Do you struggle with taking compliments? Are you a mind reader? A minimizer? Or do you tend to take things personally? If you answered yes to any of these, you do not want to miss today's episode.
We're discussing 12 common thinking traps, what psychologists call cognitive distortions. These are ways of thinking that trip up every single one of us. The messages you tell yourself have a direct impact on the health of your relationships, so this is a great one to share with your family or friends.
Here's what we cover:
1. 12 common thinking traps
2. How to avoid toxic shame spirals
3. The problem with mind reading
4. How to stop taking things personally
5. Why we all need to learn how to take a compliment
Find a full transcript and list of resources from this episode here.
Do you have questions for Dr. Alison? Leave them here.
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Do you have questions for Dr. Alison? Leave them here
The Best of You (Chapter 4, Chapter 6)
More about Dr. Aaron Beck
Episode 39: Boundaries for Your Soul—How to Navigate Your Overwhelming Thoughts & Feelings
Episode 50: 9 Types of Intelligence, the Trap of Comparison, and How to Connect More Authentically with God
Episode 49: Personality, the Big Five Traits, and Why Are We So Obsessed With Personality Types?
The Best of You Podcast:
With Dr. Alison Cook
Episode 51: Favorite Psychology Tools
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Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn, together, how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, and welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You podcast. I am so glad you're here. We are in a new series on my Favorite Psychology Tools, and I've loved hearing from you about what this series has meant to you. That you've been sharing it with friends. With even your kids, with your spouse, as a way of having conversations about your differences in a healthy way, and I love that. I love that this podcast can be a way for you to spark conversations about some of these topics, with the people that you love.
So before we dive in, today, I want to remind you that I send out a short email, every Thursday, with bonus content related to each episode. Almost, always, I think of something I missed or want to expand on, and I include that in that weekly email. It's free and you can subscribe to it on my website, dralisandcook.com. You'll see a free newsletter button right there, or you can check the link in the episode show Notes.
So in this series, so far, we've been talking a lot about our differences. Differences in our personalities, and different types of intelligence. Different ways of using our minds and our personalities, to connect with God in our spiritual practices. And if there's one theme that I hope you are really grasping, so far, in these episodes, is that you develop a posture of curiosity about yourself and the way God made you, which is such a fun adventure.
Such a great way to look at life and get curious about the ways that God made other people, and the ways that they're simply different from you, and beginning to take some of this strength-based approach.
This is an approach, in psychology, that's often referred to as positive psychology. Where instead of focusing on diagnoses and mental illness, we begin to focus on different personality traits, differences between us that are just simply part of who we are. And while it's important to talk about diagnostic categories and where people are stuck in pathology or stuck in problematic ways.
It's also helpful to focus on our strengths and where we're simply looking at differences among us. Both are important, both matter and, in particular, when we start to focus on these personality differences, differences in gifting, et cetera. We begin to move from shaming ourselves or comparing ourselves to other people, and instead, we start to focus on becoming the person God wants me to become.
That comparison trap is just so awful and so terrible. We wind up shaming ourselves or criticizing and picking apart other people, and it just leads to nowhere good. It's so freeing, as you begin to understand yourself. You're able to compare yourself less to others. You stop worrying about what they're doing better than you, what they're like, what you're not doing, and you start focusing on how to grow into and build on your own strengths.
You start to appreciate and value what makes you unique, which is a healthy form of taking pride in who God made you to be. So in order to do all of that, it requires a certain amount of cognitive health. In order to avoid so many traps such as comparisons, shame spills, and toxic messages. We have to mind what we're telling ourselves.
We have to mind our thoughts. We have to think about what we're thinking about, this is called metacognition. That's the fancy term for thinking about what you're thinking about. It's about becoming aware of what you're telling yourself, of what you're saying to yourself, of what you're believing inside, sometimes, beneath conscious awareness. It's about taking "Captive every thought," as Paul said, and making sure that what you're telling yourself aligns with what God wants you to see in yourself.
