Sometimes in life we go through events that are or at least seem catastrophic at the time, or we keep running across the same negative situation in life over and over again, and we begin to develop distortions in our thinking. We begin to believe things like “I must be cursed”, or “every decision I make ends in failure”, or “I’m not lovable because people keep abandoning me. What’s wrong with me anyway?” Sometimes we believe that we are a mistake, or that we are not beautiful enough, or strong enough, or good enough. Sometimes we believe it is our fault when someone else has wronged us. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves by speaking negative things about ourselves, such as “you are ugly” (talking to yourself) or “you don’t deserve any better, look at what you did… Believing we must punish ourselves for our mistakes, or even believing that God is punishing us for not having been perfect or making the right decisions.

Sometimes we involve ourselves in what psychologists refer to as ’emotional reasoning’, essentially meaning that we believe our feelings are actual fact. Sometimes we magnify a situation and believe based on our faulty understanding that the situation is bigger than it really might be. Sometimes we can’t see any positive possibilities because all we see are the negative situations. Sometimes we jump to conclusions before we have examined all the options, sometimes we catastrophize, expecting the worst case scenario to happen. Sometimes we take everything personal, or label ourselves based on our real or perceived mistakes. Sometimes we use polarization, or black and white thinking, clinging to extreme opposites, like all or nothing, great or awful, never or always. All of these patterns and more are what’s referred to as ‘distorted thinking patterns.’ Basically, the lies we believe.

Now I know on Wednesday’s I blog about my own experiences, my life, etc. Now part of that includes the things I’m thinking about. There have been two major things that have been occupying my attention over the past couple weeks or so, this subject of distorted thinking and cognitive reasoning, as well as researching…and now I’m really gonna reveal how nerdy I really am – the brain and new studies on how to retire and retrain our brains, remapping so to speak. Perhaps I will blog about that next week, as it does relate to this topic about how to change our belief systems.

I’ve been really trying to examine my own distortions and examining how certain repeat situations that occur in my life first build a faulty belief, and then solidify it over time as similar circumstances and life events seem to ‘prove’ my theories and beliefs are true. But as they say, “what you think is what you are.” Do we do it to ourselves by believing a certain way which ends up becoming a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy?’

But what good is it to believe myself unlovable for instance? Or that I will always be betrayed or abandoned? What good is it to self sabotage rather than to have self compassion, and nurture the areas that have felt wounded or betrayed? Does this not add more fuel to the fire?

How much does it benefit us to dwell on the negative beliefs and distortions we hold to so firmly as a belief system? Why do we allow experience to dictate the truth? Why are we often our own worst enemy?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the physical symptoms that can arise simply by worrying or choosing to believe and/or dwell on the negative circumstances in life. For instance we all know that worry, anxiety and depression can result from dwelling on the negative situations in life (albeit some depression is merely a result of lowered serotonin levels for sure), but how many of you are aware that harboring bitterness can cause certain types of cancer, or that self bitterness, self rejection or self hatred CAN be the cause of coronary artery disease or strokes? Fear, anxiety and stress can cause angina or high blood pressure, or heart arrythmias, or ulcers?

Anger, rage and resentment can cause all sorts of physical problems over time. Everything form hemorrhoids to tension headaches, to a lowered immune system, to gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, overeating, depression and insomnia. Of course, not all of these symptoms are ALWAYS a result of anger or fear etc. sometimes people have constipation because it is a side effect to a medication they are taking for instance. The point is, we are a whole being, spirit, soul and body, interwoven together so delicately and simultaneously complex. Is it any wonder that some of the issues in our spirit and souls would affect our health, just the same as a lack of physical activity does?

