By Tori S. July 20, 2017
For the longest time, I wasn’t sure why I did certain things. Even while writing this, I came to huge realizations about how much my feelings, beliefs and actions are tied to my past.
Here are the things I do because I experienced emotional abuse as a child:
1. I don’t guess.
If someone asks me a question and I am not 99 to 100 percent sure I know the answer, I won’t guess the answer. I will freeze and panic.
2. I am terrified of being wrong.
Being wrong feels like a character flaw, like something is seriously wrong with me. I feel humiliated, embarrassed and mortified even if it was just something minor. This makes participating in classes nearly impossible and laces so many of my conversations with anxiety and panic.
3. I feel toxic.
I constantly worry I am hurting people. I push people away just to protect them from my toxicity.
4. I am afraid to share my feelings.
This is for so many reasons… I’m scared I shouldn’t feel a certain way. I’m scared I will be ridiculed or criticized for feeling that way. I’m afraid of being told to “Just get over it” or “Grow up and move on.” I’m afraid of being vulnerable. I’m afraid of being shot down and rejected.
5. I am constantly aware of all of my feelings and reactions.
Part of this is a way I cope with my borderline personality disorder (BPD). But another part of it is that I worry my feelings are overreactions or not justified or are just not OK to have. My family often told me I was overreacting or that I couldn’t take a joke. So I began to worry and apply this to all relationships in my life. As a child, my feelings were neglected and shoved aside. They were made to feel “less than” and unimportant. They were made to seem like burdens. If I felt something different from what the rest of my family was feeling, I would be told I was wrong or needed to just move on and forgive like everybody else had.
6. I feel people out on certain subjects before straight away saying things.
If I am going to be vulnerable and tell someone something personal, I will sort of “test the waters,” if you will. I will try my best to make sure they won’t freak out at me. This also applies to if I’m going to ask someone to hang out. I try to get a sense of if they’re going to be free or say, “yes” before I ask because it is a sort of buffer on what would feel like rejection if they said no.
7. I’m terrified of abandonment, and I think everyone will abandon me.
This stems from the abandonment that actually did happen when I was a child, as well as all the threats of abandonment from my father. I still remember the time when he threatened to take the house away when he was drunk and the time he said he’d leave us because we were better off without him. There were so many more instances, but those two have really stuck with me.
8. I feel unworthy.
My parents never told me they were proud of me when I was younger. It felt like all my friends’ parents told them how proud they were for their good grades and whatnot… but my parents never did. It was merely expected of me. I was never as good as my brother. I never felt worthy of their love or praise, and I never really got their love or praise.
9. I’m afraid of calling it abuse.
All of my feelings were minimized. Even when my father was verbally abusing me, my mother told me I needed to just forgive him because she did and my brother did. They had moved on. I always felt like I was overreacting because I was always told to just calm down, to breathe, to “take a chill pill” — basically, anything to just shove my feelings and reactions away like they wanted me to.
So, for me to call it abuse was a huge step for me because I felt so minimized and was so scared someone would think I was just making a bigger deal out of what happened. Also, I had only heard of physical or sexual abuse being called abuse at that point. I hadn’t heard anybody speak about emotional abuse or verbal abuse or psychological abuse — all of which, once I learned of them, fit my childhood perfectly.
10. I perceive rejection even when I am being validated and accepted.
I am more open to being criticized and rejected because I was criticized and rejected for most of my childhood. I was never validated or accepted growing up, so to receive that now is both wonderful and entirely foreign to me. I also am very sensitive to everything a person says or does — so if they are validating me, but use a specific word or their tone changes even slightly or they glance to the left, I will feel like they are rejecting me or something of the like.
11. I’m sensitive to change.
I hate change. Even small things like someone I see often wearing a short sleeved shirt now that spring is here instead of the long-sleeved shirts they were wearing before. That triggers me to feel unsafe.
12. I feel emotionally unsafe a lot.
I am constantly terrified of being hurt. I always try to prepare myself for the worst… for everybody leaving me or hating me or needing space. I am hyper-aware of all of these things. I don’t feel safe emotionally with people or with myself.
13. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.
I spent so many years at home and during family vacations thinking to myself, I just don’t belong. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong with my family. I don’t belong anywhere. I just don’t belong.
It’s hard to feel like I belong when I always felt like the outcast in my family. I was different. I was more emotionally sensitive. I felt things to an even higher intensity. I was more attuned to emotions (both my own and the emotions of others). I didn’t like the same things. I didn’t make the same crude jokes. I was always made to feel like the odd person out. Like the reject. The “screw up.” And being verbally abused made me feel like I didn’t belong as well.
14. I feel like something is seriously wrong with me.
Whenever I expressed a feeling or a thought that was different from the rest of my family’s, I was berated. I was called out on that. I was cursed at or laughed at or humiliated. I was told to change to be like the rest of them because they were the “normal” ones. And for me to feel and think all that I did and do seemed to make me defective, was really hard on me.
15. I have flashbacks.
When a situation in the present too closely resembles something that happened in my past, I will have flashbacks. When I smell something that reminds me of a place or a person, I’ll be transported back to that place. When an abandonment happens in the present that resembles the abandonments in my past, I’ll start spiraling backward. When someone is mean or yelling or cursing or too loud, I will flash back to instances when this happened. When I smell alcohol, I will flash back to instances when my father was drunk and verbally abusive. Sometimes, I won’t even know what triggered a flashback. And other times, I won’t know what memory I am flashing back to — sometimes, I flash back to feelings I know are associated with memories and places, but I can’t quite place the memory.
I am hypersensitive to triggers when I am going through intense emotional stress in my present. So, I will often have flashback after flashback and just get lost in memories of abuse.
16. I “buffer” things I say.
For instance, I may ask someone something, but then make sure to say, “But it’s totally OK if you don’t want to or you can’t or anything like that! No worries at all!” Even if it doesn’t feel OK and it does matter, I’ll still say that to protect myself.
17. I worry I’m being manipulative.
My mother, father and brother took it upon themselves to talk about how manipulative I am… how everything I did was merely my antics. My family basically told me I am a manipulative person who will do anything to get what she wants. So now, I am hyper-aware and think about everything I feel, think and do to make sure it isn’t me manipulating. And when I don’t trust myself, I’ll check in with a couple of people to see if they believe a certain action or thought is manipulative.
There are days when I fear everything I’m doing is manipulative. And, if I end up “getting what I want,” I will worry that it was only because I manipulated the other person into giving it to me — even if that isn’t the case. It’s exhausting, but I’m finally realizing why I worry about this so much.
18. I worry people actually hate me, even if they say they don’t.
My family had these “secret” email chats behind my back… they’d email all about the problems of Tori. The frustrations Tori caused. The issues Tori caused. Their reactions to me. Their judgments. Their criticisms.
