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Healthy Thinking: Why YOU Aren’t the Problem (Free Printable)

Healthy Thinking: Why YOU Aren’t the Problem (Free Printable)

Do you ever feel down in the dumps?

What Road Rage Taught Me About Life - http://hopemire.comLast week, I wrote a post called What Road Rage Taught Me About Life, where I discussed unhealthy thinking patterns related to the Fundamental Attribution Error.

Gosh, what is the Fundamental Attribution Error?

Well… go back and read my post! It explains the science behind this powerful principle.

In today’s post, we’re going to discuss how to apply that science. And I have a printable worksheet you can use to work through these principles in your own life. You’re welcome!

You can download the printable at the bottom of this post.

Unhealthy Thought Patterns

For people who struggle with depression or anxiety, when something goes wrong, it’s easy to blame ourselves. We attribute the situation to our own low self-worth, saying things like:

  • I’m just not good enough
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’ll always be a failure

The problem is, that kind of thinking is self-defeating and doesn’t provide any room for hope or self-development. For example:

  • If I’m just not good enough, that must mean I don’t have what it takes to be successful.
  • If I’m not smart enough, how will I ever learn the skills I need in order to move forward?
  • If I’ll always be a failure, then why even try?

A Healthier Approach

When experiencing a challenging situation, instead of jumping to negative conclusions about our own character or personality, what if we explored the situation more fully and recognized that there are several factors at play, and not all of them are even under our control?

What if we focused more on what we can do, than on how defeated we feel?

I understand that can be a hard step to take…. It’s not easy to stop the train wreck of racing negative thoughts. I know that from experience. But, friend, it’s worth a try!

Getting Out of the Rut

Learn healthy thinking patterns at www.hopemire.comOur thoughts are like wagon wheels that develop deep grooves in the ground. The more we think a certain way, the deeper those grooves become. Over time, it feels impossible to change our thinking patterns. We no longer have to even steer the wagon. It will still follow the path of those grooves.

But, with the help of friends and sheer determination, it is possible to lift the wagon out of those grooves and start it on a new path. It will take time and effort, but it can be done.

About Your Free Printable

In this post, I’ve included a free printable worksheet on the attribution error topic. It can be downloaded below.

This worksheet takes you through five steps in recognizing the attribution error in your personal life and using it to improve your thought patterns. It follows these five steps:

  1. Internal context: What negative emotions am I feeling?
  2. External Context: What situation triggered these emotions?
  3. Internal Attributes: What do these emotions reveal about how I view myself?
  4. External Attributes: What external (outside of myself) factors contributed to the situation? How can I use that knowledge to shift my thought patterns in a healthier direction?
  5. Accountability: Who will I invite into the conversation, for an outside perspective, and to hold me accountable in practicing this healthier thought pattern?

For Example, Here is How I’ve Used This Printable

1.) Internal Context: What did I experience emotionally?

Frustration, self-doubt, dread, self-hate

www.hopemire.com2.) External Context: What situation triggered those negative emotions?

I had to come back early from a two-year mission stint in Peru, but several of my friends were successfully staying long-term on the overseas mission assignments. I was comparing myself to them.

3.) Internal Attributes: What negative thoughts did I believe about myself in the midst of that situation?

I must be a failure. They’re successful, but I just can’t make it. I’m not good enough.

4.) External Attributes: What was a healthier explanation of the situation?

They had significant training for their mission work, whereas I had no training in long-term mission work.

They were participating in a much more like-minded ministry experience, where as I had teamed up with people who did not share all of my beliefs and values. In such a situation, conflict is natural and to be expected. That does not mean there is something inherently wrong with me.

I thought I’d been a failure, but that wasn’t true. I had followed through with what God called me to do. That means it was a success. Some of the other stuff leading to my premature departure was simply due to factors outside of my control, and I cannot penalize myself for that.

5.) Accountability: Who can I call and talk with for support and an outside perspective?

The situation I’m describing above happened several years ago. When this took place, I shared my fears and emotions with a few key friends: Piccola, Janet, and Millie. They helped me walk through the process and provided emotional support as I sought a healthy, constructive perspective on what had happened.

Practice Self-Compassion

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." Arthur Ashe Quote

When you struggle with negative thought patterns and low self-esteem, it can be very challenging to treat yourself with compassion.

You would have no problem loving on a friend who’s going through a difficult season, but when you go through the exact same circumstances, you beat yourself up.

C’mon, that’s just not necessary!

You are a beautiful human being, made in the image of God Himself. That doesn’t mean you’re perfect. But it does mean that you have an inherent dignity given to you by God.

Your Healthy-Thinking Homework

Ok! At long last, here it is:

Download your free printable here!

