Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Although I have a Master's degree in Counseling, I still struggle with my thought life. I use overgeneralizations, "shoulds" and "musts" that focus my perspective into a place it rarely needs to go. Sarah over at Meal Planning Mommies had a great post on this yesterday. In case you might be someone who struggles with these things too, here's some help!

1. All or Nothing Thoughts and Should Statements:
Seeing everything in black-and-white. Either I am perfect at everything, or I am a total failure.

Example: I should have all the laundry done, the dishes clean and put away, get everywhere on time, look adorable for my husband, feed my children 3 balanced meals a day and 2 healthy snacks, get a half hour workout in 3 times a week, and get 8 hours of sleep a night. If I can't do all of these things, then I am a failure as a mother.

Better Thought: I will do the best I can today. There is grace for the things I cannot get done today. Even if all I can do today is rest on the couch with my kids and watch movies, it'll be alright. His mercies are new every morning, and my kids will not be ruined for life over that.

2. Overgeneralization
Seeing a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

Example: When I was nursing my baby every 2 hours and it took a half an hour each time to get the baby good and fed, I had a hard time getting to the store. After one miserable attempt at getting to Target I concluded that I would NEVER enjoy going to the store EVER again.

Better Thought: I will get to the store again. At some point I will have some milk bottled or frozen, and I will be able to take my time at the store. It just won't be today, and that is okay.

3. Mental Filter and Disqualifying the Positive.
Like a drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water, discounting anything positive and dwelling only on the one negative thing.

Example: I had a pretty decent day. Right before my husband comes home from work one of my kids gets a hold of a marker and writes on three different pieces of furniture. Scott comes in and asks how my day was. My response: "It WAS TERRIBLE!!! LOOK at this furniture!" and I make the entire day amount that one negative thing that happened, and forget about the hour I spent playing on the floor with Kipton and the 2 hour nap he took that allowed me to get the laundry done.

Better Thought: "You know, honey, I have had an interesting day. Many good things happened today, but I do not feel like talking about them right now. I feel angry right now, because Preston got a hold of this marker and now I need to get out the magic eraser and take care of it. Can I tell you about the good things that happened tonight over dinner, after I have had some time to cool off a little bit?"

4. Jumping to Conclusions
Making a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts convincingly supporting that conclusion, as if to be some sort of mind reader.

Example: My daughter gets mad that I will not buy her a toy from the Disney Store in the mall. She throws herself to the floor and screams as I attempt at forcing her to stand up. I can tell that reasoning with her right in front of the store is not going to work. I have my hands full and cannot hold her. I manage to pull her along the rest of the way to the bathroom where I will give her a "talking to". People stare at the scene we create as we go down the hall, and I think to myself, "EVERYONE must be talking about what a ridiculous mother I am that I cannot even control my own child".

Counter Thought: I know what I have accomplished today. I got all of my kids in their coats, and shoes and we had a great time at the mall tonight. That was a big accomplishment. If there is someone who only sees this one part of my night and has something to say about it, who cares? Most people probably don't even care about what I am doing, or they feel sorry for me because they have been there and know it's hard. Even if they don't, though, I know that I am loved and I know I am doing the best I can with what I have, so I can feel good about that. I will address this issue with Keely and choose to move on, and not let my night be ruined by this incident.

5. Magnification or Minimization
Exaggerating the importance of things (such as a goof-up) or inappropriately shrinking your desirable qualities until they appear tiny.

Example: Because my friend shows up to church on time with her daughter in a perfectly pressed dress and a matching bow in her hair, I conclude that she is the best mom ever, and because I am aware of how crazy my morning was, I conclude that I am scum under her feet, as my kids show up late with wrinkly clothes on.

Better Thought: Some mornings are easier than others. Everyone struggles with something. To think that she is living a perfect life because her kid is perfectly dressed today is just not fair. To think that I am a failure because my kids have wrinkled clothes on today...also not fair.

6. Emotional Reasoning
Assuming that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things are. "I feel it; therefore, it must be true.

Example: I feel like a loser today, so I must be a loser. Case closed.

Better Thought: I cannot always trust my feelings. I need to trust that the God who loves me has good things in store for me. He sees the best in me, even when I don't. God loves me even on my worst day. What is in front of me is not all that there is for me, and who I am today is not who I will always be. I am a work in progress, and God's grace covers me as I continue to do the best I can with where I am at.

7. Labeling and mislabeling
An extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error as in isolated incident, you attach a negative label to yourself. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

Example: My kid drops his cup of juice and spills it on his shirt. I shout at him, "YOU'RE so STUPID!"

Better Thought: Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has issues they need to work through. My son made a what? He is still a very smart kid. We will change his shirt and clean up this mess. Life will go on, and I will forget all about this mess in about 2.5 minutes.

8. Personalization
You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

Example: If my kid does something they shouldn't have then it is directly correlated to the fact that I am a terrible mother. Obviously, if my kids are not perfect, then there must be something wrong with ME.

Better Thought: Maybe I should have a talk with my daughter later and see why she did what she did. She is her own person and has her own free will. I will do the best I can to help her make better choices next time, but ultimately it is going to be her choice if she does those things or not.

Love to you all!
Also, if you happen to still be reading at this point, please add my friend Jenna to your prayer list. Her Dad is very sick (John), so please pray for his healing as well as for her Mom (Julie) and Jenna as they try to take care of him and everything else. Thanks friends!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent info for us mommies! Thanks for sharing this Kara. Also, we will be praying for Jenna and her family.


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