Our thoughts are constantly helping us to interpret the world around us, describing what’s happening, and trying to make sense of it by helping us interpret events, sights, sounds, smells, feelings. Without even realizing it, we are interpreting and giving our own meanings to everything happening around us. We might decide that something is pleasant or nasty, good or bad, dangerous or safe.
event ——> meaning we give event ——-> emotions
relapse ——> failure ——–> desparation
Because of our previous experiences, our upbringing, our culture, religious beliefs and family values, we may well make very different interpretations and evaluations of situations than someone else. These interpretations and meanings we give events and situations, result in physical and emotional feelings. Something happens or we notice something, which triggers a thought. Particular types of thoughts tend to lead to particular emotions.
I am in danger
fear, anxiety 😯
I was mistreated
Can be words, an image, a memory, a physical sensation, an imagined sound, or based on ‘intuition’ – a sense of just ‘knowing’
Believable – we tend to automatically believe our thoughts, usually not stopping to question their validity. When another driver cuts me up, I might judge that he’s a selfish thoughtless toad, but in fact, he might be taking his wife to hospital as she’s about to give birth. Thoughts are not necessarily true, accurate or helpful.
Are automatic. They just happen, popping into your head and you often won’t even notice them.
Our thoughts are ours – they can be quite specific to us, perhaps because of our present or past experience, knowledge, values and culture, or just for no good reason at all. Some thoughts are so out of keeping with all those things, and that can make them seem all the more distressing – because we add some meaning about why we had them (I must be a bad person!)
Habitual and persistent – our thoughts seem to repeat over and over, and the more they repeat, the more believable they seem, then they set off a whole chain of new related thoughts that lead us to feel worse and worse. They can follow themes, for short periods, or very often, throughout years and decades.
UNHEALTHY AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS
Mental Filter: When we notice only what the filter allows us to notice, and we dismiss anything that doesn’t ‘fit’. Like looking through dark blinkers or ‘gloomy specs’, or only catching the negative stuff in our ‘kitchen strainers’ whilst anything more positive or realistic is ignored, dismissed or we make excuses for; Am I only noticing the bad stuff? Am I filtering out the positives? Am I wearing those ‘gloomy specs’? What would be more realistic?
Mind-Reading: Assuming we know what others are thinking (usually about us); Am I assuming I know what others are thinking? What’s the evidence? Those are my own thoughts, not theirs. Is there another, more balanced way of looking at it?
Prediction: Believing we know what’s going to happen in the future; Am I thinking that I can predict the future? How likely is it that that might really happen?
Compare and despair: Seeing only the good and positive aspects in others, and comparing ourselves negatively against them; Am I doing that ‘compare and despair’ thing? What would be a more balanced and helpful way of looking at it?
There are other automatic thoughts that are especially predominent in addiction. They mainly apply to discoounting the negative and focusing on the positive (Dr. Burns). For example:
Maximizing: When gambling, I boast about winning, but never tell others I lost money. I attribute my winnings to skill, but when I loose I feel like I did not have luck that day.
Minimizing: Oh, I only had a couple of drinks (when in fact I had 6 drinks)
Justifying: I worked hard, I deserve a drink.
Rationalizing: I will only gamble the $50 I got as a birthday gift. It’s mine. I am not taking it from the family budget.
Denying: It’s not a problem; It’s not a big deal;
Blame: If my wife/husband were more supportive I would not have a reason to drink
Anger: She drives me to it with her constant nagging
Becasue our thoughts are automatic, habitual, persistent and believable; It is especially important to pay attention to what it is that we say to ourselves and how we porcess and interpret situations and information.
Our thinking can be what is driving our addiction, so challenging and changing unhelpful thought patterns may be just the right way to start the process of recovery.
After all if we look at all self-help programs available in the community, one thing they have incomon is the wisdom they teach by their slogans and saying. A lot of this wisdom is designed to help us change unhelpful and unhealthy patterns of thinking; i.e. “Live and Let Live”; simply means, to let go off trying to control others, have high expectations, and avoid perfection. All I need to do is worry about myself, and how I want to live; I shall let others do the same. Simple and easy. No stress, no control, no disappointments.
So, you can now begin to change your thinking and become more positive and accepting person. Here are some more slogans to help you accomplish this:
- Live and Let Live
- First Things First
- One day at a time
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
- Misery is optional
- Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less
- Live life on life’s terms
- Your worth should never depend on another persons opinion
- SLIP = Sobriety Lost Its Priority
- If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got
- Progress, not perfection
- Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die
- Keep it simple
- Recovery is a journey …not a destination
- Willingness is the key
- Take what you need and leave the rest
- Just for Today
- When all else fails, follow directions
- Change is a process, not an event
- An addict cannot be grateful and hateful at the same time
- Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace amid the storm
- Feelings are not facts
- Principles before personalities