Recognizing Irrational Beliefs

So much can be discussed about our thought processes, things we've been conditioned to believe and how our thoughts are influenced by experiences. There are a lot of "shoulds" when it comes to our beliefs. Negative self-talk and negative thinking traps also feed our irrational beliefs.

Negative self-talk can conflict with our intent and feed our fears. Negative thinking traps produce unrealistic expectations, can negatively impact self-esteem and can block the manifestation of our goals. Here are some examples of irrational beliefs and negative thinking traps:

"I have to look perfect."

"I'm stupid."

"I must keep up with my peers to be successful."

"Emotion is weakness."

"I can never trust another person."

"I never have good things happen to me."

"People can't change."

"I will never find love."

"I have to be in control."

"I have to win every argument."

"People have to understand my point of view."

Pay attention to some of the negative traps, such as "never" and "must". It allows for unnecessary pressure on ourselves. Some thoughts keep us trapped in other ways. Thinking we have to keep up with others is a never-ending commitment. Remember, people display what they want you to see. Social media, for example, is similar to a theatrical stage. We never truly know another person's situation, just what they present. Everyone struggles with something. It's the human experience. Your truth belongs to you. Your journey is unique to you. Having the irrational belief that you are required to keep up with other people, will leave you exhausted and unfulfilled.

People can change and it begins with our thought processes. Practicing mindfulness and positive self-talk can go a long way in retraining our thinking patterns. It takes a conscious effort to refute and replace those unhealthy thoughts, until it becomes less and less present. Behavior modification is largely enabled by the brain's plasticity. We CAN retrain our habits. Why do we fall into these habitual patterns? Why do we believe what we do? How does negative thinking impact our growth and well-being?

There is so much to discuss on this topic so I may as well make it a series of sorts. I will elaborate more on unhealthy, irrational beliefs and some tools to help you change those thoughts, including REBT (rational emotive behavior therapy). I have some good resources and references on the topic that I have often used with clients in group counseling. I'm excited to share! But the first step: being aware of it! Practice mindfulness and try replacing negative thoughts with a positive statement.

-Stephanie Powers, MS, LCDC

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