Throughout these past few weeks of reflection I have been journaling A LOT. (The majority of the time is when my unwanted hitch hiker is casting a spell of anxiety over me.)
I wanted to try and breakdown some of ‘A’s mind games so I could spot them in the future and be able to defuse a situation more effectively.
If you suffer from any mental health disorders I really encourage you to journal. It’s so helpful to be able to get your thoughts out and onto paper and it’s an awesome point of reflection where you can start to see some patterns emerging.
Journaling doesn’t come easy to everyone so stick with it. I spent my childhood keeping diaries so I have been conditioned to journal from a young age. (I’ve always been a sucker for a nice writing pad and pen!)
You can journal at the end of your day as reflection or during the day, at the time of an event. I find writing when I’m anxious very therapeutic and it helps to calm my mind.
My unwanted hitch hiker has many sides and I thought it might be helpful to list some them and how I break out of ‘A’s spell.
- Can you relate to any of these?
All or Nothing
You see everything as black or white – no in between.
If something isn’t perfect or something doesn’t go exactly to plan, ‘A’ starts telling me:
“I am a complete failure”
I can’t blame ‘A’ solely for this as I think its part of my personality to be an all or nothing thinker. I am either all in or all out. This isn’t a bad trait to me, I love having the all in passion and determination and I think it’s a beautiful strength to have. Its only poisonous when ‘A’ starts telling me I am a failure because I got 87% on a test and not 100%, but I still passed, so I should still be happy of my achievement, but I’m not.
What I have taught myself to do with this one is simple. I reflect on why I think I am a failure and turn it around to focus on the good points and reasons why I am not perfect but I’m not a failure also.
Yesterday I had a call to say I wasn’t successful in securing a job I had interviewed for the previous week. It was extremely close; I scored 2 points less than someone else who effectively got offered the job. I was told the company felt like I would be an asset to the team and would fit in well and to keep a look out for future job vacancies. They would love to have me; it was just unfortunate that someone else scored slightly higher on the day.
‘A’ wants to focus on the fact I didn’t get the job, so again it tells me:
“I suck, I am a failure, no-one will employ me, and I will be unemployed forever”
Normally that’s where I focus my attention; I would spend the day beating myself up over it and hating myself but because I am aware of this mindset now, I challenge the thoughts.
“Okay, I didn’t get the job and that does suck but I came very close to getting that job. It was my first interview since quitting my job and I went to the interview, I managed my anxiety and I interviewed well. They want me to apply for any future vacancies and they think I am an asset. I am a strong candidate; I just wasn’t the strongest on the day.”
Instead of feeling rubbish, feeling like a failure and beating myself up all day, I congratulated myself on the achievement and the experience. Did I feel sad I didn’t get the job? Of course, that’s natural; it’s the unhealthy negative frame of mind that’s the poison.
This brings me nicely onto my next one…..
You pick off a single negative detail or event and dwell on it exclusively, and then your vision of all reality becomes darkened.
Keeping with my job example, if I had continued down ‘A’s darkened path of the all or nothing thinking:
“I didn’t get the job, I am a complete failure”
‘A’s mental filter would dwell on the fact, “I lost out on the job by 2 points”. ‘A’ would obsess over this detail.
” I didn’t get the job because I scored 2 points less than someone else, where could I have gone wrong, where could I have gained those 2 points, what if I had written that instead of that, what if I had said this as opposed to that.”
It would have clouded my reality for the rest of the day. The world would be a darker place because of this. My frame of mind would be negative and poisonous.
However, I didn’t succumb to ‘A’s evil spell, I spotted it before it was too late and I flip reversed that bad boy and therefore I spent the day feeling positive over the situation and didn’t fall under the mental filter trap.
Disqualifying the positive
If I had been hooked into ‘A’s all or nothing thinking of “I am a complete failure” and fallen into ‘A’s mental filter trap of “I didn’t get the job because I failed by 2 points” then I would have rejected the positive experience of being placed second and of interviewing well, by insisting it doesn’t count because I didn’t get the job. This then spirals a negative frame of mind of that experience which had positive elements.
By focusing on the positives;
” I went to the interview, I was successful, the company feel I’d fit in well, I was only 2 points away from being offered the job. I did so well for my first job interview since my breakdown”
I congratulated my efforts. I felt a sense of achievement and I praised myself for a job well done. I didn’t disqualify my efforts because I didn’t get the job and dwell on that fact and only that fact and allow everything else to be discounted.
- Can you see how my unwanted hitch hiker’s mind games can affect an outcome so drastically?
- Can you relate any of your own experiences to these frames of minds?
It’s so easy to fall into this trap without even realising it. I spent months spiraling downwards because of this and didn’t even notice. It felt like a normal, comfortable, go to mindset which I was use to travelling down.
By simply journaling my thoughts every day, then reflecting on them, I was able to spot this pattern and it has helped to change my way of thinking.
It has prevented dark days of negativity and allowed me to love myself a little more, to focus on the good points in situations, instead of the bad.
I can spot that some of ‘A’s mind games go hand in hand. If i can successfully beat one at the start of the thinking pattern, the rest will fall like dominoes. (Very satisfying!)
One step at a time
One day at a time
YOU CAN BEAT THIS!