Thursday, 29 December 2011

13 Beliefs to disbelieve!

Today I will discuss distorted beliefs and how they may be influencing your behaviour.  I am including an exercise to complete, as well!(don't worry, it's kind of fun and very enlightening!)

            Distorted beliefs are rules and principles we follow that are incorrect or unhelpful. We learn many of our beliefs from our family and culture, and inevitably some of them aren’t helpful. By following my tips on thought monitoring you’ll be able to catch yourself automatically acting on your ingrained distorted beliefs. Thought monitoring can also help you discover where your own distorted beliefs lie: they vary from person to person, and most, if not all, people have them.
            Following the instructions is a list of common distorted beliefs, as originally identified by Albert Ellis (a psychologist from the ‘50’s who founded Cognitive Behavioural therapies).

Grab a piece of paper and a pen – make two columns; one will be your thought perspective, the other will be your behaviour perspective. As you read through this list and its descriptions for each point, write a number from 0 to 10 beside each letter. 0 means untrue where 10 means true.

Example:         E. I am only worthwhile as long as I am doing something for someone else.
Thought perspective                            Behaviour Perspective
                                    0                                                          5
This means that you consciously do not believe this statement, but your behaviour shows that you do – at least 50% of the time.

Continue in this manner for every thought, and at the end, make special note of any that you marked 6-10 for in the behaviour column – these are your distorted beliefs.

            You may notice qualities of friends or family as you read through the list and its description here.
  1. Life is fair.
This is probably one of the most difficult to deal with as we were all raised being told to be fair, and told how fairness and honesty were most admirable. Then of course, we logically assume that life will be fair to us as well. Well – if you truly believe this distortion then you will feel guilty when bad things happen to you. Your logic being that you must have deserved the ill-fate (because everything is ‘fair’, right?). In order to challenge this distortion, you must work at accepting that the world isn’t always fair – in order to prevent the shock when unfair things occur.

  1. Everything I do must be perfect – or else I am a failure
This is the driver of perfectionism.  There is importance to realizing that no one or thing is perfect and most of the things that humans do are imperfect in some way. The problem with perfection and requiring it to be ‘happy’ is that you’ll never be good enough and therefore never really be satisfied with your efforts. Keep reading here on Conquer the Clouds and we will address the issue of perfectionism in a future article!

  1. I have to do everything I am asked to do.
Control of your actions tends to be in the hands of other people and you will often feel taken-advantage of, as well as resentful of those who ask you favours constantly. Learning to be more assertive will help you challenge this belief. Look for an upcoming article on being assertive!

  1. If others disagree with me, then I must be wrong.
The questions to ask yourself when determining whether you follow this distorted belief are these: do you wait for others to express their opinions before sharing your ideas? If they describe different thoughts than you, do you feel embarrassed or feel like changing your opinion? Do you feel you have a right to have your own, separate opinion?  By having respect for your own thoughts and attitudes will permit you to consider other people’s opinions rather than automatically accepting them as fact; this allows you to establish confidence and independence.

  1. I am only worthwhile as long as I am doing something for someone else.
This is for all those ‘givers’ out there. You feel guilty or anxious is you take time for yourself or treat yourself.  If you find that your behaviours and thought perspectives score high for this one, remind yourself that you are an entire human being with the entire range of human requirements and rights. It is crucial that you spend time caring for yourself as well!

  1. I must always perform at my best.
An example of how this distorted belief works: you have established some kind of personal best – the fastest run, or highest mark, for example. From then on you chide yourself if you do not live up to that benchmark. You allow no ‘off’ days or ‘slow’ days or ‘bad’ weeks. The ultimate thought process here is that you feel anything that isn’t your best is a disaster and that you will continue to worsen.

  1. Anger is bad.
As one of the natural human emotions, it has full rights to expression; however, many of us grow up suppressing anger or releasing it in uncontrollable rage-fits. The importance of anger is that it lets us know when people are crossing our boundaries and gives us strength and courage to defend ourselves, when needed.
While it is important that the expression of anger does not violate the rights of another, we cannot violate our own rights by ignoring anger when it does come up.  If you show evidence of believing this (in thought or action) remember that you have the right to be angry; though you do not have the right to hurt another with that same anger.

  1. I have the power to change people.
The question to ask to determine if you think/act this way is: do you believe that if you provide or care for someone in just such a way, they will become who you think they could or should become? You may believe that be providing security, love or the force of your personality you can get a person to change (quit smoking, go back to school, quit video games, etc.).  This belief leads to a lot of resentment of the other person as they will most likely remain unchanged even after all of your efforts and energy are spent.

  1. Good relationships have no problems.
This distorted belief comes from fairy tale endings fed to us as children (and even so as adults) by mainstream culture. The basis for this belief is that after you have found the “right” partner, you will never need to work on the relationship and it will be always perfect. The truth is that every long-term relationship requires work, commitment and effort by all parties. Any difficulties encountered are not indications that the relationship was doomed from the start.

  1. I need someone stronger or more powerful than myself to rely on.
If you believe this one, chances are you feel helpless most of the time. That is the nature of this thought – it makes you helpless. This ends up causing issues in relationships as you fear for asserting yourself or taking control because the other person might leave. You constantly feel as though someone needs to be responsible for you. To challenge this thought and show its deceptive-nature think to some time in your life that you have managed without someone else holding your hand.

  1. It is easier to avoid life’s problems than to face them.
The best way to check if you use this belief is to review your actions over the problems you have had during the past year: how many did you put off to be solved later? Did they get resolved or ‘just go away’? Chances are, most problems in your life will get bigger the more you ignore them (think: dealing with loans, the bank, overdue bills, etc...).    

  1. It is unbearable when life is not the way I would like it to be.
Do you ever think to yourself: “Alright, when my loans have been settled, the family-issues are dealt with and the other thing are solved, I can finally be happy” ? It is nice to have our “ducks in a row” but, by the time we’ve aligned them all, there are other ducks falling out of line – it’s the nature of life! This belief makes it seem that everything has to be going well in order for you to be happy. But how often does everything come together like this? In order to cope with this assumption you need to allow a certain amount of disarray and upheaval in your life – do not get caught in defining what it will take for you to be happy.

  1. The way to be accepted and appreciated by others is to give and give.
If you are someone who has this thought dictating their actions or thoughts, you are likely the one who gives more in your relationships (friendships, bfs/gfs, or even with family). A couple of questions to ask yourself if you find this is a distorted thought of yours is why you give of yourself so freely. Perhaps you are trying to buy love and acceptance because you see yourself as unlovable; do you expect the other person to return in kind? What do you expect? Unfortunately, though giving is kind and generous, extreme giving of oneself (time, gifts, favours, etc.) may cause others to lose respect for you. The key here is to respect yourself just as much as others.

Comment and let me know what your distorted thought and behaviour scores are! Tell me if you think of any more that I haven’t mentioned on here!

                                                                Conquer on!

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