This picture was on a train advert and I thought it was spot on. This is so often what happens in our head. One thought pops into our head, from the way we’ve interpreted a situation or as a result of another thought. And suddenly we’re spiralling. One thought leads to another, to another, to another. We tie ourselves in knots worrying about something, often something based on conjecture rather than fact.
Thoughts are tricky like this. They take us by surprise. They pop up and sting us like a wasp stings, and often they fly away before we even saw what the thought was, and we’re just left feeling bad. Or we get carried away assuming one thing after another, lost in our thoughts and not very present in the moment.
And we know that all people are prone to ‘confirmation bias’. This means we look for, and find, evidence which supports our original thought. So to take the example from the picture ‘did I say something wrong’ leads us to pay more attention to people looking at us negatively, or interpret comments they make as confirming that they do indeed think we’re wrong.
So there we are, with one negative thought, which produces another negative thought, and another and then we see more and more evidence which backs up our thought and we feel worse and worse.
If this is sounding familiar know that you are not alone. We all do it. All the time. Our blooming clever brains sometimes make us feel pretty bad don’t they.
But if it is sounding familiar then do take heart. If you’ve recognised yourself in this description that means you’re able to reflect on your thinking and on how you’re feeling. And that’s a brilliant first step. Before you can change something you have to know what you’re working on.
A good second step is telling your self, ‘thoughts are not facts’ (more on this next time)
So, for now, try spotting what’s going on in your head as this is an excellent start…
…and then, as I so often say, take a breath. If you can do those two things you’re well on the way to managing these spirals.