Dealing with Dangerous Words
My nerves have been frayed. Not sleeping soundly. My breathing has been shallow and my body has felt unsettled. In moments of calm, I search my iPhone for an email, a text, a photo, a song, I don’t know what.
Anx-i-e-ty: a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
I’ve found the culprit. It’s two simple words that too often rule my thinking:
They direct my thoughts to an imaginary future place void of benevolence or security.
Do you ever find yourself going there?
Several years ago a psychologist helped me realize the danger of these two words and my habit of using them. And then he suggested I read “Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think.”
Excerpts like this one from that book opened my eyes up to the implications of my habit:
Thoughts help define which mood we experience in a given situation. Once a mood is present, it is accompanied by additional thoughts that support and strengthen the mood. For example, angry people think about ways they have been hurt, depressed people think about how unfortunate life has become, and anxious people see danger everywhere. In fact, the stronger our moods, the more extreme our thinking is likely to be.
The authors, Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky, go on to point out that everyone experiences this at times, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your thinking. But, they add, “when we feel intense moods, we’re more likely to distort, discount or disregard information that contradicts our moods and beliefs.” To change this pattern, you have to first recognize when it’s happening.
We often believe we can banish negative thinking by replacing it with positive thinking, but as Greenberger and Padesky note:
Most people who are anxious, depressed or angry can tell you that “just thinking positive thoughts” is not that simple. In fact, if we do try to think only positive thoughts when we have a strong mood, we may miss important signals that something is wrong.
That’s why they recommend striving for balanced thinking, paying attention to both the negative and positive information so you have a clearer understanding of the full picture.
And that’s why I’m re-committing to recognizing my thought patterns and shaping them with balanced thoughts. For example, when I wonder,
What if my plane crashes, or I get sick, or I let down a customer…
I will remind myself that I’ve been on other flights this bumpy, my body could fight a disease, and I’ve prepared well for this customer.
The authors state it plainly: “Although our thoughts influence mood, behavior and physical reactions, positive thinking is not a solution to life’s problems.” Balanced thinking, taking into account all the information we really have, help keep those dangerous words in check.
What dangerous words affect your mood, and how do you balance that thinking?