Being a curious kid, I managed to stumble across some of those emails, and in them, I was called a “monster,” “manipulative,” “fat,” “self-centered” and “only thinking about herself.” They warned each other to not give in to or fall for my antics. Basically, nothing I was feeling or doing or saying was real or valid to them. I was only seeking attention in their eyes. This made me want to hide even more to avoid their family email conversations about me. They warned each other to not become like me. So, I worry people will talk about me behind my back, that they secretively hate me or are secretively judging me… and I am so insecure.
19. I don’t trust myself, my thoughts, my feelings or my memories.
My family often had different interpretations of events. They also perceived things differently than me. I was in my prime developmental age when my world fell apart. So I reacted very differently than the rest of my family. The verbal, emotional and psychological abuse were interwoven into my brain as I was developing. My family invalidated my feelings, my thoughts, my beliefs.
20. I need constant validation.
But I worry asking for this validation will push people away, so I only ask for it if I’ve gotten to know someone for many many years and even then, I am cautious.
21. I feel the need to justify my feelings with an explanation.
This probably comes from needing to defend myself against the onslaught of hurt that would come when I voiced a feeling that differed from the majority consensus of my family.
22. I apologize and feel guilty a lot.
I apologize even when I’ve done nothing wrong. I apologize for the actions of other people. I apologize when I feel like I’ve done something to hurt somebody else. I apologize, and I don’t always know why I am apologizing, but I know I truly do mean my apology. I actually feel incredibly sorry and remorseful and guilty.
I feel guilty even if I haven’t done anything. I even feel guilty if someone else I’ve never met hurt this other person I’ve never met — I still feel guilty. I was always blamed as a child. Things were always my fault. But I am also extremely empathetic and feel other people’s pain as though it is my own.
These are just some of the things I’ve realized I do because of my childhood emotional abuse. I find I blame myself less for doing these things because I now know they aren’t my fault — and they aren’t flaws. They are there for a reason, and if I am aware of that reason, then I can work on them. I am learning to be more aware of them and to have more control over them, but they will always be part of me and affect me because of the emotional abuse I experienced as a child.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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by Tiffany Schupanitz, LMHC
Have you ever done something that causes guilt? What do you do about that feeling?
Guilt is a normal human emotion. It motivates us to apologize and change behavior for the future. But what happens when that guilt is misplaced or inappropriate for the situation. Often we can feel guilty for situations in which we have no control. This guilt can quickly turn to shame. Shame begins to shift the focus on the self, thus leading to feelings of self-loathing and helplessness.
When shame is present, thoughts shift to thinking of the self as inherently bad instead of thinking the behavior as bad. If we view the behavior as bad, then we can take responsibility and change the behavior. If we think of the self as bad, then we begin to blame others or hide our shameful parts. This impedes healing and growth.
Therapy can help do sift through feelings of shame versus guilt to gain a more healthy and appropriate perspective. It is possible to shift the thinking from “I am bad” to “I am good, regardless.” Through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, you can work with a therapist to reprocess memories that feed in to feelings of shame to fully heal and connect to a more fitting and true message. Consider taking the first step towards healing today.
What Makes a Child Shy? What research tells us about the biology (and parenting) of shy kids. Vanessa LoBue, Ph.D
social anxiety when I’m around new people or when I’m in large professional settings, like academic conferences, where meeting new people is the whole point. My 3-year-old son could not be more different. He is outgoing, loves new people, and seems to make new friends every time we go to the park or even out to eat. The first thing he does when we sit down at a restaurant is scope out the people around us, saying hello and smiling his inviting smile at each one of them.
What makes a person shy or outgoing? Is shyness something that we’re born with, or is it something we develop based on our experiences with other people?
Source: Kristoffer Abildgaard/FlickrA long history of research suggests that temperament—or a person’s own style of emotional responding to the environment—can be first identified in infants as young as 4 months of age. It is measured by showing infants some simple toys, like a mobile with several hanging animals, and studying how they react. This simple test at 4 months has shown quite consistently that babies who become overwhelmed or emotionally distressed in response to a hanging mobile are the ones most likely to become shy as they get older (Kagan, 1997). These babies are particularly sensitive to any type of change in the environment and may get easily upset by even the most routine of activities, like a doorbell ringing or a diaper change. In contrast, babies that react positively to these changes, or don’t react at all, are the ones most likely to become very social as preschool-aged children.
Amazingly, this relationship goes beyond early childhood, and babies’ responses to the mobile at 4 months of age predict how shy or social they will be into adolescence (Kagan, Snidman, Kahn, Towsley, Steinberg, and Fox, 2007). Differences between shy and outgoing preschool children can even be seen in their biology and in the brain (Barker, Reeb-Sutherland, and Fox, 2014; Fox et al., 1995), suggesting that shyness has a strong biological basis and might be part of an individual’s personality from very early in life.
Does this mean that the environment plays no role in producing shyness? And is shyness anything to be concerned about in the first place?
Just because temperament has a biological basis doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. A child’s temperament can change, and babies’ negative reactions to new people, objects, and situations can become less extreme over time. On top of that, there’s nothing wrong with being a little shy. Many children have a temperament described as “slow to warm up,” and just need some time to adjust to their surroundings before they are ready to jump in and join the fun (Thomas, Chess, and Birch, 1970). It is, however, worth noting that there is a subset of infants, about 10-15%, who are sensitive in the extreme. These are the ones most at risk for the development of shyness, and a portion of them (about 40%) might even go on to develop social anxiety later in life (Fox and Helfinstein, 2013).
So if you have an extremely sensitive child who doesn’t warm up to even familiar people and places after some time, there are interventions available to help prevent them from developing social anxiety problems. On top of that, a supportive parenting style can really help. For example, research has shown that a baby’s risk for becoming shy decreases significantly when they have mothers that are sensitive and respond appropriately to the child’s needs. So even for babies who get easily upset when presented with new or challenging situations, having a parent that is responsive to the baby’s needs can act as a buffer against the development of shyness or social anxiety (Panela, Henderson, Hane, Ghera, and Fox, 2012).
Similarly, parenting can play a role in how shy versus outgoing children develop a sense of morality or conscience during childhood. For example, children who are shy, or apt to feeling anxious are likely to become upset easily when they are reprimanded for breaking the rules. As a result, they really only need (and respond well to) gentle forms of discipline, since they are easily made to feel guilty for their transgressions. Children who are much more outgoing or fearless don’t always respond to gentle discipline and require a bit more attention when they break the rules since they don’t easily feel anxious on their own (Kochanska, 1997).
