John recently applied for a promotion in his firm. The job went to another employee with more experience. John wanted this job very badly and now feels that he will never be promoted. He feels that he is a total failure in his career.
This type of thinking is characterized by absolute terms like always, never, and forever. Few situations are ever this absolute. There are generally gray areas. Eliminate these absolute terms from your vocabulary except for the cases where they truly apply. Look for a more accurate description of the situation. Here's an example of self-talk that John could have used to cope with not getting that promotion:
I wanted this job a lot, but it went to someone with more experience. This is disappointing to me, but it doesn't mean I'm not a good employee. Other opportunities will be available in the future. I'll keep working on my skills so that I'll be ready for them when they arrive. This one setback does not mean my career is over. Overall, I have excelled in my work.
Linda is lonely and often spends most of her time at home. Her friends sometimes ask her to come out for dinner and meet new people. Linda feels that that is it useless to try to meet people. No one really could like her. People are all mean and superficial anyway.
When one overgeneralizes, one takes an isolated case or cases and assumes that all others are the same. Are people really all mean and superficial and could never like her? What about her friends who are trying to get her to go out? Obviously she does have someone who cares about her. The next time you catch yourself overgeneralizing, remind yourself that even though a group of people may share something in common, they are also separate and unique individuals. No two people are exactly the same. There may be mean and superficial people in this world. There may even be people who dislike you. But, not every person will fit this description. By assuming that everyone doesn't like you, you are building a wall that will prevent you from having what you crave the most -- friendship.
Mary is having a bad day. As she drives home, another driver cuts her off. She grumbles to herself that there are nothing but rude and insensitive people in her town. Later, a kind gentleman waves her go ahead of him. She continues on her way still angry at how rude all the people in her city are.
When a person falls victim to mental filters they are mentally singling out only the bad events in their lives and overlooking the positive. Learn to look for that silver lining in every cloud. It's all about how you choose to let events effect you. Mary could have turned her whole day around if she had paid attention to that nice man who went out of his way to help her.
Disqualifying the Positive:
Rhonda just had her portrait made. Her friend tells her how beautiful she looks. Rhonda brushes aside the compliment by saying that the photographer must have touched up the picture. She says she never looks that good in real life.
We depressives are masters at taking the good in a situation and turning it into a negative. Part of this comes from a tendency to have low self-esteem. We feel like we just don't deserve it. How to turn this around is simple. The next time someone compliments you, resist the little voice inside that says you don't deserve it. Just say "thank you" and smile. The more you do this, the easier it will become.
Jumping to Conclusions:
Chuck is waiting for his date at a restaurant. She's now 20 minutes late. Chuck laments to himself that he must have done something wrong and now she has stood him up. Meanwhile, across town, his date is stuck in traffic.
Once again, we fall victim to our own insecurities. We expect the worst and begin preparing early for the disappointment. By the time we find out that all our fears were unfounded, we've worked ourselves into a frenzy and for what? Next time do this: Give the person the benefit of the doubt. You'll save yourself a lot of unnecessary worry. If your fears have some basis in reality, however, drop that person from your life like a hot potato.