In The Best of You, in chapter four, I call this "Looking at yourself through the mirror of truth, through God's mirror, and it starts with paying attention to your thoughts. And, so, today, I want to walk you through the most-common thought traps or what in psychology we call cognitive distortions.
These are distorted ways of thinking that keep you stuck. Cognitive distortions, which are really known as thinking errors, are patterns of biased and inaccurate thinking. And these patterns, that's the key word there, it's not just one thought that flashes into your mind and then you discard because you know it's not true. It's a patterned way of thinking, where you really slipped into a way of thinking that is not healthy for you, and it can lead to negative emotions. It can lead to self-doubt, it can lead to self-criticism, it can lead to shame, it can lead to negative behaviors.
You might start showing up in your relationships in certain ways based on lies or based on distorted ways of thinking, that simply are not true. It is tragic when I see this happening. Where people are believing a set of lies that are actually causing them to sabotage what is happening in their relationships. And I'm going to give you some examples of this, we all are susceptible to this.
So this is something that as we, again, look at our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. This is minding the mind, minding our thoughts. Really being careful to pay attention to what we're telling ourselves. Cognitive distortions involve errors in the way we perceive and interpret information.
So a classic example is your teenager is sullen, grumpy, they seem like they're in a bad mood, and you tell yourself, "They hate me. They're mad at me because I asked them to clean their room." When really what they're thinking about is something that happened at school that day that had, absolutely, nothing to do with you. But you're convinced, whether consciously or subconsciously, that their mood is completely related to you.
And, so, you change your behaviors based on what is, in fact, not true. And it gets really destructive if we don't catch ourselves and make sure that we are telling ourselves what's true or getting information that we need to investigate the things we're telling ourselves.
Cognitive distortions can lead to distorted or irrational beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, and they're triggered by a lot of factors. They're shaped by our past experiences, where if you've been abused or criticized, over and over, by a caregiver. You may be susceptible to some of these faulty thinking patterns because that criticism gets programmed into your mind. And, so, you filter everything you hear through that critical lens. This is something to become aware of as you start to heal.
These cognitive distortions can be triggered by some beliefs that we hold, even some of our religious beliefs. We can start to filter in ways that aren't quite matching up with reality. They can be triggered by personal biases that we've held and we haven't checked. These subtle biases that step in, where we have these ideas about how people are.
Again, maybe, we inherited these from our family of origin and we haven't really checked them out against reality. We haven't become good scientists who are "Taking every thought captive," as Paul said. And holding them under the lens of objective criteria to test ourselves. "Is that really true?"
I cannot tell you how many times I will ask clients that, let alone myself that "Is that really true?"
"Where did you hear that?"
"Who told you that?"
"Where did you pick up that belief, that idea, that attitude about yourself or about that other person? Let's test it. Let's weigh the evidence, let's unpack it." And, almost, always, especially, these negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. Almost, always, the person will realize they never really investigated the source of a deeply held belief, oftentimes, self-defeating, that they've been telling themselves.
Cognitive distortions were first identified by psychologist Aaron Beck. Who is considered to be the founder of cognitive therapy, and cognitive therapy is one of the most widely researched, most effective, most common forms of therapy out there. It focuses, exactly, on this very work of identifying and changing negative, unhelpful, patterns of thinking. And, especially, identifying how those negative, unhelpful, patterns of thinking are influencing behaviors in harmful ways. So it's pacing apart what's going on in your mind?
What are you telling yourself?
What are you believing?
What are you thinking that is leading to these behaviors that have become destructive? In your relationships, in the way you treat yourself, in your parenting, whatever it may be. So I'm going to walk through twelve common cognitive distortions, that we all deal with from time to time.
And I guarantee you, you are going to see yourself on this list in more ways than one. And if you do, as you're listening, if you are saying, "Oh, my gosh, I do that. Oh, that is me." That is a gift. That gift of awareness is the first step toward meaningful change. We cannot change what we are not aware of.