Altogether, this research suggests that the seeds that grow a shy or outgoing personality are planted early in life, and have a strong biological basis. But, anatomy isn’t destiny, and if you have a baby that is really sensitive to any type of change in the environment, equally sensitive parenting that allows the child to adjust to new things at their own pace might help them from developing later fear or anxiety in social situations. And although shyness does have a strong biological basis, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have two children who have exactly the same temperament. You might very well have a shy, anxious child, followed by a rambunctious, fearless one. If that’s the case, it’s important to remember that adjusting your parenting style to fit a child’s needs is important, and what works for one temperament might not work as well for the next.
September 18, 2019 • By Cedar Barstow, MEd, CHT
Just process your mistakes into learning: it sounds simple and obvious. Why would we not want to learn from our mistakes? But as easy as it is to say, resistance can come from some interesting places, and we may not always be aware of it.
For example, when feeling ashamed, you might become convinced there is something irreparably bad about you and lose your ability to connect with others. When that happens, it makes sense that you might try your best to keep a mistake secret and hidden.
When you want very much to be helpful and kind to others, you may make yourself less prone to noticing a mistake, a misunderstanding, or even unintentional harm. When you’re not feeling self-confident or empowered, you may react defensively to criticism or challenging feedback. Generally, when people feel like a mistake is a bad reflection on them, they won’t admit it.
Our very human feeling is that we don’t want to cause harm, and we are afraid of making mistakes. We imagine that we lose power, control, and respect if we do unintentionally cause harm.
Our very human feeling is that we don’t want to cause harm, and we are afraid of making mistakes. We imagine that we lose power, control, and respect if we do unintentionally cause harm.
LEARNING TO MAKE MISTAKES:
In my early thirties, I got a job as a carpenter. In the beginning, I was the “go-fer,” wearing new baby blue overalls and eating from a lunchbox from the television show The Waltons. Barney, the company owner, enjoyed teaching carpentry skills and hired minority workers. I was a minority individual as a woman in the 80s. I loved the job and stayed on, but I had to go through quite a learning process that was slowed down by my fear of making mistakes.
I would measure for lumber cuts four and five times before making the cut and would ask Barney for instructions several times. I would measure the distance between nails before hammering them in. You get the idea. I was slow.
One day, Barney said, “You know, the sign of a good carpenter is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who knows how to fix them.” It took months to learn that lesson. Here’s what I noticed: As I let go of fear, I became more skillful. The electric saw became an extension of my hand rather than a difficult, loud tool. As I relaxed, I worked more quickly and easily, and I even made mistakes.
Because I had learned that I could fix mistakes, I could cut another piece of wood and use the one that was too short for something else. Drywall mud can cover imperfect looking cuts. I discovered that fixing a mistake can be quite creative and even produce something better.
PROCESS MISTAKES INTO LEARNING:
Later, as a psychotherapist, I had to apply the same lesson. One sign of a good psychotherapist is not one who never makes mistakes, but one who knows how to track for relationship trouble and then resolve and repair it. Over time and through experience, I relaxed my terror of unintentionally causing harm and developed confidence in my ability to see or feel that my impact was different than my intention. This allowed me to be able to pause, get curious, check in with my client, attend to repair, and in the end, learn something that I could use in the future.
For a simple example, I suggested at the very end of one session that a new client do a little journal writing about the issue she brought up. In this case, I wasn’t aware of a problem until her next session, when she walked in very mad at me saying that I was just like all the other therapists, with an automatic order for journal writing to solve every problem. I paused, acknowledged her anger, and then thanked her for letting me know something about her—that she hates journaling.
I agreed never to suggest that she journal again. I could have gotten defensively caught in trying to explain that I had never ordered journaling, just suggested it, but that would not have restored our connection. My takeaway learning was a reminder that my influence (suggestion heard as an order) in my role as a therapist is stronger than if I were a friend.
You have probably practiced this in your own life in small ways without realizing it. In a romantic relationship, you may have learned that when someone is upset, you ask if what’s needed is sympathy or help with a solution. Maybe you have learned that it is better to ask for something to change instead of talking about what isn’t working. Starting with small situations that might have less of a shame reaction or big impact on your life could help you create a consistent practice. Even small actions in a relationship can have big results.
TIPS FOR TURNING MISTAKES INTO LEARNING EXPERIENCES:
Here are several pointers for processing mistakes into learning:
Try this power-positive activity:
A. Think back over a mistake you made—either a big one or a little one—that you still feel bad about.
Then follow these steps privately:
Practice sharing your vulnerability; this can help solidify your learning as well as create a habit of embracing the learning process. Your friend may also be able to bring up other curiosities or observations that help you move away from shame. We are often better at seeing each other’s strengths than our own and can tend to be kinder to each other than to ourselves.
C. Ask someone with whom you have a lingering regret to meet with you.
© Copyright 2019 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
Original Article: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/so-youve-made-a-mistake-where-do-you-go-from-here-0918194
What should you be doing that you aren’t?
Most of us are raised with an internal “code of ethics” or “emotional barometer” that reminds us that we live up to our promises and complete our tasks on time. We all seem to live on a very tight schedule, so when we are spending time doing what we’d “rather,” guilt creeps in and reminds us that we’re not doing what we “should.” Sometimes the “shoulds” are things that other people are telling us we should be doing, or even things that we just imagine that other people are thinking. We can create a lot of inner turmoil all by ourselves, without even realizing that only we know what we, ourselves, “should” be doing.
Let Go of Nagging Self-Doubts
When we spin our wheels or go in circles wondering about what we “should” be doing, we are clearly not making any progress moving forward in our lives.
When it comes down to it, no one is inside your head, but you. No one is living your life, but you. There’s no reason to give away ownership of your decisions to what “anonymous others” think you should be doing with your life
You Really Don’t Have to “Do It All” and “Do It Well”
Many of us think we have to do it all. It’s really our culture, today, to make us think that we’re not doing everything we should be doing, from 24/7 news cycles to email to text to social media such as constantly rolling Twitter feeds and Facebook and Instagram “life boasting” feeds.
One big problem is FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. When we see the awesomely fulfilling or exciting or heartwarming activities of others everywhere we look, it’s easy to feel that our own lives are somehow lacking; although we actually may be staying super busy and accomplishing a lot of the normal, routine things that actually bring us satisfaction and joy.
What is most important in quelling the “shoulds” that play in your own head is taking a little bit of time to reflect on what is truly important to you, personally, in your life. Make a list of all the things that you feel have personal and intrinsic value to you. Maybe it’s a clean home, maybe it’s a hot meal on the table every night, maybe it’s annual vacations to amusement parks with the kids, maybe it’s keeping up with your favorite TV show, maybe it’s a weekly night out with your friends or a date night with your significant other. Once you make a list of what you truly value, then you’ve created the only list of “should” that should ever really matter.
