Stinkin’ Thinkin’


How To Make A Train Wreck

Have you ever seen the slow descent of madness portrayed in a Hollywood film?  The protagonist begins life as an optimistic lover of life that ends up spiraling down into madness with everyone around them giving loving, concerned looks and offering to do whatever it takes to make them well again.  That, or they put them into an asylum or behind bars for the rest of their lives (where according to Hollywood they belong).

Olivia de Havilland as the ‘mentally ill’ Virginia Cunningham in ‘The Snake Pit’

Things are never quite so clear-cut in life.  That ‘descent’ could go unnoticed.  The ‘madness’ isn’t quite so clearly understood.  Nor might a loving hand be stretched out in sympathy or support.  And a trip to the ‘sanitarium’ is these days often a trip to the emergency room or sadly, a one-way trip to a funeral home.

Cognitive Distortion is a major culprit.  It’s the method of corrupted thinking that causes mentally ill and bipolar (and ‘normal’!) people from thinking things out in a rational and realistic way.  It causes tremendous internal damage by producing unreasonable fears and  incorrect conclusions.  It alters what we allow ourselves to think by a type of ‘thought enforcement’.  Our thoughts are generated from and travel within neural pathways that are unreliable.  Years and years of reinforcing and allowing this kind of thinking puts your cognition into a rut not easily escaped.

Often, people that are locked into distorted, negative and unrealistic thinking are completely unaware of it and in fact, they can’t see the forest for the trees.  They cannot see that their thinking is distorted because their thinking is distorted.  They can’t recognize a problem if they can’t see it.  That was the way of it for me.

If you want to know what cognitive distortions can really do, then some reading is in order.  There’s a lot of information to cover and I highly suggest that you take some time and read about it; how to recognize this kind of what’s called stinkin’ thinkin’, and how to prevent it.

From here on in this posting, I’m going assume you’ve reviewed the list of Cognitive Distortions, and I’m going to talk about a couple of those distortions and what they can do.  Then, we’re going to talk about change.


One Way Or The Other

We see the world in multiple dimensions.  That is, if we’re healthy.  But if we are filtering or choosing what we take into our thinking, and then putting the single worst thought into the ‘hamster wheel’ in our heads, where we create something really quite nasty.  We perpetually worry over that one awful thing.  Not only that, we worry about that one thing to the exclusion of others.  For example, if we were wearing 3-D glasses, we would allow our vision through either the red or the blue, but never red and blue together.  And then we grind that single vision into a stinking mess in our heads.

We spin that bad thought around in our heads until we can do nothing — it makes our perceived reality gloomy, indeed.  That negative swirling mess interrupts everything until we simply can’t see anything else at all.


It Is This or It Is That

Everything — EVERYTHING — is one way or another.  There is no middle ground; you cannot and will not consider the ‘gray area’ in your thinking.  And that’s so incredibly limiting.  You’re not allowing yourself to consider things that could change your mind, and that’s not good.  It stops you from understanding the complexity of a situation.  It’s black or white thinking.  It prevents you from considering alternative approaches to an issue or problem.  It makes you inflexible.  If you are inflexible you can’t understand why things don’t go your way.  You can’t assess the nuances of how others think or feel because you simply will not see your inflexibility.


The Train Is Derailing

All these fears you create, all the choices you make that limit you, all of the misunderstandings you insist upon maintaining move your decisions and attitudes into the realm of the incorrect and the ‘supposed’.  These methods of thinking cause so much pain that it’s almost incalculable.  If you have read the article I referenced then you’ll begin to understand what a confusing mess, what a train wreck, what an antagonistic weight can be placed on the shoulders of those with cognitive distortion.

This thinking is a symptom.  It’s not something that we cultivate with intent.  It’s a by-product of many things: lack of effective coping skills, early environment that is not directed or insufficiently supported, chemical imbalances or other medically-based causes.  In fact, it can be any number of causes and it’s up to you and your psychiatrist to discover those underlying reasons and begin to take action to correct your thinking.

I myself have suffered from most if not all of the cognitive distortions on the list.  I can tell you from experience that it not only takes medication, it takes talk therapy.  It takes insight.  These distortions must be worked on from all angles — and there are ways to stop cognitive distortion from causing that train wreck from ruining the rest of your life.

Not only is it vitally important that should you suffer from cognitive distortion that you come to accept that you are not thinking in a reasonable way, you need to learn what to do about it.  But remember, you cannot do it alone.  You learned to think in this way, and you can unlearn the distorted patterns of thinking.


Pay Attention To This Sign

Even when you begin working to end cognitive distortions from being a wrecking ball in your life, it’s the beginning. With something this nasty we’re very lucky that there are tools available to help us stop this thinking.  But be warned: this isn’t something that happens overnight.  These kinds of distorted thinking are insidious.  If we’ve been thinking in a distorted fashion we’ve been making that thinking our primary thought process.  When you have to change something so basic, so entrenched, then you’re going to need time to make that change.  You’re going to need help, and lots of it.  I cannot stress how important it is to get to a therapist and talk this out with their assistance.  It gave me a road map to help find the way out.

But I know that if I can begin this process, anyone can do this.  While it may be that some of this thinking is not going to change, it is imperative that you continue the fight.  It recalls an old saying: good things come to those who wait.  I disagree.  I believe that good things come to those who strive for those good things.



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