Looking at one’s thought patterns is a significant component of the recovery process. Addiction can alter one’s perception and create patterns or draw conclusions in a destructive or otherwise illogical way. Often the individual suffering from addiction does not recognize the change in their thought patterns. Overcoming irrational thinking is difficult, and learning to challenge the impulse to act upon irrational thoughts is essential in creating a genuine portrait of one’s progress through recovery. Still, it begins with first identifying how specific thoughts are irrational and then working on a strategy to consciously challenge them.
All-or-nothing thoughts are prevalent throughout the recovery process or due to stress, anxiety, or depression. This kind of thinking separates things into clear binary options. Either something will or will not be, or something is either the “best” or “worst” ever. This kind of thinking leaves little room for the gray areas in life and instead tends to make an individual jump immediately to a stressful ultimatum.
This can also introduce immense stress levels into otherwise mundane activities, thinking that unless an individual is perfect or flawless, the only other option is absolutely negative. This kind of thinking can also lead an individual to immediately begin thinking of the worst possible outcomes that a situation can create, regardless of how illogical.
Challenging these notions involves first taking a look at one’s vocabulary. Using words like “best” or “worst ever” can be indicative of all-or-nothing thinking. Words such as “definitely,” “absolutely,” “always,” or “never” are also warning signs. Using these kinds of words, even subconsciously, can shift an individual’s thoughts to begin thinking in black and white, where only two outcomes are possible.
Challenging these thoughts involves taking a breath and thinking of what a third outcome could be. At work, this could manifest as thoughts of completing an instructed task either perfectly or being fired. However, a third option could be that a supervisor asks if you need additional assistance, provides extra time, or further instructs on how to best complete the task, none of which end up in termination and are more likely than being fired on the spot.
Generalizing thoughts are drawn from taking particular or specific events and applying their outcomes or feelings to all other situations, regardless of how loosely the different events may be correlated. It is the drawing of assumptions from single events and applying these generalizations as truth. In practice, this can mean that someone may not immediately respond to a text message, and an individual begins to think, “that person doesn’t like me.” However, generalizing this thought can cause this ill-conceived notion to grow, building into thoughts like “nobody likes me” or “nobody could love me,” all coming from this one event.
Challenging this thought involves allowing oneself to look at all of the evidence provided and understand that one outcome doesn’t dictate future events. Just because one individual didn’t respond promptly or isn’t one’s friend doesn’t mean that all people will act the same in similar situations. One outcome, even if unfortunate, is still a result of a specific set of circumstances. The individual, time of day, and numerous other factors create a unique situation, and if any elements are changed, the outcome can then change as well.
Dismissing Positive Thinking
Challenging irrational thoughts also means empowering an individual to pay more attention to what their brain may be dismissing. Bad events can often stick in a person’s mind, and while it can be important to reflect on them, it is also essential to ensure that an individual isn’t dismissing positives to focus on only negatives.
Ignoring positives means that an individual may belittle their contributions or eschew thanks or recognition. This kind of thinking is often accompanied by a compulsion to take responsibility for the negatives that one has experienced, creating a situation where an individual’s thoughts become solely populated by the negative duties that one has assigned themselves. Dismissing positives in one’s life can further compromise feelings of validation or self-worth, each of which is crucial for maintaining a positive and healthy mindset.
Challenging this mode of thinking involves finding ways to keep track of one’s successes objectively. Writing down the tasks that an individual completed that day at home or work can illustrate how much of a contribution an individual is truly making. It also means catching oneself when being complimented and consciously responding even with a simple “thank you” rather than actively trying to mitigate one’s impact on the situation. Avoiding taking responsibility for things outside of one’s control can also be accomplished by making a list of the things that are expected of them, or that one expects of themselves. Then, compare this list to whatever one feels guilty about to see if these events are indeed one’s fault at all.
Challenging irrational thinking is a challenging but essential part of the recovery process. At Avalon Malibu, we can work with you to help you better understand your relationship with drugs or alcohol as you navigate toward a promising future. We provide an extensive network of support while you work through the transformational recovery process. Our beautiful facility can help you detach from external stressors and focus on yourself and your thinking, providing a unique array of therapeutic approaches to help you find your own best practices. From yoga, meditation, and massage therapy to music, art, writing therapy, and various physically active therapies, such as our seasonal ropes course, we are prepared to help you find a way that addresses your unique needs and goals. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained professional about your situation, call us today at (844) 857-5992.