Next time you’re in a supermarket or any shop and you pick up something impulsively, ask yourself did you want to buy this before you came into the shop or do you really need this or if there is a better alternative. Sometimes it’s these little things that make all the difference. For example, I was going to buy chocolate in the shop today which I had no intention of getting beforehand. Then I asked myself do I really need it and I figured I wasn’t really hungry and I would feel better after not buying it. I decided that short term pain was for long term gain.
I got up at 7 this morning so that I could do a forty minute meditation. It didn’t go as well as usual, but I did not press myself to try harder because this would have created more stress. I’m glad I’m doing it though, it helps me center myself before I start my work day.
I noticed my typical thinking pattern today when I was in the canteen in work. A girl at our table looked at me in a certain way and I thought that she didn’t like me and was judging me. I have felt uncomfortable in her company before and I thought that she might have noticed this and thought I was a bit strange.
As for what the girl was thinking, I was jumping to conclusions. How could I know exactly what she was thinking or whether she liked me or not? Maybe she was having a bad day or maybe she just feels uncomfortable around quiet people.
What were the facts of the situation?
She looked at me in a certain way and said something about being afraid.
What possible alternatives were there?
She might not have been referring to me when she said what she did, but was just looking at me to see if I got her point.
What is the worst possible way of seeing things?
She did imply that I was a scared person. She doesn’t like me and thinks I am different to everyone else.
What biases might be affecting my thinking?
I was hyper sensitive to her reactions after feeling uncomfortable last time I sat beside her in the canteen and awkwardly tried to make conversation. I was also mind reading.
What can I do that would be helpful?
It would be better for me if I were to remind myself that I cannot know for certain what other people are thinking.
Also the girl hardly knows me to judge me and even if she did, that does not mean that she is right.
Another book down! This one was a worthwhile read, although it was hard to get into in the beginning because O’Connor’s writing style was so descriptive and loaded with meaning. It is a beautiful love story about a tempestuous relationship between the Irish playwright JM Synge and an actress, Maire O’Neill, told through the voice of Molly as she wanders through the streets of London in an alcoholic stupor in her later years following Synge’s death and the demise of her acting career. The contrast of Molly’s rich memories with her lugubrious surroundings enriches the story and O’Connor’s insight into Molly’s world is compassionate and all too human.
My friend is going through a really tough time at the moment so I decided to search the itunes store for free podcasts on subjects that would be of interest to him, such as philosophy, classsical music and documentaries. I’ve put them onto my spare ipod and will give it to him this evening. I hope it will make a little difference to his days. He really needs some kindness right now.
Listening to a song about two tramps gazing up at the stars and thinking that there is always hope, even when times are tough.
Today was such a horrible depressing day. I have never felt so paralyzed by my anxiety and emotions. And I don’t know why my body is reacting the way it is – I was tearful on numerous occasions and found it hard to hide it from my colleagues.
Firstly, I was preparing my lunch in the kitchen in work and two other girls came in who were chatting. They looked at me and said hello but the way they looked at me made me feel really small.
Then later on, my colleagues were talking in the library and I felt so sad that I could not contribute and all I could think about was ‘look at how they are so naturally able to converse while I struggle for words’.
The only thing different that happened was that when my colleagues were talking, I did think for a second that they don’t think there is anything wrong with me and they weren’t judging me. And even if they were, they have no reason to judge me when they don’t know me that long or that well. Maybe I was anxious and tired and run down but that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with me.
I also went to the canteen today despite being in a very anxious state and I will admit that I tried to escape first by seeing if I could bring my lunch down to the library, but there was no where for me to sit so I was forced to go to the canteen. I sat down at a table with 4 others who I know a little and I greeted them all. I felt really nervous and my hand shook a little as I started to eat my food. It went very quiet at the table and I started to panic because I thought it was because of me and I was watching the others to see if their body language would confirm this. Then I noticed I was panicking and focused on what I was eating and told myself that I did not force myself to contribute to the conversation. Soon someone else started talking and I was glad because I realized that it wasn’t solely up to me to strike up conversation. However, I still felt like the others were judging me today and I did a lot of mind reading. I thought that the guy sitting across from me in the canteen thought I was weird and emotional and that’s why he left the table soon after I arrived and didn’t make any eye contact with me. I felt that the others thought that I was a loner who has no friends at work. All these thoughts have little fact to support them though. I just need to stop jumping to conclusions and judging others, but I don’t think I need to do this in a harsh way. I need to try and be gentler with myself.
Why do I get so anxious about expressing myself?
I think it is because I read a lot and know how important words are for conveying meaning, sharing stories and giving information. All around me, I hear people telling their stories and I know they are sharing a part of themselves with others. Because I have difficulties expressing myself, I can’t share any stories and as a result, I feel selfish. Maybe it’s because I have lived such a sheltered life up to now that I don’t actually have any great stories to tell or maybe I get so anxious that I become overwhelmed.. Maybe I should try and engage with the world more and take up a new hobby and see if that helps me.
