I've often felt paralyzed by the long-turning broken records in my head. Now I take those thoughts and break them open, examining what's deep in the grooves, discarding what I can discredit. I do this with tools I collected in Learned Optimism. When I find myself faced with adversity, and the resulting belief is negative, here's how I break it all down and reason my way toward optimism.
- Evidence- what backs up this negative belief? What are the facts? Be a detective!
- Alternatives- what else could be happening besides my negative belief? Is there a less destructive way to view this situation? Is there anything changeable to focus on? Something specific and non-personal?
- Implications- even if my negative belief IS true, what are the real implications of that belief?
- Usefulness- what good will it do to believe these negative thoughts? Will this belief help me?
- Energization- what will happen if I change this belief? What's the payoff of optimism?
I forgot to pay a medical bill in time. The result is a notice of collections during a time when there is no extra money.
I'm so stupid and forgetful! I can't believe I didn't pay this bill on time. At this age I should know how to budget! I'll never pay this bill off. Surely my credit is ruined. How could I be so irresponsible?
I'm in tears. I'm panicked over money. I'm mad at myself. I'm ashamed of myself. (Time to dispute!)
- Evidence- The bill IS late. It IS in collections. My credit WILL suffer if I can't pay this. I DO typically pay bills on time. I HAVE been going through a rough time. My mind HAS been on other things, like a sick child. I AM responsible for caring for this child.
- Alternatives- Maybe I'm not stupid. Maybe I've been overly tired from caring for my child. Maybe my memory is lapsing due to stress. I've not asked for help, and maybe I should.
- Implications- Even if I am forgetful, there have got to be ways to still get things done. Even if I can't pay this entire bill, I will pay what I can, and I will not lose my home over one late medical bill. Credit is fixable.
- Usefulness- I have been overly tired and forgetful. I can use this realization to learn to ask for help. I can also seek out tools to remind me to pay bills. I can call the biller and ask for a reduction in payment, or more time.
- Energization- If I implement a budget tool and ask for help, I'll be more effective. I will pay my medical bills on time. I can feel good about the ways I'm becoming more responsible. I can show my kids how to withstand the stress of medical bills and have a happy life.
There you go! That's how I've been learning to fight off my negative thoughts, replacing them with factual, reasonable assessments, and plans of how to move forward! I actually keep track of such exercises in my Self Care journal. Usually I can work through the dispute in my head. Sometimes I have to write it all down and really take my time. Other times I do this aloud, with my husband, or with my kids! I think this is a great skill set to hand to our children, especially if they've learned some pessimism from our modeling. All we can do is try to be better. And I think it's reasonable to believe the effort will pay off.