Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?

So now that we are aware of what triggers our abandonment issues and we are able to identify the feelings that come up and why…what do we do with those feelings?

In yesterday’s post, I immediately went into judgmental mode after I acknowledged feeling abandoned after finding out that my best friend was pregnant. I called myself an awful person and I called myself selfish.

Feeling sentence: I feel [felt] abandoned when my best friend told me she was pregnant because she won’t have much time for me when the new baby is born.

Negative judgments about myself: Michele, you’re really an awful person. A new baby is a blessing, how selfish of you to feel that way, what’s wrong with you?

This is what we are going to try to avoid. Remember, feelings are not good or bad…they’re just feelings. One of my favorite Melody Beattie quotes about feelings is,

“Feelings are not acts; feeling homicidal rage is entirely different from committing homicide. Feelings shouldn’t be judged as either good or bad. Feelings are emotional energy; they are not personality traits (Beattie, 1992).”

I have mentioned this Melody quote before. There is no need to begin judging ourselves for our feelings. If the feelings that come up make us feel bad, or lead us to speak untruths to ourselves, or degrade ourselves or our self worth, it is time to re-frame our thinking.

For me, this is where the assistance of a good professional or other supportive individual is important. A good mental health counselor or psychologist, or if you are in a 12 step program, your sponsor or recovery friends can help you or lead you in the right direction in re-framing your negative thinking.

When my abandonment issues are activated, I have a tendency to internalize and personalize everything, which leads me to believe there is something wrong with me. (i.e. my question to myself earlier…what’s wrong with you?)

For example, on the topic of dating, in a session with my therapist, I may say,

I am easily forgotten. Men don’t believe I’m worth fighting for…or worth hanging in there with. I’m stupid for even trying.

My therapist will then respond with someting like,

How can we re-frame that statement using words that are positive and nonjudgmental?

The perfect counseling client would re-frame that statement right away. But I’m nowhere near the perfect client. I’m usually very rebellious and defensive at this point and I say,

WE CAN’T!!

This is where it helps to have an experienced therapist that knows you well. She usually responds by gently coaching,

Come on, I know you can do it. I have faith in you. First, let’s talk about what’s definitely NOT true. You are NOT stupid.

The compassion she has for me, when I have none for myself, usually loosens my defenses.

Okay fine. Re-frame. I am desired and chosen by me. I have not forgotten myself. I not only love myself, I like myself. The right man will hang in there with me and be truly crazy about me and willing to grow with me. He is out there and I will find him.

I create this new statement reluctantly. But I hate to admit, it makes me feel better…hopeful. Hopeful that maybe at some point, I can let the bad stuff go…

This is all well and good, but unfortunately we can’t keep our shrinks in our back pocket, or spend our lives in our therapist’s office.

I’ve tried.

She told me I could sit in the waiting room for as long as I liked. But I figured that would look pretty silly (haha). This is why the awareness component of our feelings is so important. These negative thoughts have a tendency to sneak up on us…especially when our guards are down.

That brings me to a useful app I discovered for the iPhone and iPad (what was life like before those devices?) that can help in re-framing our thoughts when we have to do it on our own. The app is called Thought Diary, developed by a company called happtic. This app gives you an opportunity to catch negative thoughts throughout the day and re-frame them as soon as they come up.

A thought diary is designed to help people record the thoughts that cause emotional and psychological distress. By recording our unhelpful thoughts, we can learn to identify thinking errors (also known as ‘negative’, ‘automatic’ or ‘dysfunctional’ thoughts). It is a common tool used in CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] to assist individuals in identifying unhelpful thinking patterns, which will then provide the opportunity to challenge and change these thoughts and thereby reducing psychological distress (happtic.com).

Specifically, the app allows you to record:

  • The situation
  • Unhelpful thoughts
  • Belief rating (how much you believe the unhelpful thought from 0 to 100%)
  • The emotional, behavioral, or physiological consequences of the thought
  • Thinking error (i.e. emotional reasoning, labeling, etc.)
  • The New thought (re-framed thought)
  • New thought belief rating (how much you believe the new thought from 0 to 100%)
  • Emotional, behavioral, or physiological consequences of the new thought

You can purchase this app on iTunes in the app store. Or you can buy yourself your own “thought journal” and record and re-frame your thoughts by hand. Do what works for you.

Happy thinking!


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