I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but it’s gotten pretty bad… whenever I have a moment to think— usually when I’m laying down for bed— my mind defaults to thinking up every single reason I’m a terrible awful failure who doesn’t deserve to exist, and it ends up causing a sort of feedback loop that magnifies those feelings a hundredfold. Do you know anyone who does something similar or might have some advice for breaking the cycle? TIA.realsocialskils answered:This isn’t a stupid question. It’s a hard situation to be in, and you’re definitely not the only one.For me, it helps to have some TV episodes of a show I’ve seen before and like playing in the background when I’m going to sleep. That way, I don’t have totally blank space available to be filled with that kind of thinking.I also have friends who can help me remember that I don’t actually suck when I’m feeling that way. And at this point, I’ve had that conversation with them enough times that sometimes I can think through what they’d say when I’m in that state of mind.Some people like things like Calming Manatee, or other cute animal with a positive message sites. That doesn’t work for me, but it does work for a number of people I know.There are probably better things to do that I don’t know about. Do any of y’all have suggestions?
It helps to come up with set responses to those thoughts that directly contradict them.
“I am a terrible person.” > “I am a good person.”
“I’m a failure.” > “There are plenty of things that I am good at, even if I’m not good at these ones.” or “I’m alive and putting forth my best effort, so I am successful.”
“I don’t deserve to exist.” > “I deserve to be here just as much as everyone else, and nobody, even me, can decide otherwise.”
When those thoughts come up, say the responses. Say them even if you don’t believe them. Don’t let negative thoughts go unanswered, because then they hang around and multiply. Tell yourself the opposite and contradict them, because it breaks the stream of negativity.
Has this worked for any of y’all?
Yes, but sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to figure out which one will work. For instance, when I’m feeling like a bad person, “I’m a good person” has never worked for me, but “it is not your job to figure out whether you are a good person, it is your job to try to do the best you can, even if that’s worse than what other people do” works fine.
Saying the positive responses has never worked for me, but sometimes when I’m repeating a negative thought over and over I interrupt myself by saying “no” and/or taking a deep breath slowly. Sometimes I start up again immediately afterward, but usually after I interrupt myself like that a few times my brain can move on to doing something else.
I also used to get no benefit from things like Calming Manatee or Boggle the Owl unless I was actually directly looking at the images and reading them and wasn’t in too awful a mood to take in the message. Trying to think about those characters saying nice things to me while I was in the middle of a self-hate spiral didn’t work at all because I just couldn’t imagine them caring. I sort of solved this problem for myself accidentally by stumbling on a fictional character who for some reason I can imagine caring about me, and now sometimes I imagine that character saying nice things to me or hugging me when I am feeling bad, or when I interrupt myself in the middle of repeating negative thoughts it’s by imagining him shushing me and telling me I’m great. I don’t know how to turn that into advice that could help other people though.
I have the vaguest memory of a study where they had people who were pessimistic saying positive things to themselves and it not working because they’d tend to go, “No, this is all lies”. (This is how my brains works too. Also when people try to tell me positive things about myself. I just go “I love that you believe that about me but I secretly believe you’re sadly misguided and if you only knew” etc.) Optimistic people tended to work well with the positive thinking, though. (Of course, as this only the vague memory of one study, this whole paragraph should be taken with like a pound of salt. I’d love to track down the study and do more reading on the subject but have no idea what science words to use to find the relevant studies.)
So if the positive thinking training isn’t doing it for you and instead you find yourself spiraling into the these are all the reasons why this thought is wrong trap, stop or adjust the thinking method.
One way that works for me is to remember positive things people close to me have said, of the you’re a good person and I know you can do this variety. Yes, even with the if only you knew instinctual reaction to this. Because what I try to do is not try to believe it for myself (e.g. friend says I am a good person therefore I am a good person. Take that, brain!) but rather I hold on to their faith in me, specifically (e.g. friend says I am a good person. They think I’m a good person. They’re my friend and they think I’m a good person and goddamnit that means something. They must see something I can’t, but I trust that they see it.)
…so that’s a long-winded way of saying, “Remember that the people who care about you care about you and believe all these things about you.”