Maybe even filled out the BELIEFS INVENTORY.
Because now we are going to take a closer look at each of those pesky irrational thoughts spelled out in What are You Thinking.
We looked at our irrational need for approval and perfectionism already. Then we moved on to our tendency to judge others harshly and our irrational belief that we should always get what we want Last time, we learned to challenge our tendency to blame our unhappiness on other people or circumstances.
Now we are going to look at our tendency to worry and see danger all around us.
Let’s get started!
Irrational Belief #6:
The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly upset and worry endlessly about it.
Okay. Let’s face it. The world can be a dangerous place. But, there is a great difference between dreadful ruminations about what awful things might happen and planning for how to prevent, minimize, or cope with real potential problems.
The former is useless, depressing, exhausting, and may even be self-fulfilling. The latter is wise and reassuring.
Worry cannot stop anything. It does not have the power to protect you from negative outcomes. Planning, on the other hand, can help you avoid some of those outcomes.
Here’s an example to help demonstrate the difference:
Carla has a 15-year-old daughter who is excited about learning to drive. Carla, on the other hand, is terrified. She can’t stop thinking about her little girl stranded on the side of a busy highway with a flat tire. She worries that her daughter will end up accepting assistance from someone with less-than-noble motives. She can’t sleep at night because of the terrible images plaguing her. Carla continues to feel worse and worse as the her daughter gets closer to driving. She tries to come up with excuses to keep her from getting her license.
That is irrational, obsessive worry. And, it isn’t doing any good. It is placing a great deal of strain on Carla’s relationship with her daughter just when she needs to maintain close, open communication.
The rational approach looks like this:
Carla is worried that her daughter might encounter car trouble when driving alone. She decides to enroll herself and her daughter in a basic auto repair class where they will learn how to change a tire, check oil, and other routine tasks. She also decides to get a safety specialist from the local police department to speak to her daughter’s driver’s ed class so that she can rest easy knowing that her child is equipped with all the necessary skills to handle any emergency she might encounter on the road.
It is normal to have fears. It’s even normal to worry occasionally. But, keep in mind that many of our fears never come true. And, that we can decrease the likelihood of negative outcomes by turning that useless worry into productive planning.
Countering Irrational Beliefs #6: Here’s a handy little printable worksheet to help you learn to counteract the tendency toward worry. Try it out. You CAN change how you think. And that WILL change how you feel and how you act.
Next up: Irrational Belief #7 – Are you an avoider? Do you dance while the ship sinks? Find out next time.