Something that comes up a lot in therapy is the concept of over analysis. Over analysis often comes from our internal anxiety and self doubt. We learn that knowledge is power and that the more we know the better off we will be. Just to be clear, analysis is NOT knowledge; it is theory NOT fact.
A therapist that I highly respect once said to me, “The stories in your head are not your friends”. I never quite understood what that phrase meant until I heard my clients or my friends scrutinize something someone said to them and devise theories on how to interpret it. After a date a friend says “He said he would call me later- so that must mean he won’t really call because he didn’t say exactly when so he was just trying to let me down nicely. It must be because my outfit wasn’t nice enough for the restaurant we ate at or because I gained five pounds since the time he met me. Or maybe it is because I wasn’t funny enough or smart enough…” And it goes on and on.
The amount of negative self talk that came from one simple sentence is what the phrase is referring to. The anxiety and self doubt that people experience are so often products of our own thoughts and not of actual experiences and interactions. Here are some strategies to help work through some of these detrimental thoughts that will further break you down:
1. PAY ATTENTION– Start by noticing and being more MINDFUL of when you are engaging in negative self talk or negative thinking. The first step to combating bad habits is by noticing them and accepting the fact that you are doing them.
2. WHAT IS IT GETTING YOU?!– Are your theories about what something means helping the situation? Are they changing the outcome? What are your stories and interpretations getting you other than lessening your own self worth?
3. 2 POSITIVES– Start remedying this mal-adaptive behavior by theorizing or reciting 2 positive thoughts for every negative that comes to your mind. This may sound cheesy, but it will be a double win. Either you start adopting a more positive way of thinking when it becomes second nature or it makes you so nauseous that you will do anything to avoid the thoughts that make you recite those cheesy positive sentiments.
4. Get Outlets– Process these negative thoughts and feeling with a therapist so you can figure out the real causes behind them and work through whatever pain underlies those ideas.
Feel free to share some of the stories that you once created…..