In my clinical work, I notice that people often think in absolute terms, giving themselves little flexibility or room for error. Over the years I have referred to some of these thinking patterns as Shoulditis, Oughtism and Musterbation. These are not original terms that I made up, but they are helpful in assisting clients to identify areas where they could be easier on themselves. Here is a brief overview of each one, and some suggestions as to what you can do if you suffer with these common conditions.
Do you ever have that feeling that you should have your life all figured out, that you should have areas of your life more organized, that you should be a better parent, or maybe you have lists of things you should get done? Should is a self-imposed measuring stick against which you will inevitably fall short, and it creates a feeling of anxiety in your body whenever you think of it.
Oughtism stems from a strong sense of obligation and has been said to originate from a dysfunction in the oughtonomic nervous system (okay I made that last bit up). In all seriousness, many of us do things because we feel we ought to. We don’t really want to volunteer for that extra work, or go out on a cold evening for a social event a friend told us we ought to go to, but we do it and then feel bad, wishing we had been more assertive in the first place.
Albert Ellis, a famous psychologist, coined the phrase ‘Musterbation’ which he used to describe the phenomenon where people place unrealistic and absolute demands on themselves and those around them, such as “I must try harder” (TRY is another word to avoid where possible by the way). We can also use the word musterbation in daily language, such as “he was suffering from a serious case of musterbation about getting a perfect score in all his exams.”
With these conditions, the things we say to ourselves set standards we cannot meet, and we are left feeling bad and frustrated. It is an easy spiral from here down into a depressed or anxious state.
So, what can you do to change your thinking patterns? The first step is awareness of what you are saying to yourself. Monitor your thoughts, notice when they leave you feeling uncomfortable, and if necessary write them down to draw your attention to what you are doing.
The next step is not to beat yourself up for what you are doing. It is a pattern you have slipped into and now you see it, you can change it.
Finally, take your should, ought and must statements and rephrase them as wishes or desires. For example, I would like to be more successful, I want to spend more time playing with my kids. While you are doing that, listen to yourself and ask if you really do want to do all those things? If you don’t want to, challenge your assumption and figure out what you would rather be doing instead, then act on it.
And remember, life is short, so don’t live it in a way that isn’t true to who you are and what you want!
If you find that you continue to struggle with rigid thinking patterns that no longer work for you, a trained cognitive-behavioral therapist can be a great resource for teaching you to change. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.
This Post was published by English Informer in France: http://www.englishinformerinfrance.com/full-article/Common-Cognitive-Conditions
As we move into a new year, I wanted to talk about HOPE. Some people say that having a blind faith or hoping for things that are not realistic is just tormenting ourselves. When we lose someone precious to us, when we fail continually at something we strive towards, when we hear about world atrocities, when we are struggling with a threatening or debilitating illness, when we lose our faith, these are times when we question the value of hope, when we feel like we are going through the motions and sometimes turning to anything that blunts the pain.
What is there to hope for after all?
What I want to impress upon you today is that hope is vital, and that we should never stop being hopeful.
Research suggests that people who maintain a hopeful outlook tend to be healthier and feel happier in general. Interestingly, hopeful people attain better grades in school, and being hopeful increases our ability to endure pain and difficulty. In short, hope is a key component for good mental health.
Hope is also a much easier emotion to sustain and reach for than happiness, but the two do go hand in hand. So what can you be hopeful for as you look ahead to the coming year?
Think about and complete one or both sentences:
Take a moment to consider how it feels when you have completed your sentences.
Then start setting realistic goals. This is different from resolutions or aiming for something that might well be unattainable, such as winning an Oscar or having a best-selling album. Think about things you know you can hope for that have a good chance of happening, and start there.
The boost to your mental health can also come from giving hope to others, in fact we find hope when we give hope, so think about what you can do for those around you to help them feel more hopeful. Hope becomes more powerful when it is collaborative.
And finally, learn to savor the anticipation of hopes coming true rather than dread losing hope. The fact that you had hope does not mean you are more disappointed when things don’t work out as you wanted them to, it means you allowed yourself to experience something that felt great and you can do that again as you keep going.
Hope can move mountains, so never stop reaching for it.
If you find yourself facing the coming year with concerns or anxiety, counselling can help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.