Tips for Giving Up Shoulds
Maybe I “should have been a lawyer,” but going to law school just wasn’t a priority.
Maybe I “should keep my house cleaner,” but spending time with my kids is my priority.
Maybe I “should make my own holiday gifts, but my priority is making time to do the things that I value most and holidays are about spending time with people I love.”
How Do We Defuse the Shoulds that Play Through Our Heads?
Remember, you do not have to seek approval from absolutely everyone who knows you for your life choices; when we constantly try to please other people and do what they think we should do, we are taking away our own power to do what we know is right for us.
Have confidence in yourself and give yourself time to reflect on what you value—lifestyle, goals, accomplishments, experiences. The things that make you happy, that allow you to live the life you want, and to have your world filled with the people (family, friends, etc.) and things you value are the things that you want on your priority list. Life is short and there are so many choices out there and so many examples of how people might live, don’t let trying to live someone else’s life get in the way of living the life that brings you satisfaction and contentment.
Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., is a licensed counselor and professor at Northern Illinois University.
by Parent Co.
When emotions run high, people do and say things they normally would not. When you’re a young child, this is what you do all the time.
Emotional self-regulation, a large component of emotional intelligence, is the ability to manage one’s experience and expression of emotions. With practice, children improve their capacity for emotional self-regulation. By age four, most children start to use strategies to eliminate disturbing external stimuli. In other words, they cover their eyes when they’re scared and plug their ears when they hear a loud noise.
It’s not until age 10 that children consistently use more complex strategies for emotional self-regulation. These strategies can be broken down into two simplistic categories: those that attempt to solve the problem and those that attempt to tolerate the emotion.
When a child can make a change to address a problem, they engage in problem-focused coping by identifying the trouble and making a plan for dealing with it. When they deem the problem unsolvable, they engage in emotion-focused coping by working to tolerate and control distress.
All of these strategies are a part of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence encompasses awareness, understanding, and the ability to express and manage one’s emotions.
While the world has been focused on academic achievement in childhood, emotional self-regulation has been largely ignored. This is a poor strategy, given that research suggests emotional intelligence is twice as strong a predictor as IQ of later success.
Self-control, one piece of emotional intelligence, is particularly important in predicting achievement in children. Children who are able to inhibit impulses (often driven by emotions) and avoid distractions are able to engage in more prosocial behaviors and accomplish their goals.
A particularly powerful study tested school-aged children on self-control and conducted follow-up studies on those children in their 30s. The study demonstrated that self-control predicted success better than IQ, socioeconomic status, and family environment. Those children high in self-control were also healthier, made more money, and were less likely to have criminal records or trouble with alcohol.
Feelings serve a purposeThe first piece of emotional intelligence is awareness and understanding of emotions. We have to understand and accept before we can control and express our emotions. Emotions are not an inconvenience, but rather a piece of human evolution that serves a purpose. The discrete theory of emotions suggests that each of our primary emotions have evolved to serve distinct purposes and motivate our behavior.
Sadness is an emotion uniquely capable of slowing us down, both in thought and motor activity. This can allow us the opportunity to reflect on the source of our emotional upset and take a closer look at the antecedents of it.
In contrast, anger speeds us up, mobilizing intense energy and sending blood to our extremities. While evolutionary, this geared us up for a fight; in modern times, it allows the sustained energy for a fight of a different nature. Anger cues us that our rights have been violated and helps us mobilize to protect against future threats.
Our emotions are to be respected and reflected upon. This includes our children’s intense emotions at seemingly non-intense situations. My daughter experiences intense anger when she is not able to do something she had previously accomplished, such as buckling her car seat independently.
In their recent policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents not use technology as a way to calm or pacify negative emotions in their child. Specifically, they expressed “concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation.”
Basically, children need the experience of feeling these emotions and practice tolerating them to develop self-control and emotional intelligence.
Increasing your child’s emotional intelligenceBecause emotional intelligence appears to be such a strong predictor of success, researchers have looked at how caregivers can encourage its development. Specifically, Dr. John Gottman observed how parents respond to their children’s emotions in an effort to understand how emotional intelligence develops. He found that parents respond to children’s emotions one of four possible ways.
Dr. Gottman found that emotion coaching parents only followed all five steps 20-25% of the time, suggesting there is no need for guilt as no parent can complete this process all the time.
Practicing the five steps to emotion coachingStep 1: Be aware of your child’s emotions.
Parents who emotion coach are aware of their own feelings and sensitive to the emotions present in their children. They do not require their child to amp up their emotional expression for the feelings to be acknowledged.
Click here to purchase this printable poster.Step 2: See emotions as an opportunity for connection and teaching.
Children’s emotions are not an inconvenience or a challenge. They are an opportunity to connect with your child and coach them through a challenging feeling.
Step 3: Listen and validate the feelings.
Give your child your full attention while you listen to their emotional expression. Reflect back what you hear, thus telling your child you understand what they’re seeing and experiencing.
Step 4: Label their emotions.
After you have fully listened, help your child develop an awareness of and vocabulary for their emotional expression.
Step 5: Help your child problem-solve with limits.
All emotions are acceptable but all behaviors are not. Help your child cope with his or her emotions by developing problem-solving skills. Limit the expression to appropriate behaviors. This involves helping your child set goals and generating solutions to reach those goals.
Sometimes the steps of emotion coaching happen quickly. Other times, these steps may take a great deal of time. Patience is key. If the problem is a big one, all five steps don’t have to be completed in one interaction.
This article was originally published by Meghan Owenz for Parent.co.
IntroductionWe see news stories about the impact of technology on our everyday lives all the time these days. Many of us started to think about how technology affects us personally. But how many of us have stopped to think about how it affects our children?
85% of mothers said they use technology to keep their children busy (source).
Kids are receiving their first internet-capable device earlier and earlier. That same study showed that 83% of American households have tablets, and 77% have smartphones (source).
Even in school, technology is abundant. Teachers set homework that requires online research and tools and use apps to manage that homework.
Technology is always adapting and it’s here to stay, but many do not think about the safety risk in terms of cybersecurity. A recent study revealed a startling figure: 68% of parents never check their children’s online activity (source). And that online activity increases year after year.
For a lot of children, the online world is more real than the real world. It is crucial to our children’s wellbeing that we understand what they see online, what is out there, both good and bad, and how it impacts their physical and emotional wellbeing.
The problem, as many of us would eagerly admit, is that we feel we don’t really understand the online world. Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are bewildering enough, without even mentioning 4chan and TOR. Furthermore, we don’t feel that we have the technical skills to navigate this complex landscape.
The good news is that it’s not that difficult to put certain technical controls in place to protect your children online. Far more importantly, the best thing you can do to protect your children is to talk to them; set clear boundaries for what and when they access online, but also to be there for your children when they make a mistake, or when they have gone too far. Isn’t that what parenting fundamentally comes down to?