For practice, go ahead and work through one recent situation where you experienced negative self-talk or other unhealthy thought patterns. Practice filling out those answers.

If you need help, feel free to shoot me an email with questions about this printable, at hopemireblog@gmail.com. Or you can talk to a trusted friend about the situation, one who loves you and will speak truth over you.

Then I’d encourage you to print out a few copies of this (front and back) and keep these pages somewhere handy.

That way, when you experience a negative situation, you can easily pull out one of these sheets and start processing where your thoughts and emotions are with regards to that situation.

I truly hope this worksheet will help you develop newer, healthier thinking patterns! Remember that it takes time and effort though.

Keep working at it, and don’t give up.

After some time, you might just find that you’ve created new “wagon wheel grooves” along a healthier path.

For Further Reading:

What Road Rage Taught Me About Life

What Road Rage Taught Me About Life

Honestly, I have never struggled with road rage. Ever. I follow all the rules and I’m a complete saint on the road. In fact, people adore me, and Matthew West even once wrote a love song dedicated to my gorgeous driving skills!

… …. yeeeah… If you’ve ever ridden in the car with me, you know that’s not true!

I can’t count the number of times someone has cut me off in traffic and then slowed down, forcing me to hit the brakes like a mad woman! And what comes out of my mouth?

Feeling Overwhelmed“Oh, you poor thing! You must not know where you’re going!”

Of course not! Obviously, I’m gonna shout:

“IDIOT!!! What are you DOING?!?!”

Side note to reader: I’m not very godly in my car….

Have You Heard of the Fundamental Attribution Error (F.A.E.)?

It works in two parts:

1.) When someone else does something I don’t like, I tend to attribute it to his or her character and personality. She must be stupid. He clearly must be a jerk. I mean, c’mon, they are both so idiotic that I’d nominate them for admission into the Idiots’ Hall of Fame!

2.) But when I do something that others don’t like, I rationalize it. Cuz… clearly it’s not my fault! I was running late and missed my coffee, so obviously I can’t be expected to act like a normal coffee-enriched human being, right? 

Here’s another example:

Fundamental Attribution Error
A chart taken from this social psychology blog.

 

How Depression Hijacks the Fundamental Attribution Error

Depression affects us in many ways. Read more at http://hopemire.comIsn’t it ironic that, in cases of depression, the fundamental attribution error is often reversed? I may rationalize what others do, but when I make a mistake, gosh, I’m such an idiot! What was I thinking?!

My Gen. Psych. professor talked about this phenomenon in class last semester.

I found it fascinating! I had never questioned those thought processes before.

…Geez, I’m such a goober!

(F.A.E. alert there!) 

Now I have an option to identify my unhealthy thinking patterns when I’m in a low episode and try shifting them in a more positive direction.

Personal Failure and the Keys to Responding Well

First, you should check out my follow-up post on this topic, where I discuss healthy thinking patterns with respect to the attribution error. That post includes a free printable worksheet to help you process through different situations.

Now, there are many factors that affect behavior, including personality and value systems, but our external environment (what’s going on around us) also plays a significant role.

When we experience failure, we have two options:

1.) We could choose to look only at internal factors (“I messed up, so I must be a failure”) and therefore believe there is something inherently wrong with us.

2.) Or, we could look at the full context of the situation, including internal as well as external factors (“I messed up, but that’s because I didn’t have all the information I needed, or I got distracted by something”) and decide what we choose to learn from it!

I also love asking these three questions when I have experienced a failure:

  1. What did I do well?
  2. What can I improve?
  3. What will I do differently next time?

Notice that “what did I do wrong?” is not on the list!! Asking that question can reinforce unhealthy, self-deprecating thought patterns.

Learn healthy thinking patterns at www.hopemire.comFriends, let’s stop our negative thinking before it gets to the point of assuming we are worthless.

Let’s not go the route of believing there is something inherently wrong with us.

If we get on that trail, we’re driving an ice cream truck straight into a minefield, and that’s bound to  get messy!

Instead, let’s see what we can learn from that failure and how we’d approach the same situation differently in the future.  

Aaaand… when others do something that drives us batty, let’s practice some rational empathy and continue loving them, even if we’d rather give them a high-five… in the face!


Sharing is Caring!

Did you enjoy or benefit from this post?  Please share it on your social media!  That helps get the word out about my blog, and it provides encouragement for your friends too!  

Thanks in advance!

The Day I Wanted to Die

The Day I Wanted to Die

I remember the first time I truly considered ending my life.

I was sitting in my bedroom, remembering a confrontation that had taken place at work a day or two previously. And I couldn’t get the racing thoughts out of my head.

Confrontations scare me. So many memories and challenging emotions from my childhood always race back into my head when conflict happens.