1. The guy in work who I secretly admire coming into the library and once again taking my breath away:)
2. A square of dark mint chocolate after my dinner.
3. Looking at photos of the hotel where my Mum and I will stay in Rome.
4. Looking at all the new books for me to read that I got from my library yesterday
So here they are, my top three thinking patterns in social situations:
Mind reading – I think that people are judging me negatively on a regular basis.
Personalizing – am sensitive to the way a person looks or acts around me and think that their thoughts or actions relate directly to me.
Self Critical Thoughts -I put myself down a lot, especially when I get frustrated that I cannot express myself.
Now my next step is to find ways of changing thinking patterns. There is an excellent worksheet in the book I am reading (‘Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness: A self-Help guide using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques’) which I am going to replicate here from now on to help me find less biased ways of thinking. I will begin tomorrow as I am quite tired this evening, but at least I have managed to identify those thinking patterns:)
So this is my final entry identifying my thought patterns. Here are the last few summaries based on the reflections I gathered over the past weeks:
Self-critical thoughts. “I didn’t really think I was expressing how great the holiday was with my words. I was thinking that what I was saying was not very interesting and that I couldn’t tell a decent story.”
Self conscious. “I was also thinking that her behaviour with me was different to the way she was behaving when she was talking to my other colleague or to the group. I was thinking I don’t like the effect I have on people because I don’t bring out their most positive and fun sides”
Self critical, worried about effect I have on other people. – I thought to myself that A was acting differently with me than he had been with B. I felt bad that he was speaking about serious things and being critical after he was having fun chatting with B and telling funny stories”
“Still right now I think that I have very few stories to share with people because I’ve been so socially anxious for so long and avoided having the types of experiences that others have had”
Self critical and assuming – “I kept thinking that I was a spare part and the guys really only wanted to talk to A and J.”
Self conscious/self critical – “I kept thinking that I was a spare part and the guys really only wanted to talk to A and J.”
I am almost finished identifying my thought patterns and then I can move on to identifying my behaviors. It’s a laborious process, but I keep reminding myself that slow and steady will win the race.
I looked at 4 of my diary entries today and the most dominant thinking pattern seems to be that I am always thinking that others are judging me negatively. I do this all the time. In fact, it was getting tedious reading the diary entries, because the same thing kept emerging over and over again. For example, “Then on the way home after the event yesterday I was talking to two of the guys from the team and started getting really anxious that they thought I was a bit strange because I didn’t have as much to say as them or have any entertaining or interesting stories to tell”
“I went down and had a look at it but became very self-conscious about who was sitting at the other desks and if they were listening to me. I was thinking that they could be judging me and thinking that I was incompetent”
There are many many more, but there is no point in listing them all here. I have them saved in a document to turn to later if necessary. I think that maybe assuming others are judging me could be better described as being self-conscious. And the judgements are almost always negative. I don’t think that other people could be thinking something positive about the situation or that they might not be thinking about it at all.
This theme emerged again. For example, “He was a cinematographer and screenwriter and I thought this was amazing and said ‘wow’. After this I said sorry because I thought that it showed that I was putting him on a pedestal. I thought that this response was immature because it was an emotional rather than a rational one.”
“I thought that this sounded quite bad because I like to think that I know quite a bit about film and cinema, but I was lost for words. I just couldn’t seem to make some sort of connection or think of anything else that was interesting to say”. I put myself down a lot because I don’t think I am good enough.
So I haven’t had a lot of time tonight, but I noticed that there were similar patterns recurring..
Looks like I have many self-critical thoughts on a regular basis. For example, “Then he said to me ‘go on share something with us’ and the way he said it made me feel bad because I thought that if I didn’t share anything, I was selfish”. I frequently label myself and it is often based on assumptions rather than hard evidence gathered over a period of time.
I frequently get anxious in the company of others because I don’t know what to say and if I do say something, I become frustrated because it isn’t the way I would ideally like it to be. I think the key word here is ideally. Maybe I am setting the bar too high.
Once again, this seems to be something I spend a lot of time thinking about when I am in a social situation. I either base my judgement on another’s body language or on something they say. “Then I noticed she changed from folding her arms and had one elbow placed on the table facing me. I thought this was negative body language towards me”
Another thing I’ve noticed from re-reading my reflections, is that I sometimes feel paralysed in social situations, especially if there is food because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. However, for now I just want to focus on my thought patterns and will look at my behavior and feeling later.
Getting tickets to a play about Chekhov for the Dublin Theatre Festival.
My kind boss who drove me to the Luas after work because she didn’t want me to walk on my sprained ankle anymore.
Talking to my housemate when I came home about everyday things.
Making one of my colleagues laugh when I was taking fluff off of my trousers with sellotape:)
My thinking patterns based on my reading of my first three diary entries:
I think that that people are judging me and thinking negative thoughts about me. “I was thinking that they were thinking ‘she is so insecure, what does she want?’ ‘why is she drawing attention to herself like that?’”
So that’s a start. I will hopefully have looked at all the entries by the end of the week and then I can start tackling these thinking patterns and making them more healthier:)
What a beautiful sounding word. It means to emit light as a result of being heated, for example, red hot coals, incandescent bulbs, incandescent lamps..
“The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young”