When your thoughts get you into emotional trouble
The sum of your thoughts is equal to the result of your inner peace and happiness.
Here’s an example: 2 + 2 = 5. If you read that, the thought “2 + 2 = 5” was in your head. But the simple fact that you thought it doesn’t make it true.
Why do some of us experience more anxiety than others?
Studies show, when we experience emotional instability in early childhood, our mindset gets into the habit of creating irrational thoughts that are just unhelpful. Anxiety and depression are the result of these thoughts. We essentially depress ourselves through irrational or distorted thoughts during these experiences. For example: when your mother and father’s explosive fights were unpredictable and downright scary, your mindset likely told you, “I’m not being taken care of, and if they don’t take care of me, nobody ever will.” This becomes your personal philosophy; you then find evidence all day long to prove your theory.
This type of All Or None thinking is irrational or distorted. As Psychology Today Magazine writes: When you engage in all or nothing thinking, you evaluate your life in extreme terms: It’s either perfect or a disaster. You’re either a total success or a total failure. This is distorted thinking because life is a mixed bag for all of us.
Going to one of these two extremes when evaluating your life is fertile ground for self-blame and even self-hatred, because what you’re really doing is demanding perfection from yourself, since the only alternative you’re willing to consider is failure, and no one is happy with that.
As young adults, it is important to identify and eliminate these unhelpful mental habits that cause excessive emotional suffering. Good news! You can actually “unlearn” the thoughts that trigger your anxiety. Here are some tools to keep in mind for your emotional toolbox 🧰:
Your thoughts are not inherently true or helpful; to assume they are is a recipe for emotional suffering. When you assume every thought your mind throws at you is true, you end up thinking more about it.
If some negative self-talk about a recent mistake you made or about a feeling that someone doesn’t have your back pops into your mind, your habit of believing all your thoughts is going to lead to a lot of excess disappointment, guilt, or shame resulting in anxiety and depression.
Overthinking and worry about the future is at the root of most forms of emotional suffering. Try to stop believing that all your thoughts are true, and you’ll stop overthinking so much. Stay in the moment! “The present is a gift”.
Looking for meaning in everything is often a defense mechanism against the fear of uncertainty. But for some people — especially those raised in chaotic or extremely unpredictable environments learned to view uncertainty as dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. Uncertainty causes anxiety. One common way to avoid the anxiety of uncertainty is to read meaning into everything. By telling ourselves that everything means something, we give ourselves the illusion of certainty.
Practice accepting uncertainty in small ways in order to face the challenges it brings you.
We tend to use control as a defense to overcome fear of helplessness.
The truth about control is you can only control yourself, not others.
Relevant examples: You can’t control your girlfriends’, friends’ roommates’ brothers’ or parents’ behaviors or comments. If your GF makes a plan with her roommates that doesn’t include you, it’s not in your control nor necessarily personally against you. You can’t control your roommate’s drug habits, cleanliness or study habits-it’s separate from you. When you found out that your friend hooked up with your ex, your thoughts lead you to a surge of anger, frustration and disappointment. It’s unlikely that he was thinking about hurting you in that decision.
What can you control?
Your conscious ability to sit with the discomfort of extreme disappointment rather than react, will give you a more desired outcome emotionally.
Take a breath, to pause and reflect on your automatic thoughts. Are they absolutely true? Are they productive or necessary?
When your unconscious belief is that you should be able to control the outcome of everything, you end up with unrealistically high expectations for yourself and others.. And inevitably, these expectations get violated, leading to big emotional swings.
Lowering your expectations to a realistic level doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you’re being honest with yourself.
Accept that you can’t control nearly as much as you’d like.
Everyone experiences painful emotions. Becoming a more emotionally stable person means that you improve your relationship with your emotions by cultivating healthy ways of responding to them:
Don’t believe everything you think.
Stop judging yourself for how you feel.
Give up trying to control everything.
Make decisions based on your values, not your feelings.
Linda Jacobs, MA- LMHC