Owl Message: Thinking Traps pt.1

Thinking Traps are a fascinating and helpful tool to observe your thoughts and help you decode patterns of emotions and behaviors. Observing your Thinking Traps can help you to emotionally regulate yourself, to help you to respond instead of react, help you to talk down your anxiety, and talk yourself up out of lite depression and self-defeating thoughts. In the workbook, The Resilience Factor, authors Karen Reivich, Ph.D and Andrew Shatte, Ph.D teach their concept of the ABC's; Adversity (event or trigger), Beliefs (thoughts), Consequences (actions, behaviors, emotions). You may believe that an adversity happens and then a consequence or reaction to the adversity comes next, but in actuality, it is the ticker tape thoughts and deep rooted beliefs determine how we react to the adversity.

While reading over these first 4 out of 8 Thinking Traps, think back to situations where you have felt and acted in these ways. This is an observation, nothing more, and a way to help you respond to situations with more maturity and patience rather than just blindly reacting to adversities when they pop up. There is no place for judgement or shame here so if you find that you are slipping in that direction, remind yourself that you didn't know what you know now so you can do better NOW. Ruminating about the past only leads to depression and anxiety.

1. Jumping to Conclusions - this is when a person makes assumptions about a another's thoughts or intentions behind a behavior or situation without relevant facts or data. An example would be assuming your partner's intention behind leaving a cup on the counter instead of putting it in the dishwasher. You may think, "he must think I'm his maid! Doesn't he know I work my butt off...." "I am so unappreciated."

Where is the relevant data to explain this? We must ask clarifying questions to learn what the person's motivation was behind their actions. Maybe he didn't get that far rushing out the door and accidentally left it on the counter. We don't know until we ask and creating stories around what it could be only drives a wedge deeper into the relationship. This takes direct communication and active listening from both parties to be able to work through adversity.

2. Tunnel Vision - ONLY seeing what validates person's thoughts/beliefs. Behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs are subconsciously looking to be justified. You may find that these people are "always right" or always has a justification for the way they feel, think, and behave. If you find that you get stuck in this trap, maybe you find that you find yourself complaining more often than you'd like to admit, practice widening your point of view and consciously seek out the things that are going well and positive moments experienced. Teach your eyes what to look for!

3. Magnifying & Minimalizing- placing disproportionate value on a particular type of evidence. This is most commonly seen in the Perfectionist. While working on a project they will hyper focus on the 1% that isn't absolutely matched to their vision while the rest 99% of the project is just as they imagined if not better. That 1% "flaw" drives the perfectionist crazy to the point that it can become paralyzed. Another way this shows up is trying something new for the first time and it didn't turn out how you wanted it to so you just give up finishing the project all together. I say to clients when in this situation that "done is better than never". Its better to get the project finished than to obsess over one part and then never finish it. Get comfortable being in the grey, black and white thinking is a misconception that separates us from our self and from others.

4. Personalizing- The person takes on the blame for adversity, blaming self for aspects beyond their control. Taking responsibility for situations, behaviors, actions that are not their responsibility. Does it feel like you are constantly saying "sorry" for things you didn't even do? Or immediately assume that things were your fault without gathering relevant data to support that assumption? This could be a good indicator that you may be personalizing, or taking fault, assuming that you're the problem for behaviors or situations experienced. Learn to take responsibility for your part ONLY and allow the other person to take responsibility for their actions and behaviors.

If they refuse to take responsibility for their actions... then they are someone who Externalizes. Next week we will complete the list of Thinking Traps scheduled to be posted, with a video, next Sunday. STAY TUNED!

I invite you to chew on these first 4 Thinking Traps. Which ones do you see yourself doing? Now that you know what you know about Thinking Traps, I hope that you move forward with more awareness of how you think and how you may fall into emotions or behaviors via falling into a Thinking Trap.

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