So my goal, in this episode, is to raise your awareness of some of the ways you might be subconsciously, habitually, without even realizing it, telling yourself things that may not, in fact, be true. And we're not going to be able to root all of them out today.
But to become aware of what you're telling yourself, of the things you think, of the things you believe on a day-to-day basis. Especially as they relate to your primary relationships, is life-changing. And at the end of this episode, I'm going to give you some tips on how you can begin to incorporate this practice into your daily time of self-reflection, of your daily prayer, of your daily mental health practices.
Because minding your mind, and tending to your thoughts, as with anything, takes practice, just like building any muscle. When you start to go to the gym and you start to work on a muscle, it's hard at first, but over time, as you practice, you begin to catch yourself more quickly.
And you might even still do it, you might even still say, "Oh, there I go, I'm completely mind reading right now. I'm completely telling myself that I know what that person's thinking when I have no idea what they're thinking." And you can name it and much more easily stop that from influencing your behaviors in negative ways.[00:13:47] < Music >
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Here are twelve, common, thought distortions that we all face. Number one is all-or-nothing thinking, also known as black-and-white thinking, and it means you consider everything in black-and-white terms. From one extreme to another, without considering the shades of gray, the nuances, the middle ground, where so many things, especially, when we're struggling and tempted to all-or-nothing thinking fits.
Usually, when we're in the middle of a struggle, things are very gray and murky, but we don't know how to live there. And, so, we tend to go to one extreme or the other.
And, so. here are some examples.
"I'm either perfect or I'm a complete failure."
"They either love me and think I'm amazing, or they hate me and think I'm the worst person in the world."
"I'm amazing as a mom, as a friend, as a wife, I am on it. I am amazing or I am just the worst." You just go from one extreme to the other, and a lot of this is normal to feel this way. This is that link between the way we feel and what we're thinking, and it's one thing to feel this way. To feel like "I feel like a complete failure." Even as, simultaneously, you know that's not true. That's what we're after.
You may not be able to completely change the feeling, that's present when you're doing all-or-nothing thinking of like "I know it's not true, but I just feel like a miserable failure." But the "I know it's not true" is very important. To say "I have to own the fact that I feel this way." And, simultaneously, "I know it's not true. I know that mistake I just made in parenting does not make me the world's worst parent." And, the hanging on just a little bit to that truth of "I had a bad moment" versus "I am a failure" is all the difference between a shame spiral and a bad moment.
This is so critical because if you really believe, inside, when you make a mistake, "I am a failure." That is a vicious, horrible, way to live. You just start to pile on layers and layers of shame on yourself.
But as you begin to parse through the feeling of, again, I'm using this example of, "I'm a failure." And the belief is just right there, side by side, going "I know I'm not a failure. I know it's just a bad moment. Two things can be true, I can feel like a failure in this moment and, simultaneously, I know every parent has terrible moments. Every spouse has terrible moments. Every colleague has terrible moments, it's okay."
You start to talk yourself back into that balance. Where there's some painful feelings there, but there's also some equilibrium. There's some truth-telling and that's what we are after, as we identify these cognitive distortions. We want to dig them out like weeds buried deep in the soil. We got to get them at the root and pull them out.
So that when there is some hard stuff, those weeds are not crowding us out and telling us lies about what's happened because the stuff is hard enough. The thing that's happened is going to be hard, but what we tell ourselves about it really matters. And if we're telling ourselves lies, if we're telling ourselves a thought distortion, which is that "You are either perfect or you are a failure." It's only going to make it worse. It's only going to pile on the shame.
Number two is overgeneralization, and this is where you draw sweeping, widespread, conclusions based on maybe one or two isolated incidences. It's a really sneaky distortion and we're all susceptible to it. A classic example is that you receive one C on a test. Overall, you've been a pretty good student, you've done pretty well. But you get that one C and you generalize that one incident to "I am terrible at science."
"I am a terrible writer."
"I am terrible at math."
