“People-Pleaser” has been a label that I have carried for most of my life. It is a part of the unhealthy self-talk that I have going in my mind. I am guilty of personalizing events in life as personal rejections of me. This is a form of distortion where I will overestimate the extent an event or words said, (or not said,) are related to me.
You probably know someone who has this noise in their head sometimes too, I am sure of it. If the people I am around are not in a good mood or if there is disharmony then I am very uncomfortable. I will begin to ask myself if I am the cause of it somehow. That question can lead me down a slippery slope of negative self-talk. See if you identify the unhealthy thinking pattern I have struggled with as you read the descriptions below.
The Bible has a blueprint for replacing this faulty thinking and replace it with true beliefs. It comes from Scriptures that say we shouldn’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to take our thoughts captive and cast down our vain imaginations, knowing the truth will set us free…because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
So, how do we make that practical in our lives daily? Where do we begin? Start by looking at some of the typical lies that occur in our personal lives and relationships.
In the workbook, Intimate Encounters: Discovering the Secrets of a Really Great Marriage, Dr. David Ferguson lists six of the most common unhealthy thinking patterns that contribute to emotional pain. We all seem to fall victim to one or more of the patterns (listed below).
In order to stop the effects of these unhealthy thinking patterns, you must:
1. Identify which of these are most common for you.
2. Become aware of events/situations that trigger your thinking and emotions.
3. Recognize what you are saying about yourself. Your self-talk is a “belief” system about yourself.
4. Notice your responses in behavior and emotion to the event/situation.
5. Challenge your negative thoughts with truthful thoughts that you choose to tell yourself and then enjoy feeling positive!
It takes time, but this really will work. It has helped me derail these attacks on myself. By telling yourself truthful statements, you can change your thinking patterns. It is not easy, but with practice and patience you can do it.
Two important tips:
1. Keep a journal for at least a week to analyze your own self-talk. By realizing your unique style of dealing with life, you can make rapid changes in your attitude and behavior where it is needed!
2. Have someone help you with reminders of the truth as you attempt to confront these distortions in your thinking patterns and self-talk.
Six Common Unhealthy Thinking Patterns (from Intimate Encounters,Chapter 13, Break Free from Unhealthy Thinking)
- Personalizing – Taking external events as personal rejections and attacks. Taking everything personally is a form of distortion in which a person overestimates the extent an event is related to him or her. Moody and easily hurt by so-called rejections. Filled with insecurities, they develop low self-esteem and may blame themselves for everything. Others see them as “fragile,” overly sensitive, childish, even hysterical. Frequently “personalizers” felt rejected in childhood or came from highly critical home environments. Whether the rejection was overt and abusive, or more subtle and neglectful, the child grew up with negative self-talk, such as, What is wrong with me? I can’t do anything right. It’s my fault. Who cares about me? I’m worthless.
- Magnifying – “Makes a mountain out of a molehill!” They can be volatile with anger, unmerciful with self-condemnation, or “bottomless” with self-pity. Others may consider them self-absorbed, preoccupied with their own crises, whiny, and over-reacting. They may say things like: devastated, worst, ruined, terrible, horrible, awful. “Magnifers” may have developed this distorted thinking in a home environment where little things were blown out of proportion. Spilled milk merited a character attack; discipline was excessive and out of proportion to the offense; or one parent was preoccupied with loneliness, rejection, or fear, seeing catastrophes in every situation. Another common childhood pattern is the “overly responsible” child who filled a relational vacuum in his home, seeking to hold the family together by pleasing everyone or meeting one parent’s emotional needs due to a breakdown in the marital relationship. Such children often become overwhelmed by life’s events.
- Overgeneralizing – “History always repeats itself.” Generalizing is relying on past events to predict the future. This can undermine your worth, cast doubts on your adequacy, and prevent you from trusting others or yourself. With this self-defeating style of thinking, a person can conclude, “No matter what I do, I will never get along with that person.” “Overgeneralizers” carry around loads of anxiety, doubt, and fear. They hold onto past hurts, failures, and rejections, and recite them as evidence for their gloomy attitude toward the future. They figure, “Why try? The past will just repeat itself.” Other people view generalizers as fearful, untrusting, or unforgiving. They were often exposed to this way of thinking in their home environment.
- Emotional Reasoning – Seeing reality through the skewed perspective of your emotions. Convinced something is so just because you feel it. Or denying the truth because you don’t feel it. This unhealthy thinking can come from a past home life dominated by fear or mistrust, physical or sexual abuse, parents who hurled accusation at you, such as “I just know you’ll go off and get pregnant some day!” Or, “You’re going to turn out just like your (fill in your own negative role model here) if you keep this up!” And it can lead to growing up feeling a nagging sense of worthlessness and betrayal.
- Polarizing/Selective Abstraction – Perfectionist thinking pattern that views life as all-or-nothing, good-or-bad, black-or-white. More than a little difficult to live with, “polarizers” hold to rigid rules for evaluating their life and relationships; they classify events as right or wrong, good or bad; and they judge their performance (or other’s) on the basis of their own impossible standards. They feel no satisfaction in modest performance or genuine effort,and there’s little joy in success, since it was expected all along. But, when they don’t attain their idea of perfection, they’re likely to suffer great anger and despair. “Selective Abstraction” is an offshoot of Polarizing. “Missing the forest for the trees.” Focus is on what is wrong rather than on what is right. They spend time and energy fussing and fuming over a few minor problems when they could have invested the same time and energy toward positive solutions.
- Minimizing – “It really doesn’t matter.” Denying or discounting any feelings associated with the significant events of their life. “Minimizers” tend to verbalize few emotions themselves and expect the same from others around them, often leaving loved ones lonely, frustrated, and feeling deeply wounded. Even during tragic events, minimizers often demonstrate little or no feeling. They deny that anything troubles them, and, when pressed to communicate, they may give facts, opinions, or data instead of vulnerably sharing their needs and feelings. Often minimizers come from homes where personal needs are neglected or overlooked. In an effort to avoid the pain of unmet needs, children in these environments will learn to deny their own needs, lose touch with their feelings, and reduce to a minimum their personal sharing.
As you read the traits of each of these unhealthy thinking patterns, do you see yourself in any of the descriptions? What effect has it had on you? On your marriage, children or other relationships?