5 Strategies to Let Go of Negative Thinking

Many people get stuck in negative thoughts, rumination and worry.  When we think angry, anxious and bitter thoughts, we may find ourselves acting in ways that only make our problems worse.  For example, you may find yourself in a pattern of self-recrimination, repetitive conflict or unhealthy eating in reaction to negative thinking.

Each of us makes sense of the world through our past experiences, internal expectations and beliefs about the world.  We think about the events that occur in our lives and interpret their meaning based on our history, past learning and our own personal tendencies.  Sometimes our thoughts about our lives serve us well.  They help us maintain our moral compass, weather adversity, form strong relationships and find happiness.

When your thinking is making your life worse, rather than better, shifting how you view events in your life can have a big impact on changing how you feel.

Strategies to improve how you feel by changing how you think:

  1. Don’t approach interactions with the goal of explaining or convincing someone of your point-of-view.  When you disagree with someone, instead of attempting to prove your viewpoint as “right,” attempt to see how both viewpoints may exist and hold truth.
  2. Try to find commonalities in seeming opposites. Although some things may appear to be mutually exclusive, search for how they are in fact a part of a whole.  This might mean that you are both materialistic (interested in having new things) and at the same time concerned for the environment.  It could mean that you are light hearted and serious, forgiving and angry, doing your best and needing to do better.  On the surface these may appear to contradictory, but they are all part of a whole.

Key words:  DBT skills, dialectical behavior therapy, dialectical thinking, absolute truth, negative thoughts, rigid thoughts

  1. Give up on a search for one final indisputable truth.  Think of all the times in history when we believed we knew the truth—that the world was flat, that Vikings wore horns on their helmets, that Crisco was a healthy alternative to butter, that women don’t have the intellectual capacity to vote, that the earth was the center of the universe.  Acknowledge that our sense of “truth” evolves over time.  Allow yourself to loosen your hold on any “truths” that may change with time and circumstances.
  2. Let go of extreme language.  The words that we use have an impact on how we feel.  Using words such as never, always, must, should, shouldn’t, fair, unfair, ideal –increases the emotional intensity of your thoughts and narrows your attention, making it more likely that you will have faulty or exaggerated views. Think, instead in terms of sometimes, often, helpful, unhelpful, effective, mistake, and interest.  Allow yourself to think about what works, rather than how things “should be.”
  3. Remember that all interactions occur in a social world.  We have personal control over what we do, but we are influenced by our past experiences and our current life circumstances.  Someone who grew up in poverty might have very different views of money, for example, than someone who grew up with great wealth.  Each person’s view developed based on these very different experiences are neither right nor wrong.  Rather they are different based on each person’s history.  When you interact with others, don’t assume that their social context and therefore their beliefs developed in the same way that yours did.  Focus on accepting that despite our ability to think and act rationally, we are all influenced by our environments.  When you interpret someone’s behavior remember that it occurs in a context and that you can never fully know that context.  Although it’s different from yours, other viewpoints can hold personal truth.

If you feel stuck in a narrow set of beliefs or expectations, find yourself in repetitive patterns of conflict with others or find that you are stressed, anxious or fearful much of the time, changing your thoughts might have a big impact on changing how you feel.

 

A High Percentage of Substance use Disorders Can be Attributed to Self Medication

wine bottlesAs many as 37% of individuals with an alcohol disorder have been found to also have a mental disorder, while 53% of individuals with drug disorders other than alcohol have been found to have a mental disorder.

Co-morbidity—the presence of more than one disorder—increases the severity of symptoms and the difficulty in treating either one of the problems.

Continue reading “A High Percentage of Substance use Disorders Can be Attributed to Self Medication” »

The High Cost of Stigma

Mental Health Blog Party BadgeGood mental health is something that we all strive for.  Happiness in life has long been a pursuit of people in the West.  And yet, despite our desire for optimum happiness and good mental health, many feel unable to discuss psychological problems.

In a recent interview, I talked with author Stacy Pershall (Loud in the House of Myself) about her hesitation to admit to the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.  In her book, she discusses the stigma and hopelessness that is particularly connected with a diagnosis of BPD.  It was not that long ago (the 1980’s and early 90’s) that BPD was considered by many to be an incurable disease.

Now, with DBT, the diagnosis of BPD is slowly losing some of its stigma. People with BPD are able to get help and make major improvements in their lives. Continue reading “The High Cost of Stigma” »

DBT for People with Intellectual Disabilities: An Expert Interview with Marvin Lew, PhD.

intellectual disabilities and DBT recently had the opportunity to ask Dr. Marvin Lew, psychologist, professor and author of Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adults who have Intellectual Disability a chapter in Psychotherapy for Individuals with Intellectual Disability some questions about using Dialectical Behavior Therapy strategies with people who have intellectual disabilities.  I’m happy to share with you, today, his experience.

Christy: You worked with people with intellectual disabilities for a number of years.  What problems did you see that made you consider dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) for this group?

Marvin: This is true. I worked with people who have intellectual disabilities (ID) for fifteen years. I supervised many clinicians during that time and there was often a feeling that some individuals had so many complications in their lives that they may never get better. Sometimes it was felt that 10% of our case-load required 90% of our time.

Such individuals were challenges to their families, clinicians, and care providers. They had frequent difficulties with other people, had more than their share of community struggles such as loss of jobs, loss of housing, etc… and were often the genesis of burnout symptoms among their care providers. I’m sure I was not the only clinical supervisor who cringed at the sight of difficult to serve clients who had both ID and emotion regulation problems. Continue reading “DBT for People with Intellectual Disabilities: An Expert Interview with Marvin Lew, PhD.” »