And people do this, we have one bad experience in a class or get one bad grade and just write yourself off in that field for the rest of your life. Or somebody laughed at you once, this happened to me once. Somebody laughed at me once when I sang and I thought, "Well, I'm just a bad singer." And I'm actually not a terrible singer but I just generalized. I was like, "Well, that one incidence must lead to a sweeping truth about who I am."
Another example is you might generalize from a painful situation that happened. "One of my friends betrayed me, therefore, all people will eventually betray me." This is a really tragic byproduct of childhood trauma where if a parent betrays you, it's really easy in that young brain to generalize. To assume all adults are eventually going to betray you. We can even generalize to God, as children, "Well, if these people, who were in authority and were supposed to care for me, treated me this way." Generalize that to God.
This is a really normal way of making sense of complicated things. There's no shame in doing this, but we do want to become aware of it. And, you combat these by testing the data. "Wait a minute, that was one bad grade. Do I like science? Do I like music. Do I like singing? Do I want to write it off forever?"
"Wait a minute, that was one person who was really awful to me."
Let's look at the evidence, "Are there other people?" And you begin to gather data. You begin to embark on a process to find out what's really true. You can look at statistics, sometimes, and we can all sit around and guess what we feel, what might be subjectively true. But let's look at the data. What are the data out there?
Another classic case of this is people are terrified to fly. And then you look at the stats, and you realize it's actually far safer to fly than it is to drives. That's the actual fact. But we generalize based on a fear that we have during one bad flight, that all flying is terrifying, therefore all flying is unsafe. When, in fact, the data tells us a whole different story. So this is, again, minding your mind really paying attention to what you are subtly telling yourself and subtly believing.
Number three and four are two sides of the same coin. Three is mental filtering, and this is when you focus exclusively on the negative aspects of any situation while ignoring the positive. So you've got this mental filter in place where you just filter out the positive and you only see the negative.
So, for example, you might dwell only on the negative comments you receive from a romantic partner, or from a teacher, or from a work colleague, or a boss. Even when there is evidence that they've, actually, also given you affirmation and given you praise, you just can only see the negative.
Now, closely related to mental filtering, discounting the positive, this is number four. These two are very closely related. But disqualifying the positive means you acknowledge the positive. You hear it, it comes in, and then you just reject it. You just throw it away, and you figure out a way to completely pick it apart and disarm it. And if you think about these two categories, if you think about people who it's really hard for them to take a compliment. That would be someone who's really good at discounting the positive.
No matter what you say, they're going to say, "Mm, no, that's not really true."
You say, "Oh, you look so nice today."
"Oh, no I don't, I just woke up."
Or, "You did such a good job of that."
"Oh, no, it was nothing."
"No, really, that other person did all the work."
That person cannot accept positive feedback from you, and it really is a barrier to connection. It's a barrier to authenticity. Because taking in a compliment, taking in praise, or a positive from someone requires us to be vulnerable. There's a humility involved in saying, "Oh, thank you, that really meant a lot. I can receive that from you." Receiving praise from someone is a skill.
And, then, likewise, the person with the mental filter who doesn't even see the positive. That mental filter only sees and takes in the negative. You might think of someone who's really a pessimist. Someone who finds whatever the negative is and just goes there, and some of this is habit. Some of this is a protective mechanism.
There's a way in which this person is getting something by just staying so focused on the negative. That if they were to have to entertain the possibility of something positive. They might have to open up to hope, they might have to open up to change, and it could be really painful. It could break open something inside of them.
So, again, there's no shame. And if you see yourself, in these, or if you see someone you love in these, please tread lightly. Don't go trying to pull off the filter, it will not work. It's likely there for a reason, but gently begin to name it. "That's interesting, I notice you tend to gravitate toward the negative. I wonder what that's about? Tell me about that." And that person may not be able to respond, in that moment, but you're just gently getting curious. "I notice this." Or the person who always discounts the positive, who cannot receive a positive from you.