In this comprehensive guide, we outlined eight areas that you should pay attention to as you navigate this complex online world. Depending on the ages of your children, not all of it will apply to you. Think of it not only as guidelines for what you should do now but what you should pay attention to as your children grow.
1. Mobile phones and appsAccording to consumer research by Influence Central, the average age that children get their first smartphone is 10 years old. Giving your child a smartphone comes with numerous benefits. A phone is an excellent safety tool; your child can use it to let you know they safely reached their destination, call you for a ride, or call in case of an emergency. You can also use the GPS on their phone to track their location. Knowing that you can always reach your child is a tremendous peace of mind for a parent.
Smartphones, however, can also be misused, and in some situations can make children vulnerable. Because smartphones are personal devices, we don’t often know what our children do on them, or how they use them.
If you’re considering giving your child a smartphone, it helps to have some clearly outlined guidelines in place beforehand, so everyone is on the same page. If your child already has a smartphone, it’s not too late to review the family rules. Demonstrate to them that having a smartphone is a big responsibility.
Implement smartphone rules with your child. Making sure your kids involve you on their phone activities with help keep them safe.
There are many precautions you can take to implement phone safety:
That being said, streaming content has shot up in popularity, and there are more TV shows and movies available at our fingertips than ever before, much of it not particularly appropriate for kids.
There are, however, some great benefits of streaming services. Many feature great, educational children’s programming and documentaries. Most don’t show any ads, meaning that your kids won’t be bombarded with commercial messaging from all sides like they are when they watch regular TV. You can open up an entire world for your children with streaming content – the key is how you use it.
Most of the big streaming content providers have parental controls, some more robust than others. Netflix allows you to set up separate profiles for you and for your children.
Using these tools, you can ensure that your kids only have access to age-appropriate content. Because Netflix’s children’s menu features a different color scheme than the regular menu, you can easily see whether your kids access the content permitted to them or not. However, this doesn’t stop kids from moving over to your profile, so you still have to be vigilant.
iTunes and Apple TV allows parents to set rating levels for the content their children watch. By contrast, Amazon Prime features no parental controls, so the only thing to do is to logout of your account and not share the password.
All of these tools, however, do not replace having frequent conversations with your children about what they watch.
Monitor TV time by limiting the number of hours they watch per day, incorporating parental settings, talking to your child about the content they watch, and spending TV time as a family.
3. Gaming consoles and online gamesAccording to the NPD group, 91% of American children aged two to 17 play video games. Gaming consoles have long been a focus of fear and concern for many parents. With so many games featuring violent or sexual content, it is important to be careful about the kinds of games your children play.
In addition, console games that have a multiplayer component, or games that are entirely based online, are open to abuse from other players. Many games allow players from all over the world to chat with one another, potentially exposing kids to harassment and cyberbullying. Kids may also form relationships with other players and may give away their personal information.
Games are also a great way for kids to develop a variety of skills. They help children develop problem-solving skills, learn how to commit to long-term goals, and how to work as part of a team. They can also be a great opportunity for family bonding. Luckily, most gaming consoles provide robust parental controls, so parents can monitor their children’s gameplay.
Encourage your children to discuss the games they play. Make sure your child profile is set to private. Consider keeping the gaming console in a shared, social space. Study the age rating of the games. Use parental controls to set up profiles. Limit the type of people your child can speak to online.
4. Social mediaWhile the format has changed, parents have worried about their kids’ TV shows and video games for years. Social media, on the other hand, is a new worry to add to your plate.
Social media usage is now ubiquitous amongst US teens; 71% use more than one social platform. Children nowadays also spend an enormous amount of time on social media. A survey by the non-profit group Common Sense Media showed that 8 to 12 year-olds were online six hours per day, much of it on social platforms, and 13 to 18 year-olds a whopping nine hours!
According to a recent Harvard study, even though most social media platforms require users to be 13 years of age to sign up, 68% of parents surveyed had helped younger children set up an account.
Social media can be particularly addictive for tweens and teens. It also opens the door to a variety of different issues, like cyberbullying, inappropriate sharing, and talking to strangers (more on those below).
Access to social media is also central to teens’ developing social identity. It’s the way that they connect to their friends, and it can be a healthy way to hang out. The key is to figure out some boundaries so that it remains a positive experience.
Enforce a safe environment. Do not let your kids on social media until they’re old enough. Keep the computer in a public location. Limit the amount of time spent on social media. Block location access to all apps. Adjust the privacy settings. Monitor your child’s online activity.
5. CyberbullyingOur children’s lives have moved online. Unfortunately, their bullies have moved online too.
Cyberbullying is frequently in the news, with reports of teen suicides due to online harassment.
Cyberbullying occurs across all of the platforms we have outlined above, and it comes in many forms: spreading rumors and sending threatening messages via social media, texting, or email, pretending to be another child and posting embarrassing material under their name, forwarding private photos without consent, and generally posting online about another child with the intent to humiliate or degrade them.
Cyberbullying is particularly harmful because it is so public. In the past, if a kid was bullied on the playground, perhaps a few of his peers saw. Now, a child’s most private information can be splashed across the internet and is there permanently unless reported and taken down.
Cyberbullying can negatively affect the online reputation not only of the victim, but also of the perpetrator, and have a deep impact on that child’s future, including college admissions and employment.
It is also extremely persistent. If a child is the target of traditional bullying, his or her home is more often than not a place of refuge. Because digital platforms are constantly available, victims of cyberbullying struggle to find any relief.
It’s often very difficult to tell if your child is being bullied online. It happens online, so parents and teachers are less likely to overhear or notice it. Fewer than half of children bullied online tell their parents or another adult what they are going through, according to internet safety organization i-SAFE. In fact, according to a US government survey, 21% of children aged 12 to 18 have experienced bullying, and an estimated 16% were bullied online.
The best way to prevent cyberbullying or to stop it in its tracks is to be aware of your child’s behavior. A number of warning signs may present themselves.
A child who is bullied may shut down their social media account and open a new one. He or she may begin to avoid social situations, even if they enjoyed being social in the past. Victims (and perpetrators) of cyberbullying often hide their screen or device when other people come into their vicinity and become cagey about what they do online. They may become emotionally distressed or withdrawn.
Talk to your child about cyberbullying.
6. Privacy and information securityAs parents, we are most concerned about the effect of the online world on our children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Children are susceptible to information security threats that can cause financial harm. These are the exact same threats that adults face: malware and viruses, phishing scams, and identity theft.
The issue is children are far less experienced and are generally far more trusting than us cynical adults. To kids, sharing their personal details, like their full name or where they live, may not seem like such a big deal. They may even be tricked by a malicious third party into sharing your credit card details.
