We’ve likely all experienced it at one time or another. Something happens, and our mind goes to the worst possible thing. Our partner is crabby and we wonder what we did wrong. A friend doesn’t return a text. Our boss says s/he wants to see us in her/his office. How do we deal with this catastrophic thinking?
There is no one right way. Today I am sharing one thing I have found that works for me and has worked for the clients with whom I work.
(2) Identify the Belief
Here you are just identifying the underlying belief about yourself or the world that you stepped into after the incident, event, or trigger happened. It sounds like this: “When my boss asks me to see her/him in her/his office, I believe I am in trouble and have done something wrong.”
(3) Is it true?
Ask yourself, is it true that every time you go to your boss’s office you are in trouble? If no, skip to step (5). If yes, go to step (4).
(4) Is it absolutely true, 100% of the time?
Ask yourself, is it true 100% of the time, that every single time in the history of your working life that when you have gone into a boss’s office you are in trouble. (I’m guessing the honest answer to this is “no”.)
(5) How do you feel when you believe it?
Ask yourself, how do you feel when you believe the above belief. My guess is some variation of “crappy”.
(6) List Evidence
Look for the evidence that your above belief isn’t true. So in the above example, think of/list off times when you have gone to your boss’s office for something other than being in trouble. Perhaps think of alternative explanations as well (e.g., times when you have gone into your boss’s office for positive things, something positive or neutral that could be behind the reason for the request). Sometimes we need help with this step, so feel free to ask safe-enough loved ones for their ideas; select someone who can help you find evidence contrary to your belief rather than fueling it and preferably someone who won’t invalidate your concerns and feelings.
Know that the above strategy is a practice; it may take trying it out a few times (maybe LOTS of times) to get the hang of it and to notice a shift in your thoughts. That’s okay. Just keep practicing.
A note on complex trauma: If you have a history of complex trauma and are bumping into long held beliefs related to past traumatic experiences, know that this can be a start or something to try. However, you may also benefit from work with a psychotherapist who specializes in complex trauma to help you resolve past trauma and release past limiting beliefs.