might have even lost a significant amount of weight themselves? As a result of my chronic anxiety, I have researched and studied negative and irrational thinking extensively and have also been pretty successful in managing it in my own life.
Do you ever experience distorted thinking? If you have ever had any thoughts similar to these, then you have:
- You eat a spoonful of ice cream and think to yourself, “I’ve blown my diet.”
- You do a presentation at work and receive many positive comments, but also one mild criticism. You dwell on that one negative remark over and over for days.
- A sales clerk is very abrupt with you and you think you must have said something to upset him.
If any of these examples sound at all familiar then you are also a bit crazy, just like me! (Knowing you, I’ve suspected this for a while now.) Of course, we are all human, and therefore have failings and insecurities, so it is quite common for us to have such thoughts from time to time.
We can all benefit from being aware of common types of distorted thinking, as well as techniques for spotting and replacing it with more positive and realistic thoughts. And so, this is the first article in a series of posts I will make on this subject. I think you will find these concepts enlightening and useful—I want my followers to be happy!
My next post in this series will address a cognitive therapy tool called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (“REBT”). I learned about this many years ago and have found it tremendously useful. The purpose of REBT is to help people replace distorted thinking with more rational beliefs. I will then follow with posts describing the ten most common types of negative and irrational thought patterns, as outlined in Scott Burns’ excellent book titled “The Feeling Good Handbook.”
I encourage you to comment on my website at the end of each article. You can weigh in on how useful the concepts are, or just provide a relevant example from your own experience. It will make it more fun!
I will offer one quick tip on this subject as a takeaway: the words “always” and “never” are red flags indicative of negative or irrational thinking, such as in “I always say something stupid at social events” and “I’ll never lose that last 5 lbs.!”