Recognize "Stinkin Thinkin" that leads to depression and turn it into positive action and success.
People who are members of Twelve Step anonymous groups often talk about how their Stinkin’ Thinkin' leads them to relapse. Stinkin’ Thinkin’ is what psychotherapists recognize as cognitive distortions. That means that your thinking is twisted. In other words, you believe your thoughts are the truth. When you feel the way you think and your thinking is negative, you might put yourself into a depressed state. Here are some real life examples. Perhaps you will recognize yourself or someone you know.
When Theresa was fifty her husband lost his business. She had been a homemaker since she married and hadn’t ever worked. Because they were in a financial crisis she had to find a job. Theresa would get up every morning with the intention of looking for work, but would find so many distractions that she never got around to following through.
When Theresa consulted me about her problem she remarked, “I am too old and fat. I am embarrassed to go for an interview. No one will want to hire me.” Her negative beliefs kept her sitting at home feeling depressed and stuck. Theresa assumed that this imaginary worst-case scenario was the only possible outcome! If what she described was guaranteed to happen I wouldn’t blame her for not wanting to go on interviews.
One of my wise mentors used to say, “The Truth with a capital T is true for everyone, everywhere, all the time. If it isn’t, then it is just your opinion. And you can change your opinion.” Was Theresa’s belief about her future the Truth with a capital T? Is it true that all overweight fifty-year-olds are turned down for jobs? When Theresa spoke to me, I had no doubt that her tale of woe was just her opinion... but she was unaware of it.
I challenged Theresa's Stinkin' Thinkin' and taught her that what she was doing is called “awfulizing.” She was foretelling a tragic soap opera where the worst thing would definitely happen and her life would be ruined. Once she comprehended her mistake she was able to think of other ways to address her problem. She convinced herself that perhaps there was a job for someone like her. She took some brush-up classes in office skills and was determined to keep looking.
While Theresa was getting ready to go job hunting a friend phoned and told her about someone who was organizing a special film festival and looking for an assistant. Even though Theresa wasn't a skilled office worker she had other talents that got her hired. This opportunity turned out to be a fabulous job! If you are like Theresa please examine your thoughts and ask yourself if they are really the Truth with a capital "T" or just your opinion.
Another harmful type of Stinkin' Thinkin' is All or Nothing thinking that limits your choices to only 2, black/white or either/or. Perfectionists who have only two choices, all or nothing, good or bad, perfect or failure, paint themselves into a corner. When you have to earn an A or you consider yourself a failure, you don’t leave room to feel OK with a B plus or A minus.
Jack was a perfectionist. At 78 years old he was long retired. However, his wife had recently retired and was getting a lot of what he told himself was "technical stuff" in the mail about her pension and her 401K. Jack was an early riser who greeted the postman as he delivered the mail first thing in the morning. He would then take it into the kitchen, sit at the table and look through the contents.
Whenever Jack saw something that looked “technical” he would put it aside. When the pile in the kitchen grew too big Jack would transfer it to the basket on the wet bar in the family room, and when that basket was overflowing, the unexamined mail landed in a box in the hall closet because he couldn’t bring himself to look at the growing clutter.
By the time I met Jack he was filled with self-loathing and frustration. After all, a man his age should know about stock proxies and pensions. He was so frightened of handling his wife’s business affairs incorrectly that sometimes he would not even open the envelopes that contained the words he was afraid he wouldn’t understand. He had to do it right or else... a clear example of right/wrong thinking.
Poor Jack had punished himself most of his life because of his erroneous belief that there were only 2 choices: perfect or failure. I decided to help Jack get to the bottom of this problem once and for all by asking him what I call “The Magic Question.”
I said, “Jack, I am going to ask you a question that your conscious mind doesn’t know the answer to, but your unconscious mind does. When I clap my hands a number will pop into your head. Tell me what it is.” Then I continued: “How young could you be when you first decided that if you didn’t know the right way, there was something wrong with you for being wrong?”
When I clapped my hands Jack blurted out, “I was 7! I remember being in the second grade in Catholic School. I can still see Sister Ann standing in front of the class. She was very mean and would punish us if we gave the wrong answer. I was scared. I can still see her eyes looking at me. I was afraid to get it wrong. That’s how I feel when I am sitting at the kitchen table all alone in the morning with the mail. I can see her standing in front of me. I can feel that fear in my throat"
Poor Jack had been carrying that trauma for over 70 years. I urged him to leave the past behind since he was no longer a child at the mercy of a heartless teacher. When he realized that he had survived her cruelty and her criticism he was able to affirm: “ I am not 7. I am 78! She is just a memory from my past. What a surprise that something like that is still affecting me."
Listen to yourself and see if you can discover how often you use Stinkin' Thinkin' in your words or unexpressed thoughts. Find out more about how to overcome negative thinking in my ebook: EFT Tapping: 64 Quick & Easy Tips.
Take advantage of a free phone consult with Gloria to discuss your Stinkin Thinkin.
Download Gloria’s FREE eBook: Creating Happiness.