|I'm like Gus, a Sympathetic Crier.|
A while back in Crazy School, we were talking about distorted thinking. I talked a little about it on my post here, about cognitive distortions. Different terms, same thing. So we were talking in our class about different types of thought distortions, like catastrophizing. You know, worrying about something, making it a bigger deal in your mind than it really is. Or overgeneralization. Your husband forgets to take out the trash and you get mad because he NEVER takes out the trash! We talked about how you can challenge these thought distortions. You can say to yourself, "Really? He never takes out the trash? Then why isn't our house buried in trash? He must take it out most of the time. I'm glad he does that." Or with catastrophizing, you can say, "I don't know what the future holds. I'm going to stay in the now. Whatever happens, I can deal with it." One of the thought distortions I could relate a lot to was personalization. I'll quote from the handout: "Thinking that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others, trying to determine who's smarter, better looking, etc." As we were working on coming up with statements that could challenge our individual distortions, the clinician gave us a handout to help. "Ten Beliefs That Will Not Cause Problems." Weird title, I know. I read the heading of the first belief, "Everyone doesn't have to love me." Tears instantly sprang to my eyes. I read on,
Not everyone has to love me or even like me. I enjoy being liked and being loved, but if someone doesn't like me I will still be okay and still feel like I am an okay person. I cannot "make" someone like me any more than someone can get me to like them. I don't need approval all the time. If someone does not approve of me, I will still be okay."
It's hard to put into words what an impact that had on me. It's like my mind realized three things all at once: 1) I'd lived my whole life believing everyone DID need to love me; 2) I never realized I'd been operating under that belief system; and 3) That it was false and was causing me pain. So that's what my head was doing. My heart just wigged out and told my eyes to cry. It was like someone's been carrying a backpack full of rocks around for decades and suddenly they realize that they can take it off.
Maybe this seems like "duh" stuff to you all. But it was huge to me. I started to look at my life and see how this false belief has affected me. Even in group therapy, I've noticed that I try really hard to be the helpful, happy, upbeat one. I'm not afraid to be real and talk about my problems in group, but most days, I'm trying to help everyone else. I'm bringing cookies. I'm checking in with the ones who seem most troubled. How much of it is flowing out of an inner well of love and goodness, and how much is just a desperate plea to love me? Don't you love my chocolate chip cookies? You should love me, too!
I have more to say about this, but I'll end here for now because it's past my bedtime. But if anyone is interested, I can post the rest of the Non-Problem-Causing thoughts. Maybe your mind will be blown. Or maybe I'm the only one having Ted-like epiphanies over here.