There are a number of ways that hackers and thieves can get information out of children. Free downloadable games, movies, or even ringtones that market themselves to children can place viruses onto your computer and steal your information.
Hackers posing as legitimate companies like Google send emails purporting to ask for your child’s password. Or, they may pose as one of your children’s friends.
What should you communicate to your child?
It’s not easy, but eventually, you will need to have a conversation with your children about what they might see online. Many children don’t go to their parents when they see something they perhaps shouldn’t have seen, for fear that their parents will be angry at them, and take away their devices or internet access.
If your child comes to you with this type of issue, the best thing to do is to respond calmly and be open to discussion. If the content under discussion is sexual, your child will likely be embarrassed already, particularly when talking to their parents about these kinds of issues. Let them know you are there for them and are ready to answer any questions without judgment.
Young people may see sexual content online for all kinds of reasons. They may have seen it by mistake, a friend might have sent it to them, or they may have sought it out themselves out of natural curiosity.
It helps a great deal to talk to your kids honestly and frankly about sex, and a discussion about online pornography is a crucial part. A lot of research has shown that pornography can have a detrimental effect on young people, giving them distorted and unhealthy notions about sex. Pornography can also lead people to think of others as objects, rather than people with thoughts and feelings. At the same time, it’s totally normal to be curious about sex and relationships. This conversation is a great opportunity to direct your kids to positive resources about sexuality.
There are also a number of steps you can take to try to prevent your kids from being exposed to content they’re not ready for, like setting up parental controls on your internet connection. Remember, though, that technical fixes can’t replace open communication with your child.
Communicate with your child:
Predators engage in a practice called “grooming”. In other words, they attempt to form a relationship with a child with the intention of latter abusing them.
The internet has made life a lot easier for child predators. Predators target their victims through any and all online mediums: social media, email, text messages, and more. By far the most common method, however, is via an online chatroom: 76% of online encounters with sexual predators begin in a chat room.
Predators often create multiple online identities, posing as children to trick kids into talking to them. They discover as much as they can about the children they are targeting by researching those children through their social media profiles, and what they have posted on chatrooms.
They may contact a number of children at once but tend to concentrate their efforts on the most vulnerable. These predators aren’t satisfied with merely chatting with children online. They frequently trick or coerce their victims into online sexual activity, via webcam or by sending sexual images. They may also attempt to meet and abuse their victims in person.
It’s not always easy to tell if a child is being groomed, particularly because most keep it a secret from their parents. There are a number of warning signs: children who are being groomed by predators may become very secretive because the predator often threatens the child not to share information with their parents or friends. Children can also become sad and withdrawn, distracted, and have sudden mood swings. It is absolutely crucial to let your child know that you are there for them and that they can talk to you about anything.
What should you communicate to your child?
As we’ve repeated over and over in this guide, the key isn’t mastering a set of complicated technical tools. (In fact, most are very easy to set up, so don’t let a lack of technical ability hold you back). It also doesn’t mean you have to master the latest internet fad every time one pops up – believe us, you will never keep up!
The far more important, but also far more difficult task, is to have frequent, open and honest discussions with your children about their lives. Remember, internet companies, social media networks, gaming providers, and everyone else in the online space may be able to help you set content limits, but they don’t necessarily have your child’s best interests at heart.
The very best person to keep your child safe online is you. Talking about how to stay safe on the internet is an excellent conduit to build a trusting and positive relationship with your child.
Internet safety needs to be a priority for every parent and caregiver. If you have found this guide useful, consider sharing it with friends and family via Facebook and Twitter.
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After infidelity is uncovered in your relationship, one of your biggest questions, if you have children, is likely to be, “What do we tell the kids?” No matter how ashamed or defiant or betrayed or aggrieved you feel, you need to think about the impact that cheating and potentially talking about it might have on your kids.
For many parents, the initial reaction is, “We’re not telling the kids anything about this. They’re not involved, and they don’t need to know.” For other parents, especially rightfully angry betrayed partners, the initial thinking might be, “Heck, yes, we’re telling the kids. I want them to know exactly what a horrible SOB you are.”
Neither reaction is especially healthy.
When something is amiss in the home, kids sense it. And because children are naturally self-centric, they assume that somehow the problem (whatever it is) is their fault. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with infidelity or financial problems or addiction or any other adult life issue, your kids will pick up on the stress and emotional pain, and they will know that something is wrong. And unless you make it clear that yes, something is wrong but it’s not their fault, they will blame themselves.
So letting your kids know at least a little bit about what’s happening is not optional; it’s a necessity of good parenting. The question isn’t whether you should tell them, it’s how to best go about it.
What to Say (and Not Say)
First and foremost, your kids don’t need (or want) to know specifics about your sex life, especially if it’s gone awry in some way. Usually, a general statement that one of you crossed a relationship boundary and the other is upset about it is more than sufficient.
NOTE: Anything you say to your kids cannot be unsaid. If you let something fly in the heat of the moment, you might regret that for the rest of your life.
In terms of what to say, I generally offer a slightly amended version of guidelines provided by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. (They’re amended because infidelity and alcoholism are very different issues.) Basically, you need to let your kids know that, yes, something is wrong between mom and dad, and that:
In all cases, I suggest that you agree in advance on what you will tell your children and the language you will use, and that you stick to that script as closely as possible. If you are struggling to agree on what to say and how to say it, seek advice from an experienced couple’s therapist. I also recommend that you speak to your kids together. No matter how angry you are, you need to put your kids first, and presenting a united front in terms of the current situation not being their fault and not being their problem to fix is a must.
No matter what, the information you share with your kids should be age appropriate. If your kids are more than a few years apart in age, you may need to have multiple conversations. If your children are very young, your disclosure might stop with a basic statement that mommy and daddy are mad at each other right now because of something one of them did. Then you can let them know that it’s not their fault, they can’t fix it or control it, and it’s OK for them to talk about their feelings. If you are actively working to heal from this issue, you can tell them that as well.
Older kids may ask questions about the specific nature of the situation and the possibility of divorce. If so, I suggest general but honest responses. If your kids have inadvertently found sexts or porn on the cheater’s laptop or phone, heard rumors about the infidelity at school, or walked in on the cheater in the act, you may need to confirm that, yes, there was infidelity. If so, do not get into specifics, and make sure you use age-appropriate language.
“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” —Paramahansa Yogananda “When someone constantly puts you down, leaves you feeling like you can't do anything right, or makes you feel worthless and bad about yourself in general… it's emotional abuse.” —Source Unknown
Gaslighting can be defined as a combination of brainwashing, psychological bullying, and emotional abuse for the purpose of domination and control. The term gaslighting originated from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband systematically tormented his wife by convincing her that she’s insane, thereby robbing her objectivity and self-worth.
