Thought Management: Overcoming errors in thinking
Thought management is a thought restructuring process using cognition correction tools, techniques and exercises.
It has been well documented that more than 90% of our ailments are partly stress related psychosomatic illnesses and in a day a brain processes around 70000 random thoughts; good and bad.
Electrochemical events taking place in the nerve cells, thoughts can be attributed to the subconscious, they are stored in the layers of ones mind and get automatically expressed when there is a trigger to activate them.
We have repeat thought patterns in our lives
How we feel, think, behave and react in a situation, real or imaginary start getting coded into our psyche from a very young age of around 6 years.
These life trap impressions get subconsciously triggered whenever we are face a related situation. These patterns color our thinking and how we cope with issues and situations; they become our life traps. 90%+ of these patterns repeat over-and-over again!
A desire stimulates a thought.
Sow a thought reap an action;
sow an action reap a habit;
sow a habit reap a character;
sow a character reap a destiny.
Thoughts are like the light of a candle, which similarly gives rise to waves of ethereal vibrations, traveling in all directions from the candle.
A thought has tremendous power… Thought can heal through suggestions and prompts; thoughts can influence & transform the mentality of a person. A wrong thought binds whereas a right thought liberates.
By learning more about these thoughts and emotions, one can get a better explanation on why most of these emotions linger on despite the fact that its trigger has long been gone. It will also give you more power in trying to reverse its effect such that no negative manifestation takes place.
Thought management is required when minds turntable effect needs correction…
Yogis of lore, understanding the working of the mind and its play, suggested an old tantric tradition of thought management fasting (non-cooperation). Fasting is not about ‘suppression, deflection and avoidance’ but ‘mastering’ these emotions and thoughts… step by step!
Every day, with every step on the way, life poses various challenges. We subconsciously react to these ever present stimuli.
Our subconscious mind keeps processing these thoughts and beliefs through its repetitive filters, generating the same things over and over again leaving no room for change.
These thoughts and beliefs can be our greatest assets, or worst liabilities! They either help us move forward or stagnate.
And to move forward, we must know who we are; our strengths or weaknesses, distinctive talents or gifts, our likes and dislikes and how we think. We can only realise once we go beyond this programmed subconscious or what I call errors in thinking process.
I failed the driving test. I can never ever drive. I am good for nothing. Hence, I am useless. Have you ever felt like this? If so, you’ve had a cognitive distortion, or an error in thinking process.
An occasional cognitive distortion happens to everyone and is considered to be normal. But in case, these erroneous thinking patterns happen constantly or regularly, it is time to take a reality check and change your thoughts.
What is an error in thinking? What is a cognitive distortion?
Error in thinking or cognitive distortion is the way by which our mind makes us believe what we feel is right, irrespective of the facts or reality. A few basic cognitive distortions…
1/8. Over generalisation
It is the practice of taking an isolated negative event or aspect and applying it to all the areas of your life. In psychology, over-generalization is defined as a mental skewing wherein a person sees a single occurrence as an invariable rule.
Examples- A person, who had a bad married life, if a victim of over-generalisation, might think that all marriages are unsuccessful. Such a person will never marry again.
If a person had fallen down while riding a bike or cycle, he will think that he will fall down, in case he rides two-wheelers in future. This will prevent him from riding a bike again.
2/8. Emotional reasoning
If a person is a victim of emotional reasoning, he will assume his emotions or feelings to be true. In reality, these feelings could be far from true.
Examples- If a person while getting up in the morning feels tired and lazy and assumes his feeling of laziness to be indeed there, he might end up being in bed and missing office.
Emotional reasoning can lead to or aggravate feeling of despondency or even depression.
3/8. All or nothing thinking
This thought (cognitive) distortion is also known as ‘black and white thinking’. This thinking pattern leads to perfectionist thinking. A victim of this distorted thinking pattern views things as either good or bad and nothing in between. Generally, the thinking pattern of these people tends to be negative.
Example- A student would have performed well in an exam. But if he has all or nothing thinking, he will feel bad and even think that he had failed since he didn’t top the exam.
4/8. Personalising and Blame
When we hold ourselves responsible for an unfortunate event or situation and discount the role of others in it, it can be termed as personalization.
Example- Suppose you had an argument at home or workspace. If you are a victim of personalization, you will feel that you only are responsible for the argument. You will believe that your spouse or your colleagues never contributed to the argument.
5/8. Blame or scapegoating
Blame or scapegoating is the exact opposite of personalization. Here, we hold everyone apart from ourselves responsible for any shortcoming or debacle.
Regularly personalizing situations can lead to undue stress and anxiety. On the other hand, constant blaming of others can lead to unpleasant experiences and loss of trust from colleagues and friends.
In labeling, we apply a fixed broad label to ourselves and to others. When we start labeling ourselves, it hits our self-confidence badly. When we start labeling others, it leads to prejudice and lack of compassion.
Example- If you find your friend along with a group of smokers, you can label him as a smoker. But it could turn out that your friend is a non-smoker.
If we primarily focus on a negative aspect of a situation, the distortion is termed as mental filtering. In other words, a person would look only at his failures and will be completely oblivious to his successes.
8/8. Jumping to conclusions
Jumping to conclusions happens when we interpret things at a go and that too without any proof.
How to do thought management
The best way to overcome cognitive distortions is through thought management i.e. the process of substituting erroneous thought patterns with those, which are true and useful. The process can be lengthy and stressful but regular practice of thought management exercises, tools and techniques will help to rewire the faulty thought process.
Following is a sample cognitive worksheet, which you can use to restructure faulty thought patterns.
Date Situation Your emotions and thoughts Evaluation
1. Go sit in a quiet room where you will not be easily disturbed.
2. Ensure that you are out of bounds of phone and text messages.
3. Take a few deep breaths. Then, resume normal breathing.
4. Describe the situation that led to your erroneous thought patterns.
5. Then proceed to describe in detail as to your emotional state at that point of time.
6. Once you have described your moods in detail, take a short break.
7. Now, take a few deep breaths and then resume your normal breathing.
8. Analyze what you have written. Evaluate your moods at the time of the unfortunate incident or at the time when you had a wrong thinking pattern.
9. Think deeply whether what you thought is indeed true. Even if it were true at that point of time, will that be true always?
10. Think of alternatives. For instance, you didn’t get promoted at your workplace this time. Realise that this is not the end of your career. You might be promoted next year. You might even get a better job opportunity. Believe that you will succeed in the days to come.
11. Journal all your moods and thoughts, discover their root causes and learn the ways to substitute the damaging thoughts with constructive ones.
12. Consult a professional, thought management requires a third person facilitation. All the Best!
Do attend thought management classes, lectures, workshops, courses and/or retreats, whenever possible to equip yourself with cognition correction tools, exercises and techniques. In the meantime read on… the category Mind Health to know more about thought distortions.