"I just noticed that I just said something complimentary to you and it seemed like it was hard for you to take that. I'm just curious about that. I wonder what that's about?"
And you can even say that rhetorically without requiring them to answer. Because this is tender stuff, this is vulnerable. These are coping strategies. They're there for a reason. These ways of thinking, these cognitive distortions, we've developed these, over time, for a reason. These are attached to parts of us, to go back to the series that we did on Boundaries for Your Soul. But these parts of us have taken up these ways of filtering out the positive or rejecting every compliment for a reason.
So we don't want to go trying to rip these all to people. What we want to do is get curious, come alongside ourselves, "I wonder why I do that. It's so hard for me when someone tells me something positive, I just want it to go away. I just can't take it." Or it's just like moth to a flame with negative news. "I just want to grab that negativity; I wonder what that's about?" Get curious, don't shame yourself, don't shame others. Get curious, as you consider all of these twelve examples that we're going through today.
This is one of my favorites, number five, mind reading. I pride myself on being a little bit of a mind reader. I know what people are thinking. I know what they're feeling, and this is the flip side of the gift of empathy. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we do have a pretty good sense of what other people are thinking and feeling.
Some of us are pretty good about that. It gets back to that interpersonal, intelligence, we talked about in episode 50. And we pride ourselves that we're pretty good at picking up on subtext and cues from other people. But I promise you, even if you're pretty good at reading other people, you will sometimes be wrong, and you do sometimes have blind spots. So mind reading is making assumptions or interpretations without sufficient evidence.
We jump to conclusions about what's going on, usually in another person, without really knowing what they're thinking or what they're feeling in that moment. Sometimes you might be right, if it's a kid you know really well, a friend, or a spouse, you probably can anticipate what's going through their mind. But you are not always right, and this is why I always say it is so important to just ask.
One of my favorite phrases to say to people is, "I'm imagining that you might be feeling this."
Or "I imagine that you might be thinking this, is that right? Can you tell me more?"
To open up a conversation, giving them a chance to let me know if I'm accurate or not because I'm not always accurate. When we mind read without being consciously aware of it and consciously checking ourselves, with humility, to realize that we are not ultimately mind readers. We can change our behaviors based on things that are not true. This is that example of a teen is grumpy at dinner, and you assume it's because of something you cooked, or something you did, or something you asked.
You might even discipline your teen when really they had a bad day and it has nothing to do with you. And, so, you've got to say, "Hey, I notice, it seems like maybe something's on your mind. Is everything okay?" They might brush you off, they might not answer, but at least you checked it out.
Now, an extreme example of mind reading is when you attribute something to someone that is not based in any form of truth. For example, you're out to dinner with friends, and they offer to pay the bill. And you assume that they did that because they think you're a failure and can't hack it on your own, and you attribute something to their actions that is not, in fact, true.
Closely related to mind reading, another form of jumping to conclusions, number six is fortune telling. This is when you make predictions about the future based on little or no evidence. You predict something and hold it as the truth. You really fixate on it without really doing the work to gather information, to see if you're basing that on actual evidence.
Here's an example of how this can influence your behavior. And, again, these are tricky, these are sneaky. A lot of times these are subconscious. But you'll hear someone say, "I'll never find love." because they've had a couple of really bad relational experiences. Right after something really hard happens, we might feel like "I'm never going to find love."
Or "I'm never going to find a job I love."
Or "I'm never going to find friends." But the reality is, odds are you probably will. If we look at the data, most people tend to find a friend or two. But if you're telling yourself, "I'll never be someone who finds a friend."
Or "I'll never be someone who finds love."
Or "I'll never be someone who finds a job." That becomes a little bit of what we call these self-fulfilling prophecies,where if you believe it strongly enough, you can start to will it into being, and this isn't a magical thing.
