From Dr. Jane's Notebook

How to cope with negative and self-defeating thoughts

      Without question, life as we know it is undergoing change. For many of us, gone are the luxuries of impulse buying. Gone are the expectations that one’s job will be secure in the future. Gone are many of the assumptions we have grown to depend upon. And so, even those of us who claim to despise change, will sooner or later be forced to adapt and cope with our changing circumstances.

     In the face of the unknown, it is easy to become anxious and fearful and it is tempting to shut down emotionally. But there are also great costs associated with hiding one’s head in the sand. In recent decades, there has been a great deal of research into the relationship between our feelings, thoughts and behaviors, known as Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT). According to CBT, the way we think about things affects our feelings and our behaviors. The bottom line is that it’s possible to scare ourselves with negative self-defeating thoughts, or we can adjust our thoughts in a way that helps us feel better and achieve better results from the things we do.  Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.

·        Fear can become an obstacle to good communication. Many of the problems that we experience in relationships are the result of breakdowns in communication. While most people express disdain for the practice of lying, many of us are fearful of telling the whole truth even in our closest relationships. While we may want to speak freely, we may have catastrophic fears about the impact of our words, and decide instead to tell a half-truth or avoid the conversation all together. I think Paul Simon expressed it best in his song, The Sound of Silence when he sang… “silence like a cancer grows.” If we wish to maintain closeness, we must not succumb to the fear of telling it like it is.

·        Fear can become an obstacle to good decision-making. Many of us strive for perfection in all things. While it is good to give careful consideration to consequences, fear of making a wrong decision can be immobilizing. When we hesitate to the point of procrastination, others are more likely to make decisions for us. Then we must live with the choices of others who may not have our best interests at heart.

·        Fear can become an obstacle to good career choices. In the face of economic woes and fear of competition, many young people express pessimism and expect defeat. At a time in their lives when encouragement is most needed, it is easy to fall prey to scare tactics which might lead to poor career decisions. Good career choices are based on both interest and aptitude. Just being good at something may not be enough to get you out of bed every morning; it helps a lot to love what you do.

·        Fear can interfere with quality of life. There is much to be said for cultivating a healthy sense of self-confidence. In the words of the famous but anonymous “Desiderata” which was found in Old Saint Paul’s Church in Baltimore, MD in 1692, “…do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. …If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time”.

     In the coming months and years, we will face many changes as citizens of our nation and the world and we will be faced with financial uncertainly. When it comes to financial worries, it is especially easy to succumb to fear. At times like these, I like to remember my Father’s words on the day my husband and I bought our first home. He said, “kids, you don’t really start to enjoy life until you are fully in debt”.  Keeping your sense of humor is always a good idea.

©Copyright, 2009, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

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