It sounds creepy when you say it out loud but we all have that voice in our heads that follows us around, sometimes narrates and always gets our sense of humor. But, how often are you heading it’s advice? And, is it always good advice? My general counsel, as a like to refer to my inner voice, is generally on it’s best behavior until it’s not. And then, it’s all sorts of unnecessary negative thinking, assumptions and catastrophizing. If you’ve dealt with this too then here are some quick steps from Dr. Stacey Lessans, a behavioral psychologist, on how to do a quick 3 step check on how to know where your thoughts are at.
Reality vs. Perspective.
Our thoughts are directly related to our mood and vice-versa. When we are in a down mood or anxious mood, we tend to interpret situations through a depressive or anxious lens. For example, on an ordinary day if someone does not return a phone call right away, we may interpret this as the person is busy or perhaps didn’t get the message. If we are in an anxious state, however, that same unreturned call may be interpreted as “this person is angry with me” or that something terrible has happened to this person.
Check the facts.
So how do we know when our thoughts are irrational or leading us astray? While there are many different ways that our thoughts can go astray, here are three quick checks and solutions
- Mood-Contingent Thinking: Know that if you are in an anxious or depressive mood, your thoughts may be impacted by this and you may be interpreting reality in a bleaker way (which similarly, if we are in a very good mood, we may be interpreting things in a very optimistic and hopeful way). Instead, recognize your thinking may be affected by your current mood and ask yourself, “What would non-anxious Me be thinking about this situation?”
- Worst Case Scenario: If you find yourself assuming the worst-case scenario in a situation, key words may pop into your mind: “What IF…? For example, What IF I lose my job? What IF he breaks up with me?” Instead, switch gears and try asking yourself what the “best case scenario” may be, as well as the “likely scenario,” which will give you some different perspectives on the situation. While certainly at times our worst-case scenario may be a likely possibility, when we are anxious or down, there is a tendency to overestimate/overweight how probable it is that this worst-case scenario will occur.
- Mind Reading: While we may wish we could know what others are thinking, we can’t read other people’s minds (not matter how well we know them!!) If you catch yourself saying “She or he must be thinking…I am stupid or I am boring or I am not a good friend…etc,” you are falling into a thinking trap of mind reading. Instead of trying to guess what someone else is thinking, focus on finding concrete evidence as to what he/she may be thinking. For example, if you assume someone thinks you are boring, is there specific proof or evidence that this is true?
Do you ever find yourself misguided by internal voices? Let us know below or email us at email@example.com.