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10 Types of Distorted Thinking That Can Weaken Your Sobriety

Elevator controlPeople like to think of themselves as rational and in control, but the reality is that they can easily fall into distorted thinking. There will always be some cognitive inaccuracy, but as long as it is minor it will not have too much of an impact on the person’s life. Distorted thinking can be far more of a problem for those who are recovering from addiction problems because it can weaken their sobriety and mean they are at more risk of relapse.

Here are just 10 types of distorted thinking that can weaken your sobriety:

1. Catastrophising

 “The sky is falling, the sky is falling”

Chicken Little

Catastrophising refers to a situation where an individual is always expecting the worst to happen. An example of this would be receiving a sharp word from your boss, but then becoming convinced that this means you are about to be fired. People who catastrophise live a life that is full of drama, but this drama only really exists in their heads. The reality is that the worst possible scenario only ever occurs in very rare circumstances – and usually when it is not expected.

Catastrophising is not only an illogical thing to do; it can also greatly weaken your sobriety. The fact that you are always expecting the worst to happen means you begin to suffer from chronic stress because your body is constantly in a stage of high alert. Catastrophising can make life so unbearable that excuse for relapse is inevitable.

2. Reading Other People’s Minds

Somebody gives you a funny look or says the wrong thing and suddenly your mind is filled with all of these negative ideas about how this person views you – maybe this person is not your friend after all? Does this sound familiar? Unless you have a proven ability of reading minds, there is no way you could know what this other person is thinking about. It is more likely that what they said has nothing to do with you at all; maybe they said something without thinking or they are just having a bad day.

The best way to deal with others is to use the ‘principle of charity’. This means that you always try to assume the best motive for why they are behaving towards you in a certain way. If somebody says something hurtful, you could consider the possibility that he or she is under a lot of pressure. Of course, this does not mean that you should be willing to accept abusive comments or put yourself in a position where you are easily scammed; in these cases, you need to listen to your intuition.

3. Filtering Out the Good Stuff

Most things are never completely good or completely bad, but it can seem this way because distorted thinking can create a type of filtering function. In daily life you are bombarded with information, but there is no way that you could be conscious of it all and remain sane. The brain needs to filter all that data, but there can be problems due to how this is done. If you have a tendency towards negativity, it can mean that your mind deliberately filters out the good stuff in any given situation so you just focus on the bad. This means that life can feel much harder and more difficult than it is in reality.

The only way to bypass this filtering mechanism is to begin deliberately looking out for the good stuff. If you do this often enough, your brain will begin to do this for you automatically; it then becomes a habit that can greatly improve your life.

4. Black and White Thinking

It is easier for the human brain to put things into clear categories – good or bad and right or wrong. The problem is that the world is just not so easily categorised and most things fall into a type of grey area. If you have a tendency towards ‘black and white’ thinking, it can lead to a great deal of misunderstanding and, ultimately, suffering. It is better to always reserve judgement and do not just automatically jump to the simplest clear-cut conclusion. It is also important to avoid thinking in the extremes of either black or white.

5. The Need to Be Right

If you go online at any time of the day and visit any web forum or news comment section, you are going to find people arguing. These debates have rarely anything to do with sharing knowledge, but they are a fight between different people who have a need to be right. This need can lead to a lot of unnecessary thinking and can entrench unhelpful ways of thinking. It is important that you stop taking your beliefs and opinions so personally because the likelihood is that many of them are wrong – this is the same for all humans.

6. Magical Thinking

If you believe that just expecting good stuff to happen is going to guarantee your future happiness, you are probably engaging in magical thinking. The reality is that in order to make your future better, you need to take action; it is unreasonable to just expect the universe to do the work for you. Magical thinking is dangerous for those in recovery because it can lead to a type of learned helplessness so, when things do not unfold as you are expecting, it can become an excuse to relapse.

7. Relying Too Much on Emotion When Making Judgements

It is tempting to just label stuff as boring, depressing, or annoying when in fact this label is probably saying more about you than the thing that you are labelling. If you are at a party and you are feeling emotionally low, you may just decide that the party is boring; this might be the case at all and other people there might be having a great time. It is important when you make this type of judgement that you distinguish between how you are feeling emotionally and what is actually going on.

8. Thinking In Terms of ‘Should’

‘Should’ can be one of the most abusive words you can use against yourself. This always involves a negative judgement about yourself  and if you are dealing with any level of self-loathing, you will use this word to beat yourself up with – ‘I should be a better person’, ‘I should have got that right’, ‘I should never have said that’, etc. It is best if you can remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary completely or, at the very least, remove it from your inner dialogue.

9. Self-Handicapping

If you do not try your best, you will always have this as an excuse to defend your ego. The problem is that it also means that you are unlikely to achieve much in life. Trying your best does involve the risk of failure, but it is only really the people who never try their best who are the real failures in life.

10. Always Blaming

If things go wrong in your life, it will usually be possible to shift the blame elsewhere. If you fail an exam, you could blame the conditions in the exam room or the fact that the questions were unfair. The blame game can give you a bit of comfort, but ultimately it just holds you back in life because it means you never learn from your mistakes. Do not waste your time blaming but instead focus on finding out what you can learn from any situation that does not turn out as you planned it.

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