by Guest Blogger T.
Enjoy these helpful insights for overcoming Obsessions, Compulsions and Anxiety. cb
One of the most difficult concepts in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to master is the idea of cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are the irrational thoughts that constantly bombard those of us with OCD. Conceptually speaking, shouldn’t it be easy to dodge these irrational thoughts? For the average person, the answer may be yes. However, mental illness clouds thinking, concentration, and makes it hard, if not impossible to function.
Each blog that I write will be how I have used the tools that I have obtained to push back against this painful condition. My goal is to help individuals manage their symptoms. Obviously, I don’t expect that something that works for me is going to necessarily work for everyone, but I hope to provide insight into how I have overcome this debilitating monster.
Now it is time to address the topic of this post, “Everyone is my friend, unless I am proven otherwise.” The underlying concept is nothing new in CBT, but I discovered how to use it on my own. As a corollary, the opposite of “Everyone is my friend, unless I am proven otherwise” is, “Everyone dislikes me, unless I am proven otherwise.” I like to keep reminding myself that there is a clear distinction between the two and the former makes me feel a lot better.
I have struggled with cognitive distortions my whole life, with respect to surfing. I have surfed my whole life and the cognitive distortion subset, called “mind-reading”, plagues me every time I am at the beach or in the water. The mind-reading presents itself by making me feel that everyone is thinking about me negatively. I have this very intensely and daily, so I thought that sharing of a way to manage this would reach a sizable audience.
Let me start with an example. Today, I showed up to the beach to go surfing. For the majority of the morning, I was the only one in the ocean. When someone entered the water, regardless of ability, facial expression, or age, to name a few, I immediately thought they hated me. This is my natural reaction that I am always living with. Taking care of this with respect to surfing started about a month ago, but I adequately applied it today. One of the individuals I saw had a seemingly upset look on his face. My gut reaction was to internalize it, but I applied the new tool that I have been using. I said, “well, he didn’t say ‘good morning’, but he is my friend and he is probably focused on getting his first wave (or what he will be having for lunch :)).” Honest to goodness, this actually worked! By applying this methodology, it has been a lot easier to get through surf sessions without getting my usual irritability.
Another place that I love using this methodology is in my car. As someone with OCD and anxiety, I think that everyone that is within 100 feet of my car is being rude, hates me, and is driving too close. So now, when I see someone driving erratically, I say, “well, they are my friend, but they seem to be in a hurry today.” Driving back from surfing today, I was able to apply this in the car. Someone was driving close to me, by my definition, and I started to get anxious. Then they proceeded to flash their high-beams to alert me to get out of the way. I normalized the situation, not for his sake, but for mine, by saying, “my friend seems to be in a rush. I hope he doesn’t get in an accident.” Once again, this worked like a charm!
I would like to conclude this post with something that should always be kept in mind, if using this technique. The reader should always remind themselves that it doesn’t matter if the person is really your friend. This is all about managing life with the cognitive distortion of mind-reading. Remember that the alternative is getting anxious, worked up, and potentially turning your thoughts inward and feeling worse. Thanks for reading.
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