Perhaps God was onto something when he said to “forgive” those who have offended us, as he knew the natural consequences bearing such a heavy weight on our shoulders could have on our mental, emotional and physical health? Maybe there is good reason why the bible says:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”
Philippians 4:7-9

For more information on some root causes to physical symptoms, please check out Henry Wright’s book “A more excellent way to be in health”. I confess I started thinking about other possible causes to my back pain than something just ‘physical’ when the orthopedic surgeon looked at my X-rays and CT scans and MRI’s and could not see the reason why I would be in such severe pain with a mild degenerative disc disease. He did mention that it will get progressively worse over time and I may need surgery later on in life, but as he said he couldn’t see why I had such excessive pain, I think I had a little “aha” moment that maybe this was something spiritual, or a root of some kind of lie or belief system I hold onto. Like unbelief for instance. I have always wrestled to believe in miracles because my own experience had not experienced it personally. Perhaps I am stubborn, as I HAVE witnessed others become healed of diseases, but why does my own mind still reject this truth, this reality that it is possible? What is that faulty belief system I hold onto? These and other questions have had me on a quest to find out what other faulty belief systems I hold onto, what lies and distorted thinking patterns I believe, in an effort to reframe my mindset to believe the truth and not a lie.

I have been examining cognitive therapy to make connections between environmental changes/life situations interact with our physical reactions, thoughts, moods and behavior.

For example: environmental situation: death of a father. Physical reaction: cold sweats, pounding heart, breathing difficulty. Moods: anxiety, panic. Behavior: Avoiding places that remind you of him. Thoughts: ‘Something bad will happen to me.’ ‘He died young, and so did my grandfather, so maybe it runs in the family and I will die young too’.

The above example was fictitious… Not a personal experience of mine (although my father did die young, but I don’t hold onto that belief system).

The reality is, our thinking is very important. It is essential to pay attention to what we are thinking about. Our thoughts left to their own devices take on a life of their own, believing any wild connection they make with the circumstances and situations we encounter. Not only our thinking, but our emotions can rule us as well as mentioned earlier about believing that the way you feel reflects reality. Ie. “I feel frightened right now, so that must mean I am in real physical danger.”

Aiko Horman, a Japanese brain specialist, now in her 70’s, did extensive research on early childhood memories and trauma and how to re-route or rewire the brain to overcome painful traumatic childhood memories. There is now so much research on the neuroplasticity of our brain’s nervous system’s ability to develop new neuronal connections, to essentially work toward healing and retraining the brain. This is my intro for next week’s discussion on what I am learning about the brain’s ability to repair itself. But for now, let’s just leave it at this: negative thoughts can actually CAUSE our brain to be dysfunctional.

The good news is: our negative thoughts and negative emotions CAN be rewired, changed, healed. The brain is capable of regenerating itself for repair! Until next week when I get a little more in depth on how the brain works in conjunction with what we tell ourselves and choose to believe, I invite you to make a list of your own cognitive distortions, or the lies you believe about yourself, and hopefully over the next week or two I can unpack further what I’m learning and some tools to apply to rewire our brains! I’m super excited about this, because I have some of my own patterns of thinking that I desperately want to conform to truth.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Think of a situation you were in that caused you distress, anxiety, fear, etc. where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? Describe the mood you felt (usually a mood is describable in one word), and what were the automatic thoughts that crossed your mind?

For instance, you might have been on a first date, and you were feeling like it wasn’t going very well, so suddenly your mood is nervous, or gloomy, etc, as you begin to think about your automatic thoughts like “He looks bored”, “He’s going to think I’m so clumsy because I’ve done one or two things over dinner that were clumsy while feeling nervous” or “This is the same restaurant I came to when my last boyfriend broke up with me”, etc. Pay attention to each of these things, your automatic thoughts, your mood, and present or past situations that may be acting as triggers to your current mood. Ask yourself the following: what was going on before I started to feel this way? What am I afraid might happen? What is the worst thing that could happen? What does this mean about how the other person feels about me? What images and memories do I have? All of these things help a person to begin to think about what you are thinking about and out the pieces together as to why you are feeling the way you do, or thinking what you are and what caused it. Oftentimes when we begin to examine our automatic thoughts we see how negatively or self sabotaging or self critical we really are. These automatic thoughts, left unchecked, can form belief systems that are untrue or debilitating to our self esteem.

This is precisely what I’ve been up to in my spare time – trying to determine my thinking distortions, find the origins, retrain my brain in its errors of reasoning, and understand other related factors, such as the mental, emotional or spiritual roots to physical ailments. It bears repeating… I’m a nerd. But I love it! Next Wednesday I will come back to this and explore it further…. I believe it’s an important subject to live a life that is full and meaningful. No point in believing lies when the truth sets us free. Negativity only causes us all sorts of harm.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

Cheers!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

Advertisements