Hello again! And how are you today?
The last 2 weeks I have discussed what resilience is and why it is important as a Christian to intentionally foster a growing resilience. If you missed those 2 posts, I urge you to go back and read them over: S1 – S2
S2 Homework Review
How did you do on your homework? Were you able to capture a few incidents on paper and break them down into your ABCD’s? Those automatic thoughts are almost instinctive, and they can be difficult to capture. A Life Coach or Therapist may be helpful in this area. A Coach can also help you to become a good debater, or disputer, to those thoughts which are inaccurate, faulty, or unrealistic.
So… how are you doing on your “thinking about thinking”? Were you able to trip a few? Were you surprised by any of these thoughts? They come fast, don’t they? Did you write them down under “B”? Did you find the time to test the validity of any of those thoughts? Did you find any of them inaccurate, faulty, or unrealistic? Did you see the connection between your thought and the resulting feeling? Were you able to find a more realistic belief?
Why do we need to “take our thoughts captive”?
This is one of the reasons we want to learn to take thoughts captive: By focusing on our automatic thinking, examining misinterpretations, dysfunctional thoughts and attitudes, treating them each as a hypothesis, investigating and testing the validity of each, working to see the connection to self-defeating emotions and behaviors, and actively replacing these thoughts and attitudes with realistic beliefs, we relieve emotional distress and enhance positive emotion! Whew! That was a mouthful!
There are so very many ways we exercise faulty logic and reasoning. If you want to check a few out, here is a 3-page download from Oxford Tutorials: Logical Fallacies
We can spend the rest of our lives debating our own faulty logic and reasoning, and we should. However, rather than become overwhelmed, let me review a few common mistakes we all make.
Faulty thinking: (In the Resiliency Factor, Shatte’ and Reivich call these “Thinking Traps”, and they break them down into 8 Thinking Traps. Excellent reading. Grab your copy today!)
Let’s add Tool #2 to our tool box: Recognize Faulty Thinking.
A) Arbitrary inference – Drawing a conclusion in the absence of evidence, or when the evidence is contrary to the conclusion. A common way we do this interpersonally is by “mind reading”. We assume we know what the other person is thinking or intends, without first asking questions and allowing the other person to clarify. Intrapersonally we can see this through such comments as “I have such bad luck. I planned this outing and it rained.”
B) Selective abstraction – Drawing conclusions by focusing on a detail taken out of context and then making that detail into the entire experience. We jump to a conclusion based on one piece of information, ignoring the other pieces. “My supervisor wants to talk to me in her office. She is going to fire me.” Hmmm, on what evidence are we basing this? Are we just guessing? Hit the brakes!
C) Overgeneralizing – Drawing a general conclusion based on one or more incidents and applying it to everything. For instance, losing a job and believing you will never be able to hold down a job, ever. Instead, let’s break it down. Look more specifically at each piece. What is within your control, and what is out of your control? Let go of what is out of your control. It’s a waste of precious energy juice. Take responsibility for what is in your control. Set a goal, break it into steps, and begin to act step-by-step.
D) Magnification and Minimization – Greatly exaggerating the magnitude or significance of an adversity – or minimizing the magnitude or significance of an adversity. Take a step back. Work to find balance. For example, chest pains do not necessarily mean you are dying of a heart attack! On the other hand, don’t dismiss signs of a heart attack. See your doctor.
E) Personalization – The tendency to relate external events to oneself without any evidence. Did your neighbor turn a deaf ear on your “hello”? That doesn’t mean he or she was trying to hurt your feelings. Don’t take it to heart. Instead, look outward at all the possible explanations.
F) Dichotomous Thinking – That “all or nothing” kind of thinking, kind of approach to the world, which I hear all too often in my own world. This is that tendency to place all things in one of two opposing categories. “perfect” or “defective”, “love” or “hate”, “saint” or “sinner”. – You know, black or white, good or bad. Instead, take a step back and recognize that life events are seldom black or white; they are usually in shades, somewhere along a continuum.
Now that you have this tool in your tool box, try using it!
Homework: Tool #2 Investigate Your Thinking: ABCDE
Continue to take 30 minutes each day to practice your ABC’s, now examining those B’s (thoughts) for accuracy and evidence. Notice any traps you are falling into and note them in that B section. Pay a good amount of attention on your D’s. Distance yourself from your self and become a 3rd party that is examining these thoughts. What specific evidence supports this belief? Make sure you are not using your thoughts as evidence. We need to find specific evidence that will hold up in a court of law. Be a Sherlock.
If there is good, solid, objective evidence to back up your thought, glance back at the Tool #2 list and make sure you are not still falling into bad habits. If you are still certain, then what feeling/s are rising up? Chances are they are healthy and helpful feelings. Even if the healthy response is anger, say, you can now use that anger energy towards creating a healthy plan and taking healthy steps toward resolution of that anger. We will touch more on emotions (the outward expression of a feeling) in the upcoming weeks.
Let’s move to “E”, effective beliefs. Chances are, if the feelings of the incident, interaction, or adversity are undesired, upon close examination you discovered that you were falling in to one or more of these traps. Let’s take out your new tool, evaluate, and choose new thoughts that are more balanced and realistic. Replace these misconceptions, these dysfunctional thoughts and attitudes, with more realistic thinking.
Replace each individual automatic thought from “B” with a more realistic and balanced thought. (I understand this can be difficult without help from someone who is experienced in this discipline. You can contact me for an appointment, or find someone who is trained to help. This will boost your abilities!)
If we look back at my example of
A: M’s homework not done
B: He never listens to me. He totally disregards my feelings. He is terrible at time management. I should be working on that with him. Maybe it is my fault, since I have not been working more on that with him. (and so on)
C: Irritated, agitated, discouraged
D: Is that true that he never listens to me? What evidence do I have that will support this belief? He did not do his homework, per my instruction. True. Is that because he never listens to me? Or is there another explanation?
Notice the “never”; this is a good clue. Review the list of faulty thinking. I hit every one of those in some way or another!
Continue to list each automatic thought, one at a time, and examine it for evidence. Then ask, is there an alternate explanation that is possible? Is there an explanation that is more effective or likely? List those out.
E: M is easily distracted by his guitar. This causes him to not follow through on instructions. I need to sit down with him and discuss a plan to help him resist distractions and to follow through with instructions.
Now read your list to yourself thoughtfully. How do you feel? Chances are you are feeling more effective positive emotion now that you have replaced those thoughts with healthy and robust thinking. If not, fear not. Next week we will tackle …(cue doom tone)… the iceberg.
Remember to invite the Holy Spirit to come and join you in the process of sifting through your thoughts and feelings. Wrap up your time by asking the Lord God to protect you and this exercise surrounding and shielding you with His favor.
As we practice – diligently, intentionally – taking our thoughts captive and examining them critically, with moral excellence, we grow in knowledge, self-control, perseverance (resiliently), and so on.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self- control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [2Pe 1:5-8 NASB]
I will continue to break down resilience into bit-sized pieces and dive even deeper into our thinking habits. I will offer you another tool to add to your tool chest. I hope to “see” you then. Feel free to message me on FB or email if you need to share. I will do my very best to respond, but please forgive me if I am unable to. Real person, real life, real work.