O is for Occipital Lobe by illuminautI had heard the same thing over and over and over again from this person. Self doubts, questioning, cynicism, fears all mashed together to be an ugly serving for the day.
They had learnt the script over the whole of their lives. Repeated it, rehearsed it, played it out on so many stages that they no longer needed to look at the original script notes. They were the play. It had become them. People knew them as the person who played the part of the play, rather than the actor themselves. They had lost all connection with who they had originally been. The actor and the person they were playing were now one.
We all have a script that we follow. Influences, good and bad, have come across our lives that have shaped and moulded how we live, and how we respond to life. We have ways of thinking, looking at things.
In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, which he calls cognitive distortions.
Any seem familiar to you?
- All-or-Nothing Thinking -You see things as black or white, never grey, e.g. if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
- Overgeneralisation - You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern, e.g. “I messed up”, “I never get anything right”.
- Mental Filter - You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your view of reality becomes darkened, like a drop of ink that discolours an entire glass of water.
- Disqualifying the Positive - You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you continue to see everything as negative even when your
everyday experiences contradict this.
- Jumping to Conclusions - You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your interpretation.
a. Mind Reading: You think that someone is reacting negatively to you and you don’t try to check this out with them.
b. The Fortune-Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.
- Magnification (Catastrophising) or Minimisation - You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your error or someone else’s
success), or you incorrectly shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other person’s imperfections).
- Emotional Reasoning - You believe that your negative emotions reflect the way that things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true”.
- “Should” (Must, Ought To) Statements - You try to motivate yourself with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. The emotional consequence are feelings of guilt, or being inadequate or wrong. When you tell others they “should” do something, you feel anger, frustration and resentment.
- Labelling and Mislabelling - This is an extreme form of overgeneralisation. Instead of describing your error, you
attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser” instead of “I didn’t do that well”. When someone else’s behaviour annoys you, you judge him/her as a “loser”. Mislabelling is describing an event with harsh, emotional or judging statements.
- Personalisation - You blame yourself for being the cause of some negative event for which you were not responsible. So, for example, if something goes wrong and affects others negatively, you take on the blame for it and feel bad.
Both you and I need help. We have ways of thinking and processing life that affects our relationship with God and with others.
One of the ways I like to challenge my thinking errors, or the railway tracks of my brain, is to have a consistent diet of truth. I do this by regularly reading my Bible.
Recently I have set myself a goal of reading the whole Bible in a year. Now there are many different reading plans that can help you. I have settled on a plan written by 19th century Scottish preacher Murray McCheyne which takes readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year, and through the rest of the Bible once each year. It takes about 20 –25 minutes each day. I do this as the first activity of the day. When my brain is open and ready to receive new input and hasn't been tangled up by the activities of the day.
By the way, how did you react to my idea of daily reading the Bible? Check it out with the common thinking errors list above. What common thinking error did your brain use to try discount the idea of having a daily dose of truth?
I could list off a few of them that would try and stop me allowing God to rewrite my script, but listen to what the writer of Hebrews has to say.
God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it—no matter what. Hebrews 4:12 (The Message)May you daily allow your mind to be edited by Gods word.
What thinking errors dominate your mind? How would reading God’s word change them? Leave a comment.
Image by illuminaut Creative Commons Flickr
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