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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!

Helping Siblings

Helping Siblings

Moving DayHello and welcome back! Sorry I haven’t written in a while. A lot has changed…. this past month has felt like a whirlwind…. I quit my job of five years, moved to a new town, started a network marketing business (in a new town, gosh!!!), and began taking Psychology classes at the local community college. What’s more, I was doing some research three days ago and… I think I know what I want to do with my life now!

How I Hope to Change the World

One of my clearest memories from childhood was the sound of my brother crying… sobbing hysterically. Shouting things like, “That’s not fair!” or “You never let me do what I want!” Those sobs and accusations shaped how I viewed the world…. I only realized that three days ago. I listened to my brother’s description of the world (unfair and disappointing), and I believed him.

Tiger SiblingsSiblings… we grow up together. We learn from one another. Because we are family, we stay in touch throughout the years, even after we’ve lost touch with other friends. And we’re the same age, so we grow old together.

Yet there is very little research into how mental illness impacts the sibling relationship. I Googled this phrase: “developmental impact of having sibling with mental illness.” Each search result I reviewed said there was almost no research into this matter. Most research so far has focused either on the illness itself or on the parent-child dynamic. And there are very few resources for the siblings of those suffering from a mental illness.

And yet… there must be an impact….How does a “well sibling,” the one without the significant mental illness, learn to trust others when life is a dangerous, chaotic mess? How does the child learn autonomy and initiative when the sick sibling consistently lashes out against him or her? How does the well sibling discover his or her place in the world when he or she constantly feels overshadowed by the presence of the mental illness?

Please understand: I’m not blaming the child suffering from a mental illness…. That child did not ask to suffer from schizophrenia or a similar disorder, and should never be blamed. I’m just wondering about the dynamics….

My Plan of Attack

Collin_CollegeOver this next year, I will take four basic psychology courses and one class in elementary statistics at the local community college. In September, I hope to take the GRE and finish researching placement options, so that I can apply for grad school before the end of the year. …Whew… I still don’t know where I want to study….

If everything goes according to plans, I’ll start graduate school in August 2017 and eventually earn a Ph.D. in Psychology. Then I’ll apply for positions on staff at a university where I can conduct research into the sibling relationship, exploring how the presence of one sibling with a significant mental illness (such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) affects the early childhood development of the other sibling.

After that, I hope to develop resources for both siblings and parents. Small workbooks that could help siblings learn how to understand and cope with the situation. Other pamphlets or books that could teach parents how to better balance the responsibilities of raising a special needs child without neglecting the emotional needs of the other healthy child.

Workbooks

That’s the goal anyway. I have to say I’m nervous…. The idea of getting a Ph.D. sounds like a long, scary journey…. But at least right now, I believe this is what God has for me. It’s surreal and exciting! Jesus take the wheel!

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