This is if you really believe you're someone who can't find friends, your behaviors will start to align with somebody who doesn't know how to be a friend. As opposed to saying, "Wait a minute, I've had a couple of bad experiences. I think I can find friendship; I think I can find belonging. How can I align my actions in ways that allow me more of a possibility, more of a probability for that to become true?"[00:32:43] < Music >
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Number seven is emotional reasoning. I've been alluding to this throughout. It's believing that your emotions are accurate reflections of reality. This is a tricky one because emotions are important. They have important information for us. They're important cues, that stuff is happening. But it doesn't mean they always tell us the truth about a situation.
In The Best of You, I talk about this in chapter six, where I talked about facts, faith, and feelings. You have to hold them in balance with each other. Your feelings are not always facts; they are a piece of data that you have to hold in tension with the facts of a situation. Almost all of us have bought into this particular distortion. And it's, essentially, when you say, "I feel it, therefore it must be true."
Now, the subtle nature of this is you feel it, and that is true. It is true that you feel it, but it doesn't mean that what you feel is true. And, so, for example, going back to that all-or-nothing example when you say, "I feel like a failure." I believe you, that you feel like a complete failure in this moment. That doesn't mean you are, in fact, a failure. That's the difference here. The feeling is true in the sense that you feel it, and we need to deal with that because it's important information. But it does not mean that it is, in fact, true.
You might feel suspicious of somebody's motives, and that might be true. It might mean that they have poor motives. It might not be true. There's a leap between that feeling of suspicion and what is, in fact, true. You might feel like someone doesn't like you, and that might be true, or it may well not be true.
Again, this gets at that mind reading. You may feel like you know what they're thinking about you. But you don't actually know what they're thinking about you, until you ask them. Until you gather data. And this is just such an important one, deeply important foundational, in our daily practice of staying aware of what is in our minds.
Our feelings can really overtake us. "I feel this so deeply, it must be true." And just always holding that in tension with, "I feel this so deeply and I'm going to journal about it,
and I'm going to try to unpack it, and I'm going to try to understand it." While, simultaneously, always holding that little part of you that says, "What is true?"
Again, with curiosity, you may not arrive at the solution to this today. And this is the thing about minding our minds, it takes work. It's a discipline. It takes practice.I'm a big journaler. I journal every morning because it takes me a few laps around the track of my feelings, to arrive at what's actually true.
Sometimes it takes me a few days, sometimes it takes me months, and it takes some patience. The Fruit of the Spirit of patience, the Fruit of the Spirit of self-control. To take the time that I need to take about a feeling that I'm having. To bring it into tension with what the facts are, to bring it into tension with what God is saying to me, to arrive at conclusions that dictate my actions.
We are complicated beings, and it takes some work to pay attention to what we're paying attention to. So that the way that we behave in the world is grounded on wisdom, and rationality, and sound practices.
Number eight labeling, I talk about this a lot on here. We don't want to label people. We don't want to slap a sticker on ourselves or other people. We want to name patterns of behavior. Labeling is applying a negative label to yourself, to someone else. Based on a very singular incident, a singular character trait, just an unfair representation of the entirety of that person.
This is really an extreme form of overgeneralization. It's saying "That person didn't come through for me in the moment, therefore, they are unreliable. That's an unreliable person because one time they didn't come through for me."
Now, if that person, continually, over time, never comes through for you, and is always letting you down. Then it might be fair to say that person has shown me unreliable patterns of behavior, I can't count on that person, that's wisdom.
But to make an attribution of that's an unreliable person, that's an irresponsible person, that's a lazy person, that's a critical person, whatever the label is. Without really getting a chance to see the whole of who that person is and, again, we probably more frequently do this to ourselves.
Probably more frequently are we inclined to attribute a negative label to ourselves. "I'm lazy."
It's just not true. The whole gestalt, the whole big picture of who we are does not support that unilateral labeling, and it's not helpful. It doesn't actually help us be the person we want to become.
Number nine catastrophizing, another really common one. It's assuming the worst-case scenario is inevitable, in any given moment, when something bad happens. We all have friends like this, some of us are like this. Some of you have kids who are like this. Where no matter what happens, it is the worst thing ever. "My life is going to fall apart because I did not get the grade that I wanted."
