How’s your inner critic?
If that voice is running rampant in your head, I’m going to show you how to think logically, and use logical thinking to suppress your negative thoughts.
First, the scenario
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It’s Monday morning, and you’ve snoozed the alarm at least five times…now you’re running late for work. Your mind is on autopilot – and out comes the running commentary.
“You shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night. You knew you’d sleep in, but you stayed up late anyway. You’re so stupid!”
You scramble out of bed, and race to the kitchen looking for a quick breakfast.
That inner critic says “Now you don’t have time to eat, you’ll just have to go without breakfast and hope that nobody notices you’re so late.”
So you throw on some clothes and shoes, then run out the door and do the commute to work, cursing the traffic and realizing you’ve forgotten to take some important papers. Sigh.
As you walk in the door to your office, your inner critic pipes up again, with a smarmy little comment. “Now everyone is going to look at you as you do the walk of shame through reception!”
After all that, you slump into your chair, resigned to feeling tired, miserable and defeated. And it’s only 9.30am on Monday!
What’s really happened is this – you slept in and were late for work. The end.
But your emotional, self-defeating inner voice has sabotaged your mental wellbeing and you’ve spent the morning beating yourself up about it – and then taking on board all those self-criticisms…for no tangible benefit.
Yep, no tangible benefit.
Negative thinking like this tends to be automatic
It could be the voice of your mother, a sibling, a friend or teacher. One of these people, or a combination of them – or some sort of social or cultural influence – has taught you how to label, judge and criticize yourself, so it’s become a natural habit.
It feels normal for you to talk to yourself like this.
But at the same time, this negative thought cycle makes no tangible difference to your daily habits, and it has no positive effect on your mood, emotions or wellbeing.
In fact, these automatic negative thoughts are just a big energy drain.
So, how do you get out of this cycle and turn your thoughts around?
How to think logically
It would be nice to think you could simply suppress your negative thoughts, but really, that’s only a temporary solution.
Sure, you could push those negative thoughts to the side by distracting yourself with something else, but in reality, it doesn’t necessarily stop the pattern of thoughts from being triggered in the first place.
The easiest way to deconstruct the negative thought patterns is using a technique based on logical thinking, called “Socratic questioning,”(after the philosopher, Socrates).
This is described in Sarah Edelman’s book called Change Your Thinking (1). Changing these negative thought patterns is a three step process.
Tomorrow in Part Two of this article I will walk you through the Three Step process to change negative thoughts.
Your beliefs dictate your thoughts and actions – I will teach you how to recognise and alter these faulty beliefs as a starting point for change.
Connect with Expert Melanie White
– Edelman, S, (2002), Change Your Thinking (II), Positive and Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Negative Emotions and Self-defeating
– Behaviour Using CBT, Harper Collins Publishers Australia, NZ, India, UK.