Avoid Thought Traps

Anxiety Disorder – Beware Of 10 Negative Thinking Traps
by: Ian Spencer

It is true that anxiety is often the result of an external trigger; however, it equally true that sometimes it is a ‘cordially invited guest’. In other words, you invite worries and negative thoughts because you set up negative thinking traps in your mind. What are ‘negative thinking traps’? These are thoughts that push the mind into negativity.

Check out the ten most common negative thinking traps that you should avoid:

Predicting the future – you would have so many times found yourself thinking, ‘Oh, God! I am going to mess up this thing completely.’ or ‘I know that this will end in a show-down’ and thoughts such as this, which seem to create a negative image of the outcome in your mind. These thoughts left wandering in your mind will continue adding vivid details to the negative outcome, which in turn would build up anxiety within you. In your mind’s eye, you have already messed it up and you are facing the dire consequences.

Measuring everything in extreme terms – this happens to the best of us. Sometimes, when you are overwhelmed by certain circumstances, the smallest details can throw you off completely. For example, you are struggling with an impossible deadline when you realize you were using the wrong data. It is easy in this case to throw your hands up and say that all is lost. However, if you keep your cool and take corrective measures immediately, it is possible that you put the thing back on its track without much problem. Nothing is black-and-white. Just because you slip up somewhere, it does not make you totally hopeless or a failure. Chase perfection; this is a good trait because it would fuel you to overachieve. However, if what you do is not always perfect, it does not mean you are worthless. Do not allow your mind to think in extremes. The world is made up of more grey than black-and-white.

Assuming what others think – I read once about a very beautiful way of interpreting ‘assume’ – this word ca be broken into ‘ass’, ‘u’ and ‘me’. In other words every time you assume something, you make an ass of you and me. This is a nice way of warning you of the danger that assumptions can create. You would often look around you and think, ‘They must be thinking I am looking gross’ or ‘I know she hates me on sight’, or ‘He is thinking I am total useless’ and so on. Do not assume such things because when you do so, you inadvertently emulate the image you have created this way. When you enter this trap, you would find that you are spiraling into low self-esteem, decreased confidence and anxiety symptoms.

Generalizing negative traits – you have always been told to think positively. This is because it influences the way you think and then the way you act. It is possible that you would make mistakes sometimes; these mistakes could be minor or major. It happens. Learn from the lesson and move on. Do not entertain thoughts of generalization. This is a terrible negative thoughts trap. Things like ‘I always mess things up’, ‘Whatever I touch turns to dust’, ‘Nothing I do will ever come out perfect’ and things like that. When you do so, you are berating yourself and inviting anxiety to take over. Do not generalize when you make a mistake.

Self-labeling – sometimes things do go your way. In fact, life is full of times when you walk uphill, when things are rough and outcome looks bleak. It is okay. Good times would come, too. Life is a cycle; sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down. The key to happiness is to adapt and keep looking ahead. At such times, you would find thoughts like ‘I am totally worthless’, ‘I am a loser’, ‘I am bad luck personified’, and so on. The moment you apply such a label to yourself, your subconscious would adjust your self-image to it and then you would be going down and down until you experience a full-blown anxiety attack.

Blowing up realty – there are times when problems seem larger than life. Normally, at such times you should roll up your sleeves and tackle the problem head-on. However, at such times your mind would be tempted to enter negative thoughts traps such as ‘This is going to ruin me financially’, ‘I am going to die of a heart-attack’, ‘My life is over with this chapter’ and things like that. If such thoughts are not checked immediately, they would create a sense of helplessness and vulnerability that would tend to blow up small problems into gigantic obstacles. The result would be a massive panic attack.

Highlighting the bad – let us say you have just made a presentation. You were sure it was a wonderful piece of work, informative, persuasive and to the point. You were happy with yourself until you found that some of the people in the meeting looked completely disinterested to the point of boredom. Instantly you start thinking, ‘The presentation is not good’, ‘I have messed this whole thing up’, ‘They hate the way I speak’ and so on. At this time, you would tend to ignore those who are happily following your presentation and see only those who react negatively to it. When you allow such thoughts into your mind, you would trigger the feeling of inferiority, being inadequate and not good enough. Left to themselves, these thoughts would gradually lead you to massive anxiety attack.

Forecasting disaster – whatever you do, you need to keep a positive focus and goal. It sometimes happens you would be worried about the outcome of some important thing. A little nervousness is normal. However, when this ‘little nervousness’ turns into a prediction for disaster it becomes a negative thought trap. For example, let us say you are preparing for a speech. A few butterflies in the stomach are warranted. However, if you start thinking, ‘This will be a total disaster’, ‘They will hate my point of view’, ‘I will not be able to speak one word and everybody will laugh at me’ or things like that, you are opening the door wide to anxiety.

Positive things phrased with negation – this is one of the most dangerous of all negative thoughts trap because you do it thinking it is helping you, when it is actually harming you and leading you straight to an anxiety attack. This is when you would tell yourself, ‘I will not be afraid’, ‘I do not need to be nervous about anything’, ‘I will not do any mistake this time’ and so on. The point here is that though you want to emphasize a positive aspect, what you are actually doing is visualizing the negative aspect. Since the negative aspect projects the more powerful emotions, this is what your mind will remember and build upon. Therefore, you should be very careful about how you phrase your self-encouragement. The correct way is ignoring the negative aspect completely, such as ‘I will do a wonderful job today’, ‘I will enjoy the experience’, ‘Everything is going to be just fine’ and so on.

Comparing yourself to others – it is a common tendency for people to compare themselves to others, usually to those who are more fortunate than them. For example, you would be likely to think, ‘I work hard too, but he got the promotion’, ‘My husband never notices me nowadays, no matter what I do; but see her – her husband totally adores her’, and so on. Do not let yourself fall into this trap. As soon as you compare yourself with others negatively, your mind would highlight all such differences around you and all of a sudden, you would find that you are overwhelmed by feelings of misery, hopelessness, worthlessness and the like. This, in turn would put you on the path to a sure anxiety attack.

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