Art By Miriam speaks about a new worksheet she is using to help her deal with negative self-talk and her anxiety.  With counteractive positive statements, the negative thoughts don’t have as much control on you.

I am reading a book called The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD.  It is one of two books that I am reading to help me with my anxiety.  I have taken an hour (Mondays at 10:00) with a candle burning to read about and face my fears and anxiety.  Then when I am done I have a cup of tea to relax.  All this is a ritual to engulf me in positive thoughts as I face my fears.

What I learned in the book is to use a worksheet to look at what they call Cognitive Distortions.  The worksheet is simply two columns, one for the type of Cognitive Distortion (there are four) and the second for the Rational Counterstatements.  It is relatively easy to make up this worksheet for yourself.  Then you monitor your negative self-talk for a week to see which of the four distortions are the most common and you write down counterstatements for them.

So the four cognitive distortions are:  overgeneralizing, filtering, emotional reasoning and should statements.

In overgeneralizing we tend to use statements such as always, never, everyone and no one.  One assumes (usually falsely) that just because one had a negative experience somewhere they will always have a negative experience at that place.  For example, just because you had a negative experience in a shopping mall may make you think that you will always have a negative experience in a shopping mall.  If you keep thinking this way you may never go shopping again.  So a way to counteract this way of thinking is to think to yourself is there evidence of this happening.  You say to yourself it only happened once so there is no evidence that it happened repeatedly.  The counterstatement might be that I may have to stop shopping for the week but next week I can go back and try again.  With baby steps I can slowly face my fear and work myself back to shopping at that mall again.  Words to look for and write on your worksheet are always, never, everyone and no one.

Filtering is when we filter out all the positive around a situation and focus on the negative.  For example you may have had a performance review at work with two negative comments and many good comments.  You decide to focus on the negative and think that you are not worth anything and a failure.  The counterstatement would be that there were many positive statements and that you should focus on the positive statements and not the negative ones.  Then you would actually feel like you are someone of worth.  Words that you should look for are failure, worthless or hopeless.  These are negative labels.  With a positive counterstatement we can stop the downward spiral of negative self talk.

Emotional Reasoning is when we evaluate something totally based on feelings instead of rationalizing about it.  For example, because you feel a certain way then you are that certain way.  For example, I feel ugly and therefore am ugly, useless, incompetent etc.  A counterstatement would be are you going solely according to your feelings instead of being rational or objective about it.  What is the evidence that your feelings are true.  So the exercise is to monitor your thoughts for a week and write down when you make judgments based solely on how you are feeling.

Should Statements are when you constantly say I should do this or I must do that or I have to.  How can you tell when your should statements are appropriate and when they are due to a stress induced habit?  Some ways are to ask yourself if the standard is flexible allowing for exceptions?  Is it based on your feelings or did you inherit from your parents for example?  Is the standard realistic or is it based on a feeling?  Is the standard enhancing to your life (taking into account your needs and feelings) or is it restricting?  So for a week write down your should statements and then challenge them with positive counterstatements.  The example was that you have a feeling that you should always be pleasing and positive to others.  The questioning is do I do this because I have tested it out myself or is it because of something my parents taught me.  The Counterstatement is that my mother told me to be always pleasing and positive to others, but realistically it is ok to sometimes not be pleasing and positive.  There are times when I don’t really feel like being cheerful and pleasing.

So I will use this worksheet for the next week trying to figure out what my negative self-talk is and how it effects me.  I will at the same time try to use positive counterstatements.  I already know that I am not doing Emotional Reasoning much.  But I do do Filtering, Overgeneralizing and Should Statements.

Hopefully you have enjoyed this blog.  Perhaps my journey into facing my anxiety and fears can help you look more closely at yourself and help you along the way at the same time.  If you have liked the blog please like or comment below.  Please share on Facebook too.  Unfortunately I have learned that you can’t retweet my blogs which is a shame.  Please like them.  It always helps me personally to know that people are reading what I write.  It makes my day actually.  Enjoy!