Identifying and Correcting Irrational Thought Patters
Mental health is a major conversation happening everywhere and there’s unfortunately a major shortage of professionals, so self care might be all that some people can do. If you want to improve your tolerance of people and life, reduce anger and create a clearer head space, knowing how to identify irrational thoughts will help.
There are 6 main patterns that can be identified, but in order to make use of them, you have to keep track of what gets you upset or disturbs you. Keep a journal of when you get upset and what area of life it was: parenting, relationship, family…etc? What specifically led to your anger (keep it brief)?
Once you’ve journaled an experience, go through it and see which of the following apply:
- Awfulizing: “This is the worst thing that could ever happen!” People tend to do this with everyday things, when it’s more likely that it’s just “unfortunate”. You internalize the language you use, so if you’re using extremes, like “awful” or “horrible”, it’s going to kill your motivation to solve the problem because it will seem insurmountable.
2. Low frustration tolerance: “I just can’t!” Life is full of challenges and obstacles, but when something is unfair, the best you can do is stay neutral. How have you been impacted? What can you do about it right now? How is that going to influence the future? Life doesn’t stop for any of us, regardless of the tragedy. It might be cold to say so, but we need to be realistic and put ourselves in the best position possible.
3. Demandingness: “You must…” or “You should” are some key phrases when someone is demanding. The world is complex and so are people. We rarely get everything we want and people don’t have to essentially behave in any way that we desire. We all have 3 options:
A. You can accept something the way it is.
B. The other person can change their beliefs and actions.
C. You can end a relationship with that person or entity.
If you go through life insisting people live up to your expectations and try to control situations, life isn’t going to be very peaceful.
4. Other-rating: “He sucks!” We all have a tendency to overgeneralize people based on a single action. In reality, we’re all on scale and nothing is black and white about us. We all might have a dumb moment while driving, but we aren’t bad people because we accidentally cut someone off. As much as some people have disappointed me with their actions, I’ve disappointed a fair number of people with some isolated actions as well.
5. Self-rating: “I suck!” Not true, contrary to your belief. We sometimes get into a defeatist attitude, but, again, we’re all on a scale. We also learn a lot more from failures and setbacks than we do from successes and victories, so do some reflection on what you did wrong and what you can do to change things next time. Condemning yourself virtually guarantees that you’re going waste vlaubale time and energy that could be put toward your next success. The last thing to consider here is that hard work doesn’t always equate to success. There are just too many variables, so if your self rating came from thinking that your hard work was going to assure you a win, it’s just not realistic.
6. Distortion or misinterpretation: “They did this to hurt me!” This is when you make incorrect assumptions about other people’s motivations for things. Not everyone is trying to hurt you and it’s not most people’s main motivation, although it may happen sometimes. I typically give everyone the benefit of the doubt when it comes to that and feel that everyone is inherently good. We can be selfish too, though! Some common questions to help understand motivation are:
A. How do they see the world?
B. What do they fear and love, like and dislike?
C. What was it like growing up in their family?
D. What was it like to come from their culture or time?
E. What were their issues?
F. What is their emotional intelligence?
G. What was their expectation of you, of others?
Use these tools to change the narrative in your head. After all, how do we fix a problem when we have no idea what it is?