In our contemporary society where disinformation, “alternative facts,” divisiveness, and narcissism are prevalent, gaslighting is often utilized in business, politics, media, at the workplace, and in personal relationships. Examples of gaslighting include companies that advertise addictive products to children, politicians who scapegoat entire groups to divide the community, media talking heads who espouse hate to gain notoriety, executives who exploit employees for profitability, and relational abusers who blame their victims for victimization. Gaslighting is psychological violence.
Various research and authors have studied the effects of gaslighting and its destructive consequences. Below are eight common manipulative and controlling tactics of gaslighters, with references from my book How to Successfully Handle Gaslighters and Stop Psychological Bullying.
1. Chronic Lying
“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes accepted as the truth.” —Famous quotation, attributed to various sources
Perhaps the most common and strident trait of gaslighting is the invention of a false narrative by the gaslighter, which they utilize to brainwash, attack, belittle, discredit, and/or disempower their victim(s). Rather than basing assertions on facts, evidence, objectivity, and proof, the gaslighter’s accusations are often blatant lies or gross exaggerations. The gaslighter utilizes this tactic in order to stay on the offensive, seize the conversation, and dictate the relationship.
In addition, by keeping on the attack and being highly aggressive, the gaslighter takes the focus off of his or her significant weaknesses, flaws, and inadequacies, which the gaslighter is deeply afraid of exposing. Through constant lying and exaggerations, the gaslighter keeps his victims on the defensive and maintains social and psychological leverage.
“My wife is a pathetic loser, and she needs to know the truth.” —Anonymous husband
“The work your department does is a waste of time and resources. How do you even justify your employment?” —Anonymous manager
“Who gives a s--t about their rights!? They’re not people!” —Anonymous, disparaging other demographic groups
2. Normalize Falsehoods and Induce “Insecure Complex”
Like psychological warfare, gaslighting falsehoods are repeated constantly in order to overwhelm the relationship. In many cases, the gaslighter induces an “insecure complex” in the minds of their victims, who become beset with confusion, anxiety, shame, and inferiority over their own identity and self-worth. Until the gaslightee breaks free psychologically, she or he may lose the ability to affirm oneself, at least in relation to the gaslighter’s repeated browbeating and brainwashing.
“When I was in school, I was bullied because of my gender, ethnicity, and physical appearance. I internalized a lot of it and was ashamed of myself. It took a long time before I realized that I wasn’t the problem… Now I’m reclaiming my power.” —Anonymous
3. Debilitate the Victim and Suppress Dissent
As the gaslighter continuously instigates put-downs and marginalization towards targeted individuals or groups, some victims may suffer “gaslightee fatigue,” where they are so worn out by the gaslighter’s constant attacks and coercion, and so tired or afraid of defending themselves, that they “freeze” psychologically and tolerate abuse with numbness and resignation. In this way, the gaslighter gets away with suppressing dissent and extorting the relationship.
“My mother was always possessive and super critical of my dates...they were never good enough. She was so nasty towards them I gave up dating until I graduated and moved out.” —Anonymous
4. Aggressive and Hostile When Confronted
Since one of the key tactics of gaslighting is to stay on the offensive, many gaslighters can become highly aggressive and hostile when called on their falsehoods and lies. Rather than justifying their own words and actions (which they know are indefensible), they try to regain control by doubling or tripling down on their attacks, while discrediting and dehumanizing their victims. By enacting this “toxic drama,” the gaslighter hopes to intimidate and bully their victims into submission while getting away with their own character flaws and moral corruption.
“When I caught my boyfriend sexting with someone, he flatly said it didn’t happen—that I imagined the whole thing. He called me a crazy b - - - - .” —Anonymous
5. Isolate and Divide
Some gaslighters artificially manufacture a “siege” mentality, and strategically isolate the gaslightee(s) from certain people, resource, information, support, and rights. Depending on the situation, a gaslighter may coerce the gaslightee to limit their interaction with friends, family, associates, wider community, or broader media.
By deploying demagoguery tactics such as “us versus them,” “divide and conquer,” “isolate and control,” “enemies are everywhere,” and “I’m your only hope,” the gaslighter places the gaslightee in a psychological straight jacket, and further establishes an authoritarian relationship.
“Soon after our marriage, my husband wanted to limit my contacts with friends and family. He told me he was the only one I could trust, and everyone else was lying.” —Anonymous
6. Perpetuate the Fake “Savior,” Fake “Superiority” Myths
Typical of oppressor psychology, some gaslighters cast themselves as “savior,” “hero,” “superior,” and the only one with the power and solution to alleviate the gaslightee’s many issues and difficulties (real or invented). In order to grant relief, claims the gaslighter, the gaslightee must submit to their directives, no matter how manipulative and exploitative.
With this tactic, the gaslighter further reinforces the codependent, subjugating relationship. Gaslighters desperately need others’ subservience in order to “feed” their sense of toxic supremacy and distorted self-importance (narcissistic supply). Without acting “superior” toward their victims, many gaslighters feel like nobodies.
“My ex-partner used to say that if we divorced, no one else would love me, because I was so undesirable.” —Anonymous
“You don’t like the way I talk? Well, who else is going to hire you?” —Foreman to temporary workers
7. Offer False Promises
As part of the lying and exaggeration, some gaslighters will occasionally dangle false hope in front of their victims—promising to reduce the harsh treatment or hinting that things will eventually get better. But beware! Such promises are often just another deceptive tactic to give the victims unreal hope and to let their guards down while tolerating more abuse.
As an example, someone who promises to “reduce” the number of assaults on his victim is still an attacker/abuser, and the recipient, even one who is grateful for the “reduced” harshness, is still a victim. Many gaslighters continue their ill-treatment of others until concerted and determined intervention takes place to halt their highly destructive ways.
8. Social Domination and Psychological Control
For pathological gaslighters, the ultimate purpose of gaslighting is about power and control. By aggressively weaponizing false information, and repeatedly bombarding their victims with propaganda and disempowering messages, the gaslighter aims to psychologically subjugate and subdue an individual, a group, or an entire society. The gaslighter can then exploit their victims at will, for the purpose of social domination and personal gain.
Our circumstances don’t define us. Regardless of what happens in life, we always have the power to choose our attitude. So what’s the difference between someone who remains hopeful despite experiencing great suffering and the person who stubs his or her toe and remains angry the rest of the day? The answer lies in the person’s thinking patterns.
Psychologists use the term “cognitive distortions” to describe irrational, inflated thoughts or beliefs that distort a person’s perception of reality, usually in a negative way. Cognitive distortions are common but can be hard to recognize if you don’t know what to look for. Many occur as automatic thoughts. They are so habitual that the thinker often doesn’t realize he or she has the power to change them. Many grow to believe that’s just the way things are.
