Good method of addressing your self-defeating belief system is by identifying and moving away from “hot” feelings to “cool” feelings. Hot feelings have a spiraling effect on mood and thoughts, while cool feelings tend to have a less intense effect. Although cool feelings may still be unpleasant to some degree, they are less incapacitating.
Cool feelings are responses to adverse situations such as job loss or trouble in a marriage that are less harmful and far healthier than hot feelings, and far easier to deal with. Here are the differences between hot, maladaptive feelings and their cool, adaptive counterparts.
Rage, fury and anger
Despondency, despair, depression and pessimism
Severe guilt, intense remorse
Anxiety, fear and panic
Annoyance and irritation
Only by replacing unhealthy emotions with less volatile substitutes can we manage our feelings better and address our real problems in the outside world.
Here are five thinking errors and their preferred alternates:
“This is awful.” Instead of wallowing in despair and telling yourself, “This is 100 percent, irredeemably awful,” try using moderating or mitigating terms that will serve to tone down the sense of catastrophe. Whatever’s bugging you may be inconvenient, a real hassle, a pain in the neck or anything else you choose to call it. It probably isn’t the end of the world.
“I can’t stand it.” Instead of falling into this trap, remind yourself that you have in fact stood—and will continue to stand—all manner of difficult situations. They’re a part of life, and life has a habit of going on.
Condemnation and damnation. Heaping ashes on your own head or consigning other people to horrible fates can only lead to anger and fury. That anger points two ways, and is equally wounding. Blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong or viewing what has happened as well-merited punishment for your sins and shortcomings, real or imagined, is not going to make your situation any better. As for blaming others, it may enlarge your vocabulary, but it does little good to get you out of any hole you have dug for yourself. Remind yourself that blame is not constructive; look for ways to resolve the problem instead.
“I’m worthless.” If that were true, there’d be no point in you or anybody else doing anything to aid a lost cause. We all carry enough of a load at the best of times, without saying things like “I’m no good—a complete and utter screw-up. That’s why I always fail. I don’t deserve good things.” Thoughts and expressions of self-worthlessness lead straight to depression and despair. Remind yourself that, even if you have made a mistake or an error in judgment, you have more good qualities than bad, you often do things right, you can learn from your mistakes and you are still a good person who deserves good things.
Always and never. Statements along the lines of “Everyone always dumps on me; they never give me a hand” or “I [or things in general] will never get better, never change” are plainly self-defeating and invite feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Put your feelings into perspective: there is always hope for change, and while some people may sometimes dump on you, many people do, in fact, give you a hand.