Do You Have “Stinkin’ Thinking”? 8-10

As the Imagine Hope therapists have covered, "Stinkin' Thinking", or Cognitive Distortions are the different ways of thinking that can sabotage our personal happiness and our relationships with others.  While they are sometimes logical, they are also not rational.  It's important to be able to identify the different ways you might have "Stinkin' Thinking", in order to challenge your irrational thoughts and replace them with healthier ways of thinking.  Today we will cover the final distortions in our thoughts: 8.  Should Statements:  You try to motivate yourself with "should" and "shouldn't", but most often this is in a shaming and negative way.  "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders.  The emotional consequences are guilt.  When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.  Examples of this include:  If you are invited to attend a social event, but don't really have the time or want to go and tell yourself "I should really go... if not, I'm being a bad friend".  This would lead to resentment and anger because you are doing something that feels incongruent with your needs and limitations.  Another common one we hear in therapy is "I know I shouldn't feel (hurt, betrayed, angry)".  This denies us the right to feel whatever we feel and causes negative feelings. One of the most common examples of "should-ing others" we frequently hear is "You should just know how I feel and what I need... I shouldn't have to ask".  This sets a person up for failure and leads to feeling anger and resentment towards them when they probably have no idea what you are needing. 

9.  Labeling and mislabeling:  This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself.  "I'm such a loser"(vs. "I made a mistake"), etc.  When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to them. "He's such a jerk", etc.  Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

10.  Personalization:  You see yourself as the the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.  For example, if your spouse comes home from work after a really tough day and is irritable, you think to yourself "It must be my fault that he is mad... I must have done something wrong to make him feel that way", when it has absolutely nothing to do with you.  An extreme form of personalization would be following the sudden death of a friend or loved one, thinking "If I would have asked them to do something that night, they wouldn't have gotten killed by the drunk driver".  These forms of personalization create extreme amounts of shame and inappropriate guilt for things that we have little to no control over.   

Have you recognized any of the ways that "Stinkin' Thinking" impacts your life?  If so, we encourage you to work on recognizing the ways your thoughts may be distorted and challenging those thoughts to have healthier thinking!

As always, thank you for joining us!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.