So, I had an interesting weekend. I was getting really frustrated with a project I am working on - it just was not coming together right and I had already spent more time on it than I had planned to. As my frustration increased, so did the thoughts spinning around in my head. “I am never going to get this right; I should have completed it by now; It’s going to be a disaster.” etc.
Luckily, I caught myself before it could go on for too long, put a pause on it, stepped back from the project and paid attention to my self talk. Yikes...that disgruntled pessimistic voice was not pleasant and the discouraged negative person was not who I wanted to be. I had fallen into a “Thinking Trap"! (1)
Many of us fall into patterns of cognitive distortions or "Thinking Traps" very easily when things are not going our way (especially if we have ADHD). These are ways of thinking that tend to exaggerate or emphasize the negative outcomes way more than the reality of the situation would warrant. Here are some common ones:
Catastrophizing - imagining the worst possible outcome
Overgeneralizing - you know you are doing this when you use words like “always” or “never”
Egocentrism & Personalizing- thinking everything is about us and making everything about us
Magnifying - also known as making a mountain out of a molehill
Possibility vs Probability- thinking that something that is possible is also probable even if it is not
Labeling - labeling yourself with a negative characteristic instead of just identifying the behavior.
Black and White Thinking (also known as All or Nothing thinking) - only extremes are possible with no gray areas.
Should statements - setting up standards that you have to follow. Falling short of the standard leads to guilt/shame
Emotional reasoning - because you feel it, it must be true or factual
Perfectionism - setting unrealistic standards that do not allow for any human error, compromise or variation
Filtering - we only hear negative feedback and discount or ignore all the positives
All of us fall into some of these thinking traps some of the time. They never make us feel good, but for the most part it is a transient experience that passes as we move on with our day or week. But, if you find yourself feeling pessimistic, worried or down more often than you would like, make an effort to examine your thought patterns a bit more closely.
Pause and pay attention to your self-talk. If you notice exaggerated negative thoughts, challenge the thought and ask yourself “Is it 100% true?” Also ask yourself “Is this kind of thinking serving me well?”
Working with a coach may also be helpful. A coach helps you become aware of your thoughts and limiting beliefs. They empower you to challenge these thoughts, filter out ones that are not serving you well and replace them with ones that are aligned with who you really want to be. Changing your thought patterns changes how you feel and changes how you show up in this world.
Note: If you suspect you have depression or anxiety, please talk to your doctor and seek help.
(1) Based on ADHD Thinking Traps. Credit: Maddy Madeline Cote, The Center of Attention for ADD, www.thecenterofattentionforadd.com