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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:

Why I Don’t Hate My Brother

Why I Don’t Hate My Brother

One day, when I was about ten years old, I sat watching TV in the living room. It was kind of a big deal, because we had cable now for the first time!

Suddenly, my older brother came stomping down the stairs and into the living room. Without saying a word, he grabbed the remote control and changed the channel.

“Hey!” I shouted. “I was watching that!”

“Well, I don’t want to watch that,” he shouted back.

We were suddenly thrown into this deep argument. He felt he had the right to do whatever he wanted, even if it inconvenienced everyone else.


Ok, I know… first world problem, right? But this is just one example of a common day occurrence while I was growing up.

Here’s a glimpse at childhood with an older brother who has Asperger’s Syndrome, ODD, and Bipolar Disorder:

  • He threw chairs across the room when he got angry.
  • He punched holes in the wall at least three times growing up. He even got so angry once that he pulled the sliding car door right off of our mom’s minivan!
  • We’d be on our way to a museum or amusement park, when mom would have to turn us around because my brother was having a temper tantrum. I’d have done nothing wrong, but still felt like I was being punished….
  • I was constantly on edge, because I never knew what would set my brother off on a tirade.
  • I couldn’t have friends over because my brother was having a bad day.
  • My brother wouldn’t stop talking about everything I didn’t want to hear.
  • People looked at my entire family as if there were something inherently wrong with all of us.
  • My brother was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility nine times within six years.

Things I remember hearing my brother say to or about me:

  • “You’re wrong!”
  • “I hate you!”
  • “I want to kill her!”
  • “This is all her fault!”
  • “I don’t care what you want!”
  • “That’s not fair!”
  • “You were supposed to be a boy! I wanted a brother, not a sister!”
  • “Life was better before she was born!”

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?I expect that all siblings have some level of conflict while growing up. But for us… it was constant…. Every single day, since as long as I can remember. And it really tore down my sense of identity.

But today,

I want people to understand

one thing:

I love my brother! And I forgive him!

Whether it’s you or a loved one, navegating mental illness can be challenging and scary, but there is hope!

THE FORGIVENESS JOURNEY

Growing up, my mom constantly told me that I needed to forgive my brother for his hurtful behavior, because it was “just his disability.”

But…

How do you forgive someone who has hurt you so deeply?

No direction was provided…. So, my childhood answer?

Stuff the pain. Ignore it.

Pretend it never happened.

But that didn’t solve anything. It just bred bitterness.

“Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

That is so true! I was dying on the inside.

  • I decided to be perfect, and then fell into deep depression because I wasn’t perfect.
  • But then I kept trying to be perfect, which only created deep seated anxiety.
  • I isolated myself from my family, not sharing my emotions, problems, or
  • I was already self-harming by the time I reached kindergarten!
  • I used food, tv, and sleep to escape my problems, which means I never learned healthy coping methods.

It's hard to forgive.... Forgive anyway.

Getting Away For a Time

In 2006, I moved to Waco, TX and began my freshman year at Baylor University. Within a couple of months, I got involved with a local church called Antioch and joined a lifegroup. For the first time, I was held accountable in spending time with Jesus every day. That changed my life!

I quickly learned that God’s love for me is not dependent upon my ability to be perfect. This revolutionized everything! But what does that have to do with forgiving my brother?

For the longest time, I pretended nothing was wrong, I was happy, and things were great, because that was “the Christian thing to do.” When I realized that God loved me no matter what, it released me to admit that I wasn’t ok.

And admitting that I wasn’t ok meant that I no longer needed to bottle up my emotions. Suddenly I could explore my pain, fear, and low self-esteem, because I knew that Daddy in heaven would love me the whole way through it!

How to choose forgiveness when all you feel is pain.

I didn’t just wake up one day and forgive my brother. It was more of a combination of many things:

  1. The distance really did help. Things had been fairly toxic growing up. Being able to set some boundaries helped us each gain perspective and decompress. When I would go home to visit, it was normally for short periods of time, maybe just a weekend, and tension wouldn’t have time to build. That meant we were able to develop newer, happier memories. That didn’t mean the bad memories went away, but it helped us begin to create a newer, happier history to help balance out the places of pain.
  2. I realized that he wasn’t the only one who was messed up. I had my own junk and my own problems to work through. I had never been perfect and often made my own mistakes. I’m sure I have hurt him too. Many times. I lashed out. I was mean. By no means was I innocent. We were both just two messed up, struggling people in need of a Savior. Did that excuse the ways he had hurt me? No. But he no longer seemed such a villain when I discovered my own villainy apart from Jesus.
  3. So much of it wasn’t his fault. That might sound strange to some people. I do believe there’s something important about taking responsibility for our actions. And I’m sure some of my brother’s behaviors were simply the result of immaturity, just like many of mine were. Yet at the same time, he struggled with a very real mental illness that impacted his thought processes and behaviors. And suffering from a mental illness was not his fault. It was not the result of some sin that he committed or anything like that. He didn’t ask for it. It just was. Thankfully he’s on a good mix of medication now, has learned some coping methods, and has also matured a lot. Just as I needed to do.
  4. I began praying for him. While I was in college, my brother was not a believer. I prayed almost every day for him to encounter God, because I knew God was the only one who could help my brother find purpose and healing. My prayers weren’t about forgiving him, but that’s still what happened, because the more I prayed for him, the more I received God’s heart and love for him.
  5. I was able to replace the lies in my head with God’s truth. One of the challenges of verbal abuse during childhood is that you grow up internalizing all of the negative things spoken over you. Those lies and negative perceptions become a part of your world view, to such an extent that it’s hard to separate the lies from the truth. As I began exploring my childhood pain with God, the Holy Spirit helped me identify various lies I was believing and replace those lies with truth from Scripture. For example:
    1. Lie: No one loves me. Truth: For God so loved the (entire) world (including me!), that He gave His only Son to save it. – John 3:16
    2. Lie: I’m never going to be good enough. Truth: I’m forgiven and I have been made into the righteousness of Christ! – 2 Corinthians 5:21
    3. Lie: Things will never change. Truth: Things have already changed, for eternity, because Christ took a fallen and broken world, and He saved it! And now we go from glory to greater glory! – 2 Corinthians 3:18
    4. Lie: I am helpless.Truth: I have the strength of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me! – Philippians 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 3:16
  6. God’s truth healed my places of pain. As my thought life improved and my perspectives grew healthier, I noticed that I didn’t experience as much pain when I’d think back on my childhood. Those childhood memories no longer carried the same amount of power. And that released me to forgive my brother as well, because I was no longer living in a place of fear and victimization.
  7. I was able to release myself and my brother into the hands of God. One of the hardest things about forgiveness is choosing to let go. We feel that, if we hold onto the resentment, we can play the martyr, which somehow makes us seem “more righteous or just.” And if we hold onto the resentment, the whole world will somehow know all the terrible traits of the person we hate. But that’s just not the case. If we hold onto our anger, we’ll live a life weighed down by bitterness. We’ll never grow or feel freedom, because we walk in chains, bound to the very person we hate. But if we release our anger, we can fall into the arms of Jesus. And there is no place I’d rather be!

WHY I LOVE MY BROTHER

me-and-my-brother

Let me end by sharing all the things I love about my brother! I want people to know how amazing and wonderful he is!

  • He is a teddy bear! I know that sounds counter everything I described above, but my brother really does have a tender heart, once you get past the surface. And he’s great with little kids! They love him!
  • He is so smart and loves to learn! I’ve had so many fun, interesting conversations with him, and it never gets boring!
  • We enjoy taking walks and just catching up.
  • He wants to know more about God and often asks questions.
  • He looks up to me. That might seem like a prideful thing to say, but it speaks to the change in his heart as well. God has restored our relationship and I’m so thankful! And in awe!
  • We can have awesome, nerdy conversations about things like Stargate, Doctor Who, and Final Fantasy.
  • He’s family. We’ve been through so much, and I honestly think we’re stronger because of it!
  • He loves to dream big. He doesn’t get stuck in the doubts, but pursues the passions of his heart.
  • He really does love us. It may be hard to show it sometimes, and it may come out in … interesting ways … but he loves us, and after everything is said and done, I am thankful!

HOW ABOUT YOU?

HOW DO YOU FORGIVE SOMEONE WHO HAS HURT YOU SO DEEPLY?

One word: JESUS!

Sometimes the places of pain are just too deep. We can’t handle them alone. For those who have been abused, there’s often a level of fear that’s so deep. We just don’t want to open the wound long enough to get out the infection.

You need Jesus! He’s the only One who can heal us. He’s the only One who can help us truly move past our places of fear, anxiety, and prejudice long enough to even consider that a different reality might be possible.

Jesus! We need You!

-Michelle Louise

 

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

Big announcement:

Tomorrow is the last day of 2015! 

I can’t believe it went by so fast….

Sooo… I figured I should write a post on New Year’s Resolutions…. Maybe something like: “What Should My New Year’s Resolutions Be?” Or perhaps: “The Best New Year’s Resolutions.” However those ideas seemed too cliché.

Or I could try writing something super helpful like: “Secrets to Following Through With Your Resolutions this Year!” But honestly, apart from suggesting that you write S.M.A.R.T. goals, I have no idea! Self discipline is definitely not my strong suit….

Or… I could write something controversial, such as why you shouldn’t have resolutions. Except I’m too much of a goal setter, and that would just make my heart hurt. So… I think I’ll settle with this:

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016.

2015-12-30 11.06.03

This appeals to me, because it’s not really a to-do list and yet it’s still practical.

It’s not about all these things I want to accomplish. That often leads to more anxiety.

Rather it focuses on my identity, who God is, and what the Bible tells me about life and truth.

