Imagine you’re listening to a friend who is relaying the details of argument they’ve had. They’re wildly emotional as they describe the series of unjust ways in which they’ve been treated. Often, they’re just describing why everything is the other person’s fault.
“And then he said that he doesn’t even want to go away at the minute because I’m always nagging on about it! Can you even believe this crap? Doesn’t he see how hard I’m working?”
As you listen to this, even as you nod along and take your friends’ side, there’s still an awareness in the back of your mind that this is one side of a story. One version of events, seen through your friends’ eyes only. You know that the other party involved might have a completely different ‘story’ to tell, as would you yourself, if you’d witnessed the argument as a ‘fly on the wall.’ You might even know that your friend can be argumentative/stubborn/unreasonable/paranoid in their own behaviour.
But do we apply the same logic when speaking to ourselves?
When your anxious brain tells you that you can’t possibly say yes to that presentation, because you’ll just make a fool of yourself in front of everyone, again; when your anxious brain tells you to leave the concert, because everyone is going to see you trembling and think you’re pathetic; when someone doesn’t reply to a message, and your anxious brain says, “Of course! They’ll be upset with you because of X, Y and Z”; often these are things that we listen to, as if they’re truths.
But they’re not. Often they’re not even close.
When you hear these thoughts, you’re just listening to the friend that’s in your head. This friend, you know, doesn’t have great self-esteem. They’re always putting themself down. They’re always assuming the worst; that everyone is out to get them.
The most eye-opening thing that came out of my CBT years ago, was the realisation that my thoughts were not truths. They were not facts. As soon as I learnt this, I realised that there was another version of events that I could listen to.
As your anxious brain speaks, remember to take this with a pinch of salt, just as you would if a friend was relaying their version of events.
More over, can you speak back? As your anxious brain begins its chatter, can you offer the words of encouragement, support and reason that this friend really needs? Can you comfort yourself, just as you would a friend, when they’re feeling as though everyone and everything is against them?
Just imagine how different your emotional response would be to negative thinking, if you approached these thoughts like a gloomy friend who needed cheering up, rather than set-in-stone truths about you and your bleak existence.
Tried this? Had success with breaking down thoughts? Tell me – I’ve love to know how you go on…