"My life is going to fall apart because I didn't get invited to that party."
"My life is going to fall apart because I didn't get that invitation."
"My life is going to fall apart because I didn't make that deadline."
Whatever it is, we extrapolate it to the worst-case scenario. We can even do it to our mental health. "I feel anxious, today. Ah, I am an anxious person. I'm going to feel anxious for the rest of my life."
Number ten is should statements, another really common, unhelpful, thought pattern, and we do this to ourselves so often. Should statements are statements that you make to yourself about what you should do, what you ought to do, what you must do, what you should never do.
We can also do it in the negative. We can apply them to others; "They should not be doing that." There's always a tone of judgment in there. Shoulding is often linked to judgment. "I should really be better at this."
"I should be a better friend."
"I should be a better parent."
"I should never lose my temper."
"I should never get angry."
"I should never feel sad."
"I shouldn't feel this way about this other person."
"I shouldn't feel this way about myself, about God, about church about...." Whatever it is, we should ourselves to death. "I should do this."
"I should do that."
"I should do this." When I started paying attention to my shoulds, this was about ten years ago, I consciously started to pay attention to shoulds based on the help of a spiritual director. I could not believe how life changing it was and how I drove myself with shoulds. Often linked to an inner guilt tripper, "I should do this." And, so, often it was squeezing out the actual better choice, the life-giving choice before God.
When we hang on to should statements about ourselves, we live in the guilt trap that we cannot live up to. And we often don't end up making the wisest decisions. When we cling to should statements about others, we are always going to be disappointed. We're going to risk being judgmental. We're going to risk being critical in ways that are not necessary.
Number eleven is personalization, another common one. I guess all of these are common, that's my conclusion. Because every single time I get to one of these I'm like, "Yes." This is where we take responsibility or blame for events or situations that are beyond our control. Now that sounds abstract, what this really looks like is taking things personally. And this is a tough one that is so important to get on top of, especially, as a parent or in a romantic relationship, where things just have to come to the surface.
Fundamental differences of someone being annoyed that the dishes are in the sink, or someone being annoyed about the way you brush your teeth, or someone being annoyed that you're talking too loudly on the phone, while they're trying to study, and it's not personal. It's not actually about you. It's just something that is outside of the two people that is the cause of irritance, that two people, together, need to work through. And when we take it personally, we make it even harder to work through to a healthy conclusion or a healthy compromise.
And, so, there are a wide spectrum of ways this can come up. From the simple ones, like I said, of just taking it personally when our spouse says, "Hey, could you not leave the cap off the toothpaste."
And we go, "What? You think I'm a bad person? You think I'm unthoughtful?"
No, it was a simple request of, "Hey, could you please put the cap back on the toothpaste?" There's no personal attack in that. There's no personal judgment in that. That's a simple example but it's very real, and these things can drive us crazy in our relationships. To bigger things where you believe that you are the cause of everybody else's feelings. This gets back to the mind reading, but you mind read in such a way that it's always your fault.
So let's say you plan an event and someone didn't have a good time at it. You assume it's your fault. It's your fault that every person there didn't have the time of their lives because you didn't attend to every single detail perfectly. You take it personally when, in fact, maybe that other person didn't have a good time for a million other reasons that have nothing to do with you.
So this is a tough one, because sometimes it is personal. Sometimes it is personal, and a lot of times it's not. Research from psychology would tell us that we do better for ourselves if we assume that it's not. The less we take things personally, the more effective we'll be in our relationships.
And, finally, we've arrived at minimizing. Minimizing is so common, and it's a way of downplaying the importance or significance of an event, a situation, or a behavior. Often to avoid complicated feelings about it. It can often happen when we've been hurt and we minimize it, "Oh, it's nothing, it's fine. I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
When, in fact, there really is a hurt there. There really is something that happened` that hurt, and maybe we don't want to make a big deal about it, but we do need to acknowledge it. And, again, this is a lot of work that happens in the privacy of our own heart, and I do a lot of journaling related to this. Because I'm a big minimizer, and I've learned that it doesn't really serve other people when I minimize things.
