If you struggle with anxiety, chances are high that your anxiety feelings are brought about by what you are thinking. Further, your experiences with anxiety are reinforced by your actions. In cognitive behavioral therapy, your feelings are influenced by your thinking and your feelings then influence your actions. Your actions then influence the outcome of whatever situation you are experiencing. If you are experiencing a situation you consider anxiety provoking, it’s because you sub consciously hold on to core beliefs which influence your perception of the situation.
Some common core beliefs which often lead people to experience anxiety are, beliefs of often being helpless, unworthy of love and being a failure. These beliefs are usually developed and strengthened during childhood and early teenage years. Once a person learns to see themselves as unable to take on life’s challenges, they become easily provoked to experience anxiety by the slightest conflict. Sometimes, it’s the other way around, in which a certain type of habit, which produces a certain type of response has created a feedback loop of anxiety. This will be discussed in another post.
It is important to note that these types of thinking are often referred to as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are errors in thinking which people use to strengthen their core beliefs, regardless of evidence. An example of this would be, an anxious person believing they are not capable of succeeding in a challenge, even though they have succeeded in that challenged in the past. The following are three types of thinking that cause anxiety and what to do about them.
When people engage in fortune-telling, they are anticipating that things will turn out badly for them no matter what. An example of this would be a student who struggles with test anxiety. In processing with this student about their fear of tests, they reveal their belief that they are not capable of passing tests and exams. In this example, it will come as no surprise then, that the student chooses to not study for tests and exams, given his beliefs that he will fail regardless.
If you struggle with fortune-telling the solution is to begin the process of documenting your memories of past experiences with challenges. It is rare that a student has failed every single test his entire life. Chances are that interventions have been made from time to time. With a historical review, you will find evidence where the student has done well on tests. Now, with the anxious mind, contradictory evidence to the belief is never enough. So, what you do, is express your desire to do well on a test or exam, based on times you did do well. You then explore your feelings of what is would be like to pass a test and based on those feelings you create a study plan and study.
If is important to note that if you are having difficulty embracing the idea of passing a test, you will likely need the help of a therapist.
People who engage in mind-reading usually suffer from social anxiety. People who struggle with social anxiety usually believe no body likes them and they can’t handle the idea of not being liked. As a result, the socially anxious person is sensitive to conflicts with others and avoids social gatherings.
Socially anxiety usually results from childhood trauma, and the beliefs associated with that trauma are reinforced through adolescent years and adulthood. It is also important to note, that there are also neurological issues that could make people biological sensitive to social gathering besides childhood trauma.
If you are in the habit of reading minds and assuming the worst, you should do a review, of all your current relationships. When I have worked with clients like this, and done a review, of their current relationships, they are surprised to find that most of the people they interact with are kind to them. This then serves as a foundation for rebuilding their beliefs about people in general.
Another word for magnification would be catastrophizing. When people engage in magnification, they often react to their feeling of anxiety by blowing things out of proportion. So, a student who believes he can never pass a test, now will conclude that he will never be able to get employed or do anything worthwhile with his life. Or the mind reader will become reclusive out of fear of being hurt by others.
If you engage in magnification often, this means that you are often transitioning from one state of crisis to the next. It is strongly recommended that you seek the services of a therapist. Regardless, the solution would be to create space to be calm and relaxed. Once this is accomplished, perform a historical review regarding your experiences with that situation. Then you will now focus on your experiences with positive outcomes.
Then more often you change your mind, the more often you change your feelings, you then change your actions, and you change your life.
Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist and expert in anxiety and related disorders. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book your first appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.
Ugo also provides Online therapy for those who cannot travel to his office.