Identifying unrealistic thoughts

Filed in Blog - psychology by on March 13, 2017

Identifying Unrealistic Thoughts

 Try not to focus on thoughts that include feelings such as ‘I will feel bad’.  After all, feelings are what we are trying to change.  Therefore, whether or not you feel bad will depend on how successful you are with your realistic thinking.

 Also try to phrase your thoughts or attitudes in the form of what you expect will happenFor example, ‘What do I expect will happen at the party?’  An answer such as, ‘No one will want to talk to me’ can then be tested.  You can, for example, think about your last party and recall whether anyone spoke to you that time.  When you can clearly test a thought like this, it is quite easy to be realistic.  In contrast, some people put their thoughts in the form of questions, such as ‘I wonder if anyone will speak with me’.  This makes it very difficult to apply realistic thinking because there is no way of really checking out a question like that – it’s too vague.  After all, it is the expectancy that something bad will happen that makes you anxious, not a question about whether it will.

You will need to be totally honest with yourself about your thoughts.  Sometimes the thoughts or beliefs we have about a situation are so unrealistic that they sound quite ridiculous when we say them out loud.  If you find this happening to you, that’s good.  It means that you recognize how unrealistic your thought is and you will more easily be able to change it.  Don’t deny it – it is precisely because our thoughts are often unstated and automatic that they can sometimes sound quite silly.

Estimating Probability

 Past experience – think about previous experiences and what actually happened.

General rules and experience – you may want to rely on your general experience of the way things usually are.  For example, if you are worried that people will laugh at a loud tie, think about whether you have heard people laugh about ties before.  Do you really think they will notice?

Alternate explanations – think about all the possible explanations, not just your own.

Role reversal: Putting yourself in someone else’s position – pretend that what happened to you actually happened to the other person, and then work out how you would think about him or her.