Sunday, February 1, 2015

Some Forms Of Distorted Thinking

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Throughout the duration of my intentional healing journey I have been fortunate to encounter other people committed to their own personal health and wellness.  I have also done my own personal research.  I enjoy being a researcher.

Below appear some forms of distorted thinking I recognize I have engaged in.  I still struggle with some of these ways of thinking.  Below each type of thinking appears my own brief commentary of my own experience.

Polarized Thinking. Things are black or white, good or bad.  You have to be perfect or you're a failure. There is no middle ground.

I often would refer to this as black and white thinking.  This form of thinking is one that I once struggled with quite a bit.  I think it's true that people prone to perfectionism may engage in such thinking.  Some particular expressions that could reflect a polarized way of thinking might include these:

"If something isn't perfect then it isn't worth anything."
 "If I don't get all A's I might as well not show up to school."
"My hair looks dreadful.  I won't leave the house today because I feel too self-conscious."
"If I don't overcome the obstacles and challenges of my earlier life by a certain age then I should not have bothered to begin with."

I was fortunate to recognize my own pattern of black and white thinking early in my return to the process of conscious healing.  I still have my moments when I feel myself getting caught up in it again. But unlike earlier in my life I find I am able to stop myself from continuing to think (and then subsequently behave) in such a self-defeating way.

Catastrophizing.  You expect disaster.  You notice or hear about a problem and start "what if's".  What if tragedy strikes?  What if it happens to you?

I don't feel that I exactly expect disaster.  But I do sometimes feel doomed to be consistently disappointed with the behavior of others.  I have experienced enough hardship in my life that misfortune is not something that really blindsides me when I experience it.

It is my impression that people who experience trauma may manifest behaviors associated with catastrophizing if they feel hypervigilant.  A person caught in a hypervigilant state of being may be prone to looking over his shoulder or isolating in ways that reduce the risk of exposure to unpleasant stimulation.  Such avoidance may come from an immense fear of being harmed again.  In some way engaging in catastrophic thinking might feel protective to the person doing it.  By expecting the worst you can somehow perhaps better prepare yourself for it and thereby increase your chance of survival.

Fallacy of Fairness.  You feel resentful because you think you know what's fair but other people won't agree with you.

This is a big one to watch out for.  Given my experience of institutional corruption and severe family dysfunction I often felt very aggrieved and victimized.  I felt resentment because I was treated very badly.  And yet despite all my suffering it would be quite a leap to assert that I and I alone know what is generally fair.

A fair and just world is something we can co-create with intention and dedication.  People ultimately have very different ideas about what fairness is.  The same would hold true for justice.

Shoulds.  You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act.  People who break the rules anger you and you feel guilty if you violate the rules.

I have been struggling with this one lately.  My worst should statement is "I should not need this much help."  Unfortunately there can be times in our own lives when we need a lot of help.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this.

Following the rules is another important sore point for me.  I see clearly that I was carrying a lot of resentment due to the fact that I have followed the rules of society while others have broken them with relative impunity.  I would rather not live in such an unjust world.  But then again we all have things we dream of experiencing that are quite unlike what our lives our actually like on a day to day basis.

Heaven's Reward Fallacy.  You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there were someone keeping score.  You feel bitter when the reward doesn't come.

This form of distorted thinking has been a problem for me in the years since I most recently completed graduate school.  I thought my life would be quite different by now.  I spent a lot of time going to school and preparing myself for a glorious career that has yet to materialize.  I am not sure if it ever will. The disappointments of the last few years have been truly sobering.


I am a much healthier man than I was nineteen months ago.  This much is clear.  I have had sufficient input from a number of friends to know that my progress is genuine.  But I still feel sad.  I feel sad for the little boy and teenager I once was who developed such a distorted sense of self.  I feel sad due to the very lengthy period of time I spent perceiving the world in a distorted way.  I want to choose to not be that wounded person any more.  I wish to be a new man.

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