There is an underlying sense of “not safe” that hides at the edge of my consciousness. Most days, I’m able to ignore it, but when confrontation happens, that “unsafe” mindset rears its ugly head and abducts my brain. All I want to do is run and hide.

The Conflict that Sent Me Over the Edge

I was training a co-worker on how to complete a month-end financial report. It was a very complicated, manual Excel spreadsheet. I had shown her how to do it the previous month, but wanted to check her work this month, because it was her first time completing the report on her own. I wanted to make sure she had everything she needed to succeed and confirm that I had done all I needed to do in training her.

Apparently she didn’t like that. After I asked to review her work, she scheduled a meeting with me and spent several minutes practically shouting at me. “I know how to do my job! I don’t need you hovering over me and watching my every step. Stop treating me like one of our office assistants!”

My mind began reeling. She was basically yelling at me. Her eyes were angry and bulging. My heart beat increased and I felt that tension rising in my gut… I wanted to run. I needed to get out of there! But I also knew that, as an adult and a professional, I needed to somehow try and work through this conflict in a constructive way.

So, after listening to her for a few minutes, I began explaining my perspective. This was her first time doing the report on her own. I only wanted to make sure I had done a good job training her and that she would be prepared for success. I emphasized that I was not going to do that every month, but just wanted to give her some further details this month on the portions she hadn’t completed properly, so that she would have all the tools she needed to perform well in the future.

No matter what I said or how lovingly I tried to phrase it, she kept shouting the same thing, over and over. “I know how to do my job! You don’t need to be reviewing my work! Don’t treat me like a child!”

Finally, I got up and left the room. We were getting no where. If she didn’t want my help, then I would just let her fail. I wasn’t going to try working through it with her any longer.

What My Brain Told Me

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?I couldn’t stop thinking about that confrontation for the rest of the day. I think I even left work early, because I was so upset and couldn’t get anything done.

The thing is, I had spent the whole previous year working on my ability to keep my head in the midst of conflict. I’d thought I was making progress, but apparently I wasn’t. Once again, that fear response had risen in my body, and once again, my mind had shut down. I’d gotten up and left.

At home, I continued thinking about the event. Perhaps I would never be able to handle conflict. Except, isn’t that a pivotal part of being a leader? My whole life, I’d wanted to do something great… make some great contribution. But… if I couldn’t handle conflict, what would I ever be able to contribute to society?

There must be something inherently broken about me… out-of-order. Some part of my spirit that just doesn’t work properly, and can’t be fixed. I’ll never be able to live out my calling. I’ll never be able to truly live!

So… why try?

What My Friend Told Me

Those thoughts crippled my mind for the next several days and, for the first time, I was actually considering whether or not I wanted to end it all.

Then my friend Millie came over. She asked how I was doing and I told her I was just crashing. I shared the above story with her and how disappointed I’d been in my reaction.

She was like, “What? Why? You handled the conflict just fine. Your co-worker was the one who didn’t handle the conflict well.”

That took me off guard, so I asked her what she meant.

“You handled the conflict. You listened to your co-worker’s side of the story and then shared your side. You were looking to communicate and understand one another, so that you could both move forward in a positive way. She is the one who wouldn’t listen. She repeated the same thing over and over again, and never even heard what you were trying to say. She is the one who didn’t handle the conflict well. You did fine.”

I was shocked. I hadn’t even considered that perspective, but it made perfect sense.

What I Learned Through This Experience

I don’t share this story to bash my co-worker. Nor am I trying to say I’m such a saint, because I’m not. I wasn’t blameless in that event and there were things I could have done better, especially leading up to the conflict.

However, I do share this story with the goal of demonstrating that we need other people (like my friend Millie) to help speak hope into our lives.

Sometimes our minds play tricks on us. When we struggle with unhealthy thinking, it’s easy to filter out all of the positive evidence and hone in on the negative evidence, contributing to a low self-esteem and an unhealthy view of the world. That’s what makes some of us want to give up.

I’m thankful for my friend Millie and the conversation we had that day. It changed my perspective on a few things.

  1. Handling conflict well doesn’t mean being the smartest, most commanding person in the room. It means aiming to love and serve well. It’s about the heart, not being in control.

  2.  Conflict and confrontation are hard for me. That probably won’t ever change. I may never be able to handle conflict without some level of fear. But I can learn, and am learning, positive coping methods to manage those stress levels. I will continue getting better, as long as I don’t give up.

  3. We can’t always trust our own interpretation of an event, especially if it’s causing us to plummet into hopelessness. It’s always worth it to open up to a trusted friend and get an outside opinion.

  4. Suicide is never the option. Don’t give up. There is always a way to find hope!


Thanks for reading!

May you be blessed and find fresh hope in your journey!

–Michelle Louise

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