Cognitive distortions can take a serious toll on one’s mental health, leading to increased stress, depression, and anxiety. If left unchecked, these automatic thought patterns can become entrenched and may negatively influence the rational, logical way you make decisions.
For those looking to improve their mental health by recognizing pesky cognitive distortions, we’ve compiled a list of 20 common ones that may already be distorting your perception of reality:
1. BLACK-AND-WHITE THINKINGA person with this dichotomous thinking pattern typically sees things in terms of either/or. Something is either good or bad, right or wrong, all or nothing. Black-and-white thinking fails to acknowledge that there are almost always several shades of gray that exist between black and white. By seeing only two possible sides or outcomes to something, a person ignores the middle—and possibly more reasonable—ground.
2. PERSONALIZATIONWhen engaging in this type of thinking, an individual tends to take things personally. He or she may attribute things that other people do as the result of his or her own actions or behaviors. This type of thinking also causes a person to blame himself or herself for external circumstances outside the person’s control.
3. ‘SHOULD’ STATEMENTSThoughts that include “should,” “ought,” or “must” are almost always related to a cognitive distortion. For example: “I should have arrived to the meeting earlier,” or, “I must lose weight to be more attractive.” This type of thinking may induce feelings of guilt or shame. “Should” statements also are common when referring to others in our lives. These thoughts may go something like, “He should have called me earlier,” or, “She ought to thank me for all the help I’ve given her.” Such thoughts can lead a person to feel frustration, anger, and bitterness when others fail to meet unrealistic expectations. No matter how hard we wish to sometimes, we cannot control the behavior of another, so thinking about what others should do serves no healthy purpose.
4. CATASTROPHIZINGThis occurs when a person sees any unpleasant occurrence as the worst possible outcome. A person who is catastrophizing might fail an exam and immediately think he or she has likely failed the entire course. A person may not have even taken the exam yet and already believe he or she will fail—assuming the worst, or preemptively catastrophizing.
5. MAGNIFYINGWith this type of cognitive distortion, things are exaggerated or blown out of proportion, though not quite to the extent of catastrophizing. It is the real-life version of the old saying, “Making a mountain out of a molehill.”
6. MINIMIZINGThe same person who experiences the magnifying distortion may minimize positive events. These distortions sometimes occur in conjunction with each other. A person who distorts reality by minimizing may think something like, “Yes, I got a raise, but it wasn’t very big and I’m still not very good at my job.”
7. MINDREADINGThis type of thinker may assume the role of psychic and may think he or she knows what someone else thinks or feels. The person may think he or she knows what another person thinks despite no external confirmation that his or her assumption is true.
8. FORTUNE TELLINGA fortune-telling-type thinker tends to predict the future, and usually foresees a negative outcome. Such a thinker arbitrarily predicts that things will turn out poorly. Before a concert or movie, you might hear him or her say, “I just know that all the tickets will be sold out when we get there.”
9. OVERGENERALIZATIONWhen overgeneralizing, a person may come to a conclusion based on one or two single events, despite the fact reality is too complex to make such generalizations. If a friend misses a lunch date, this doesn’t mean he or she will always fail to keep commitments. Overgeneralizing statements often include the words “always,” “never,” “every,” or “all.”
10. DISCOUNTING THE POSITIVEThis extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking occurs when a person discounts positive information about a performance, event, or experience and sees only negative aspects. A person engaging in this type of distortion might disregard any compliments or positive reinforcement he or she receives.
Thought patterns can be changed through a process referred to in cognitive therapy as cognitive restructuring. The idea behind it is that by adjusting our automatic thoughts, we are able to influence our emotions and behaviors.
11. FILTERINGThis cognitive distortion, similar to discounting the positive, occurs when a person filters out information, negative or positive. For example, a person may look at his or her feedback on an assignment in school or at work and exclude positive notes to focus on one critical comment.
12. LABELINGThis distortion, a more severe type of overgeneralization, occurs when a person labels someone or something based on one experience or event. Instead of believing that he or she made a mistake, people engaging in this type of thinking might automatically label themselves as failures.
13. BLAMINGThis is the opposite of personalization. Instead of seeing everything as your fault, all blame is put on someone or something else.
14. EMOTIONAL REASONINGMistaking one’s feelings for reality is emotional reasoning. If this type of thinker feels scared, there must be real danger. If this type of thinker feels stupid, then to him or her this must be true. This type of thinking can be severe and may manifest as obsessive compulsion. For example, a person may feel dirty even though he or she has showered twice within the past hour.
15. ALWAYS BEING ‘RIGHT’This thinking pattern causes a person to internalize his or her opinions as facts and fails to consider the feelings of the other person in a debate or discussion. This cognitive distortion can make it difficult to form and sustain healthy relationships.
16. SELF-SERVING BIASA person experiencing self-serving bias may attribute all positive events to his or her personal character while seeing any negative events as outside of his or her control. This pattern of thinking may cause a person to refuse to admit mistakes or flaws and to live in a distorted reality where he or she can do no wrong.
17. ‘HEAVEN’S REWARD’ FALLACYIn this pattern of thinking, a person may expect divine rewards for his or her sacrifices. People experiencing this distortion tend to put their interests and feelings aside in hopes that they will be rewarded for their selflessness later, but they may become bitter and angry if the reward is never presented.
18. FALLACY OF CHANGEThis distortion assumes that other people must change their behavior in order for us to be happy. This way of thinking is usually considered selfish because it insists, for example, that other people change their schedule to accommodate yours or that your partner shouldn’t wear his or her favorite t-shirt because you don’t like it.
19. FALLACY OF FAIRNESSThis fallacy assumes that things have to be measured based on fairness and equality, when in reality things often don’t always work that way. An example of the trap this type of thinking sets is when it justifies infidelity if a person’s partner has cheated.
20. CONTROL FALLACYSomeone who sees things as internally controlled may put himself or herself at fault for events that are truly out of the person’s control, such as another person’s happiness or behavior. A person who sees things as externally controlled might blame his or her boss for poor work performance.
HOW TO CHANGE THINKING PATTERNS AND COGNITIVE DISTORTIONSFor many, one or more of these cognitive distortions will look familiar. You may fall into one or more of these traps or know someone who does. The good news is that cognitive distortions don’t have to weigh you down like an anchor.
Thought patterns can be changed through a process referred to in cognitive therapy as cognitive restructuring. The idea behind it is that by adjusting our automatic thoughts, we are able to influence our emotions and behaviors. This is the basis of several popular forms of therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT).
If you feel that one or more of the above cognitive distortions is contributing to feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, we encourage you to consider finding a qualified therapist you trust to work with you and help transform your negative thoughts and beliefs into empowering affirmations that inspire and uplift you.
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I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.