Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Shoulda Hada V-8
Of all the forms of irrational thinking that Dr. Burns mentions in his book, the ones that I believe get the most work are the "Should Syndrome" and Overgeneralizing. Maybe I'm only speaking from my own perspective, but these are the ones that I've struggled with more frequently than the others.
"Should" statements take a lot of forms. Some examples are: "You should...you have to....you need to...you ought to...you must..." and maybe more that I can't think of right now. What I have noticed about should statements is that they are most often used by someone who is trying to subtly manipulate you to do what they think is best. I don't know that they are always consciously trying to manipulate, but that's what it amounts to, in my opinion.
To me, they are saying, "I know what is the best course of action for you to take or the best decision to make. So therefore, this is what you should do." Actually, it usually means that "this is what I WANT you to do." There is a controlling factor at work here. That's why people who use should statements regarding someone else, get a little (maybe a lot) peeved when their "advice" isn't taken. I wonder if any of us are in a position to decide what anyone else should do?
If someone asks me what I think they ought to do in any situation, I try to help them explore the options available to them. I want them to decide what they should do, not me. If I'm really pushed though, I might respond by saying, "If I were in your position, I would..., but what may be right for me may not be right for you. That's why you have to make your own decisions."
I've been very careful to avoid telling my grown children what I think they should do. I may have an opinion about it, but I don't think it's really any of my business. They have to live with their own actions and decisions. Now, if they ask for my advice, I give it. But only if they ask.
The other form of irrational thinking that lights my fuse is Overgeneralizing. We've all heard "You always...you never...no one...everyone...not anyone...all, etc.." Most of us have not only been the recipient, but also the giver of overgeneralizing statements. We not only use them against other people, but we use them against ourselves. "I never...I always."
I try not to use these statements in reference to other people, and I usually don't allow others to use them against me. I assertively (had to learn this) say, "Now, do you want to rethink that statement? Does anyone ever "always" do anything? Every single time? I believe that you are exaggerating the situation. Now, what is the truth?"
How many of us have heard, "You never put the butter up," or "You never do your work projects on time."? I just have to respond, "Do you really mean that I've never...? Not even once? Are you sure? Do you want to rethink that?"
You see, I believe that words like "never...always...everyone....not any one" eat away at truth. They eat away at reality. It doesn't matter if they are directed toward us by other people, or they are self-directed. Any time that truth and reality are eroded, for whatever reason, our personal world is diminished. Our mental and emotional well-being are put at risk. Our patterns of thinking become irrational and unrealistic. Therefore, our view of ourselves and the world around us becomes unhealthy and can easily lead to psychological depression.
["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]