I won’t try and pretend this is all original material! This is coming straight out of a self-help marriage class Royce and I are doing with some friends. It’s good stuff. Thought I’d share some.

Last week we covered the chapter titled “Break Free From Unhealthy Thinking” which is based on several key verses. Dr. Ferguson compiled them into this statement: “…We shouldn’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to take our thoughts captive and cast down our vain imaginations, knowing the truth will set us free…because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

He goes on to list six of the most common unhealthy thinking patterns that can cause emotional pain and marital disharmony.  We all struggle with one or more of these patterns. Here’s a short synopsis on each of these patterns.

1)  Personalizing: “Life events are personal rejections and attacks.” Personalizing is a form of distortion in which a person overestimates the extent an event is related to him or her.  Personalizers” tend to be moody and easily hurt by self-perceived rejections. They are insecure, and develop low self-esteem. Others can see them as “fragile”, overly sensitive, childish, and even hysterical. Personalizers felt rejected in childhood or came from highly critical homes. The child grew up with negative self talk, such as, What’s wrong with me? I can’t do anything right. It’s my fault. Who cares about me? I’m worthless.

Example: Husband commented on over-cooked roast. 

Self-talk: “I can’t do anything right. I’ll never please you. I’m a total failure. I hate myself.”

Consequences:  angry hurtful words, ran crying from table, slammed bedroom door, sulked all night.

2) Magnifying: “Making mountains out of molehills.” Magnifying is taking life’s events and exaggerating them until everything seems like a catastrophe. Magnifiers may be volatile with anger, unmerciful with self-condemnation, or bottomless with self-pity. Others may consider them self-absorbed,  preoccupied with their own crises, whiny, and over-reacting. Their vocabulary (trigger words) often includes words like: devastated, worst, ruined, terrible, horrible, awful. Magnifiers may have developed this distorted thinking in a home where little things were blown out of proportion. Spilled milk merited a character attack; discipline was excessive and out of proportion to the offense; or one parent was preoccupied with seeing catastrophes in every situation

A second common childhood pattern is the “overly responsible” child who seeks to hold the family together by pleasing everyone or meeting one parent’s emotinal needs due to the breakdown in the marital relationship. Such children often become overwhelmed by life’s events.

Example: Child forgets to do his/her chore.

Self-talk: He’s lazy, irresponsible

Consequences: Rejection of child, bitterness, overreact

3)  Overgeneralizing: “History always repeats itself!” Overgeneralizing – relying on past events to predict the future – can undermine your worth, cast doubts on your adequacy and prevent you from trusting others or yourself. Overgeneralizers carry around loads of anxiety, doubt and fear. They hold on to past hurts, failures and rejections and recite them as evidence for their gloomy attitude towards the future. Other people view generalizers as fearful, untrusting and unforgiving.

Example: Failing during an attempt to diet and lose weight

Self-talk: “I’ll never lose weight! What’s the point of even trying. ”

Consequence: Stop trying, condemn self, binge eat

4)  Emotional Reasoning: “Interpreting feelings as facts.” Emotional Reasoners see reality through skewed perspective of their emotions. They are convinced something is so “just because” they feel it. Or they deny the truth because they don’t “feel it”. Emotional Reasoners came from homes that were dominated by fear and mistrust. There may have been emotion, physical or sexual abuse. They may have had parents who hauled accusations at them, such as, “I just know you’ll go off and get pregnant some day!” They grew up feeling a nagging sense of worthlessness and betrayal.

Example: Husband is late for dinner

Self-talk:  “I just know he’s not where he’s supposed to be! He’s having an affair!”

Consequence: Accusing, attacking angry and resentful and unable to trust husband

 I’ll type up the last 2 patterns later tonight. You can take the survey below to identiify your unhealthy thinking patterns.