Bad Thought: I am a mistake.
My client “Lauren” was depressed ever since she’d had a mishap at work: She’d made a statistical error on a report that called into question any number of arguments and conclusions included in the document. She and several colleagues, including two of her superiors, had to spend an entire weekend reworking the report to reflect the accurate numbers. “I feel like a total loser,” Lauren told me.
I was struck by how hard Lauren was being on herself, since anyone could have made such a simple error and because I knew Lauren to be a kind person who would never speak as harshly to a friend as she did to herself.
I was also reminded of David Burns’ work in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy on “cognitive distortions” (previously discussed in my April 22, 2018, April 20, 2019, May 18, 2019, and June 14, 2020 blogs). Lauren was contributing to her depression by engaging “all-or-nothing thinking,” viewing herself as a complete failure because she fell short of her self-imposed standard of perfection. Rather than deciding she simply made a mistake, Lauren thought, I am a mistake.
I had my work with Lauren cut out for me: I wanted her to see that whatever mistake she may have made or weakness in her professional skills that needed improvement, these things are not an indication of who she is as a person overall. I wanted her to think, A mistake is only one small aspect of the much larger me who is adept at many, many things and strong in many, many areas.
You're reading the Bad Thoughts Blog, which maintains that feeling good is as simple as thinking a better thought. I'm Debbie Covino, hypnotherapist, coach, and creator of the Master Your Own Mind self-hypnosis audio program and the All Day Hypnosis audio courses, available at https://www.hypnotic-wellbeing.com/digital-audio-programs
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