Somehow that just seems more sustainable and refreshing….

Ok. Here we go!

1. Keep in mind that God made you who you are on purpose.

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We’ve probably all read Jeremiah 29:11, that God has good plans for us. There’s also Ephesians 2:10, that we are His handiwork. If God made me who I am on purpose, that releases me to think well of myself and appreciate the different aspects of my personality. That doesn’t justify all of my bad habits, and if I do have mental illness, it doesn’t mean He did that to me on purpose. But it does honor those unique godly characteristics that describe me. And I can rest in who I am without trying to become someone else.

2. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have double standards.

I am so much harder on myself than I am on other people. Sometimes that might be ok, but when it comes to making mistakes, I’ll easily forgive someone else for a HUGE mistake, but then feel boatloads of shame and guilt for one small mistake that I make. When negative thoughts are racing through my head, how would I comfort my best friend or even a child? Why do I find it so hard to offer myself those same words of comfort? Double standards….

3. Keep in mind that you won’t last forever.

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As I get older, I realize more and more that I’m not invincible. I need to take care of myself. Suddenly staying up all night wrecks my ability to function the next day. Getting sick affects me more. Eating greasy foods will upset my stomach. If I want to last the long haul, I need to keep in mind that I won’t last forever.

4. Keep in mind that you will last forever.

When our life on earth comes to a close, it’s followed by an eternal life in heaven (if you believe in Jesus as your Savior). I want to keep eternity in mind as I live my life in 2016. Let my decisions be rooted in God and His purposes on earth. Also, eternal life means that the struggles I’m experiencing right now will not always define me. I hope I will find victory soon, but I know at the very least that one day, when I see Jesus, I will become like He is!

Screenshot_2015-12-30-11-46-13-1

5. Keep in mind that God is good, no matter what.

I don’t know everything that’s going to happen in 2016. It could end up being the best year of my life, or it might be the worst. Who knows? Only God. One thing I do know for sure is that God is good. Scripture says He is light, and there is no darkness in Him. I 20140128_180721don’t understand everything that happens, but I know He’ll take what happens and somehow use it for my good. And I know He’ll love me and be with me no matter what. I can always trust Him.

6. Keep in mind that other people are hurting too.

If someone is mean or says something rude to me, chances are it’s not really about me. They’re just hurting. I hope I can keep my eyes open to recognize how I could encourage that person instead of lashing out. If they’re already in pain, I don’t want to add more pain to the mix.

 

Anyway, in case you are into setting New Year’s Resolutions, check these out:

 

And if by chance you don’t like setting resolutions, take a look at these instead:

Wine

What do you want to keep in mind for 2016?

Thank you so much for reading my post! I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear from you, my avid readers! Post a comment below about the mindset you want to have in 2016. And Happy New Year’s!!!

On Feeling Alone…

On Feeling Alone…

There is a place in my head where I feel alone. It’s like a cold, dark cave in which I find myself trapped, and no one is there with me. I can see everyone else. Not through a hole, but more as just a general awareness that everyone else is happy, living the good life, except here I am, apart… alone….

I don’t know how to get out of this dark cave. As I look up, I see the mouth of the cave is wide open, and light floods in through it, whispering of the joy that can be found outside the cave. I truly want to get there, to leave this place behind, but… how do I take that first step?

I feel paralyzed. Like that moment when you wake up in the middle of the night and think about getting up, but don’t feel like you have the ability to do so, because your brain is still telling you that you’re asleep. Sleep paralysis…. I can’t move…. I’m just stuck.

Only a few friends notice when I’m trapped in the cave. They may ask me what’s wrong, but I shrug it off. In part because I don’t have the words to express how I feel. In part because I don’t have the energy to handle their follow-up questions. Or perhaps I’m simply too afraid to share the truth. I don’t want people to worry about me or to delve too deep into the places where I myself am afraid to go. So I tell them I’m fine, just a little tired.

I feel so alone in this place. Not because people don’t love me, but because I can’t open myself up to them. And because I’m too nervous with my own feelings to even explore them. It feels like there’s a chasm waiting right in front of me, and if I explore my thoughts too closely, I’ll fall off the side of that cliff into that chasm. So… it’s easier to stuff my thoughts away. It’s easier to sleep them off. It’s easier to ignore them as I spend all night watching Netflix. I’m afraid of my thoughts and emotions, so I turn around and walk away.

But I can’t keep this up…. Deep down, I know that I must confront my fears, confront the emotions and insecurities. I can’t choose isolation forever. I must bring my friends into the process. But how? How do I choose courage? How do I let myself get so close to that cliff? How do I make these useless feet work so that I can walk out of the cave and into the light?

Sometimes it really does feel hopeless…. Those questions are too hard to answer, too scary to approach. Still, I can’t hide forever. I can’t live my life in a vegetative state. If I truly want to live, I know I must approach these topics, no matter how hard that seems. So… where do I start? How do I move forward?