Stinkin' Thinkin' Thursday: Filtering
Do you find yourself thinking thoughts similar to these?
"I could have enjoyed the party, but the food was cold,"
"My car broke down, now the whole day is ruined,"
"I'm struggling to understand a new concept, this always happens, I can't stand it!"
This is another example of thinking in a limited way. Filtering your thoughts could be seen as using tunnel vision. A single detail is picked out, and the entire event or situation is colored by that single detail. Not only does this awfulize your thoughts, but it tends to magnify them, and makes you ignore all the good experiences that may have come along with it. Typical words that are used when filtering or awfulizing are terrible, awful, horrible, horrendous, and "I can't stand it."
Filtering also causes our memory to be selective. If you focus on negative aspects of situations, it stores your memories this way too. You start to flood your mind with evidence to support negative beliefs because of the negatively filtered memories. When your memories are filtered in this way, you skip past positive experiences and dwell only in memories that may leave you angry, anxious, or depressed.
The best way to balance this way of thinking is to shift your focus. First, try to pay attention on your coping strategies of dealing with a problem rather than obsessing about the problem itself. Second, try to focus on the opposite mental theme you find yourself stuck in. For example, if you tend to focus on a theme of not being good enough, instead focus on what you have and do that gives you value and worth.
Good luck and happy thinking!
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Rachael Kool, professional counselor and normal, everyday adult screw up