But what I've had to learn to do is write it in my journal and be like, "Yes, this hurt me." And, then, really, think through "When, and if, and how I need to say that or raise that to the surface." One of the things I like to do, in my own life for this, is just use a simple phrase, I'll say "Ouch". Which is just an acknowledgment of, "Yes, ouch, that hurt." I don't need to have a big conversation about it, but I'm not lying. I'm not saying, "No, it's fine."
I'm saying "Ouch, that was a bruise."
Some indication that there was a hurt there. Now, the truth is, sometimes, it's wise to minimize in the sense of if we're doing it accurately. If we're saying "No, it's really no big deal." But this gets at the honesty. That H-Factor we talked about in the episode on Personality, episode 49.
The more we're honest with ourselves and the more we say, "No, it's really not a big deal. I really don't mind this." Comes out of knowing and trusting ourselves that we will say, "Actually, that one does bother me."
"I do care about this one."
"I do have a preference on this one."
"I do need to talk about this one." We build trust with ourselves, as we get really clear about when we're minimizing in an unhealthy way. Versus when we're being really honest and having a lot of integrity and saying, "It's really not a big deal." This is an important one for us to work out in the privacy of our own hearts.
Gosh, as we close today, I feel like I could have, probably, done a complete episode on every single one of those. So we will come back to these. They're so important. We're just scratching the surface today. Just begin to pay attention, to become aware. Talk to other people about this. You might share this with a small group, with friends, with a friend circle, with a spouse, in your family.
You can use this episode as a way of saying, "Hey, let's talk about this. I think we're doing this in our family. Let's work on one or two of these."
"In the context of our family, we tend to take things personally, let's work on that. Let's talk about that."
Use this as a springboard for conversations with the people in your life. And, then, also, use this as an opportunity to grow in daily awareness.
I'm a big believer and every morning I take inventory,I think about how I'm doing mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, it's an important daily habit for me. I understand different seasons of life are different for different people. There have been seasons of life where that's been harder for me.
But I would say that's an ideal place every morning just to take inventory, and I do that simple MEPs exercise. And I start with the M - what am I thinking about?
What am I telling myself?
What am I feeling?
Because sometimes those things are hard to parse out, and I just jot a few sentences about it. Sometimes a word just to grow in awareness, and then you invite God into that. "God, help me, help me notice when I'm deceiving myself. When I'm fooling myself. When I'm shaming myself. When I'm shoulding myself, when I'm susceptible to all-or-nothing thinking. When I'm jumping to conclusions, when I'm mind reading. Just help me pay attention to what I'm telling myself." And if you don't have time to do it in the morning, throughout the day—iIf you're driving around kids, when you're in the carpool pickup lane. When you have a few moments at the traffic, turn off the radio, turn off the podcast, and just check in with what you're thinking about. Where's your mind?
What are you telling yourself?"
When you're in the shower, when you're cooking dinner? Where are moments, regular rhythms, throughout the day, things that you do every day that you can train yourself to say, "This is a time when I turn off the radio, I turn off the podcast, I get off the phone, and I just check in with my own mind." And ask the Lord to be with you in that. To help you pay attention and attune to what you're thinking about, and help you align what you're thinking about with what's really true. Just start there.
You don't have to clean it up overnight, but just start paying attention to what you're thinking about and align yourself with what is good, with what is true, with what is beautiful. So that you can begin to become a better, truer, version of your God-given self.[00:15:33] < Outro >
Thank you for joining me for this week's episode of The Best of You. It would mean so much if you'd take a moment to subscribe. You can go to Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts, and click the plus or Follow button. That will ensure you don't miss an episode and it helps get the word out to others.
While you're there, I'd love it if you'd leave your five-star review. I look forward to seeing you back here, next Thursday, and remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.
27th April 2023
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