Archive for the The Steps Category
Throughout my using, I had difficulty connecting with myself and others. Even into my sobriety, I didn’t know how to build healthy relationships. My sponsor often says that addiction manifests as a problem with the three relationships we have in our lives: our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with a Higher Power, and our relationships with others. These three relationships are beyond important today in my life; they are the focus of my spiritual practice.
Relationships with Ourselves
When I was using, my relationship with myself suffered greatly. The nature of addiction is that we let go of our values and stop listening to our hearts. Although I thought I used to deal with outside circumstances, the truth was that I used to run away from myself. After years of avidly running away from myself and pushing things down, it was inevitable that I became completely detached from who I was. I pushed my true self down and was driven completely by my cravings.
Essentially, my relationship with myself had become one of aversion and avoidance. Not only was I out of touch with my emotions, thoughts, and even my actions, I was actively trying to distance myself even further from them. It is safe to say that my relationship with myself was very poor and left much room for improvement.
In recovery, I have worked very hard on my relationship with myself. Step One offers us a chance to begin rebuilding this relationship. In the first step, we are encouraged to take a look at ourselves honestly. The Big Book recommends we “full concede to our innermost selves” that we are addicts or alcoholics. For me, this was quite a radical statement. Having spent many years denying my true nature, honestly admitting something to myself was powerful.
The main part of rebuilding my relationship with myself was through meditation. My first meditations were but a few minutes. Taking the time to sit with myself for even a few breaths proved very useful. When something unpleasant was arising within, I took a moment to pause and simply feel how it felt. Through this process, I slowly was able to face the things I had been running from. The anxiety, anger, and fear were overwhelming at times. My mentor helped me to sit with them and feel them. I learned to not act on every thought and emotion I had.
As time went on, I began sitting in meditation for longer periods of time. I found that there was a whole lot going on that I wasn’t aware of. Even today, I often learn things about myself through meditation of which I was totally oblivious before. In this way, I have strengthened my relationship with myself. I know myself today better than I ever have, and I continue to learn. In building a relationship with myself, I no longer am shocked by my own behavior and thoughts, I am gaining insight into the nature of my addiction, and I am dealing with my pain.
Relationships with a Higher Power
The problem here is fairly simple: I made myself my Higher Power. When I think about a Higher Power, I think of turning my will and my life over and I think of letting something have power over me. In my using, I definitely made drugs and alcohol my Higher Power. I let them control me, and completely turned my entire life over. I also turned my life and will over to my own thoughts. Rather than sitting with my thoughts and emotions, I blindly followed them.
The solution for me has been to reassess to what I should turn my will and my life over. In my sobriety, the concept of a Higher Power has changed. Today, I take it to mean the seed of goodness within us all. When I turn my will and my life over today, I turn it over to the loving, compassionate, wise piece of myself within. In Buddhism, they would call this the Buddha-seed or Buddhahood that we all carry within.
I work on this relationship by performing esteemable acts and meditating. When I act in a loving way, I am watering seeds of love within me. If I act with anger, I am watering seeds of anger within. Through esteemable action, I am able to water the healthy seeds. I try to work with others, take commitments, be on time, and act with integrity even when nobody is looking. Even if nobody knows that I dropped a piece of trash, I have to sleep with it at night.
Relationships with Others
My relationships with other people were selfish and self-seeking, as the Big Book so accurately points out. My relationships centered on my own needs. My friends were all my friends because of unhealthy reasons. I chose lower companions that made me feel okay about my using. If a friend did not have anything to offer me as far as drugs, alcohol, or security in my using, I generally let the relationship fall to the side.
My relationship with my family and other loved ones suffered as well. I spoke to my family only when I needed something (usually when I wanted money). I lied, stole, and hurt them greatly. Again, my relationships centered around me having my needs met. I didn’t care much about who I hurt in the process, and it showed. Eventually, my family stopped talking to me.
Finally, my intimate relationships were quite painful. I was in a few unhealthy relationships. There were fights, cheating, and a whole lot of lying. I rarely thought about my partner’s feelings. The only time I made an effort was when I thought it would serve me well. Because I was so scared of myself, I didn’t want to let anybody else in.
Working on my relationship with others has been an integral part of my sobriety. Steps four through nine really help us work on these relationships. In these steps, I learned to see my part in my relationships. Where I previously had blamed everyone else for my problems, I began to take some personal responsibility. In the Ninth Step, I cleaned up the wreckage of my past (or at least tried to). I was given a fresh start and an opportunity to build new relationships with people.
Step Ten allows me to continually check my relationships. I no longer sabotage relationships blindly, then wonder what happened. I take a look at the pain and the feelings, and figure out ways to address it. Step Twelve has greatly helped me as well. When I take somebody else through the steps, I am able to fully connect. Rather than taking, I am giving. It is a complete turn-around.
I also like to work on my relationships with others in daily life. I try my best to be friendly to everyone I meet. I practice metta meditation to try to connect my own desires to be happy with those of others. Although I am not perfect, I do my best to understand, accept, and have compassion. When I got sober, I wanted to work immediately on my relationships with others. However, I found I had to work on the other two first before I could honestly offer myself to anyone else.
Attending twelve-step meetings regularly, you are bound to hear somebody recommend that you get a commitment. Personally, I am one of the people that suggests even the newest of my sponsees get commitments. Commitments have been one of the greatest tools in my sobriety, are relatively simple, and the return on investment is huge.
Getting commitments have several benefits. First, I truly felt like a part of the recovery group I was in. My home group meets every morning, and has about 4o-50 people. Everyone knows each other, and coming in new to this meeting was a little scary. I got a few commitments on different days, and everyone quickly learned my name. People recognized me even when I didn’t recognize them. Even though I still wasn’t completely self-confident, I felt much better about attending the meeting. Even if I had the simplest commitment, I felt as I was an integral part, just as I had seen other with commitment as integral parts.
Having commitments has also helped me show up when I don’t want to. Often, I wake up in the morning and do not feel like going to my regular meeting. My mind tells me I don’t need to, that I should sleep in, etc. However, a commitment helps me show up and be responsible even when I don’t feel like doing so. Almost always, I show up on these days in a bad mood and leave with great gratitude that I came. Commitments really have helped me keep some consistency in my sobriety.
Commitments are great ways to be of service on a regular basis as well. Although taking commitments does a lot for us, it also is a great way to help others. Meetings need people to take commitments in order to run. Without commitment-takers, meetings would fall apart. Whether you set up the meeting, clean cigarette butts, or make the sponsorship announcement, taking a commitment is a great service to the group as a whole. Because it is a form of service, commitments help us build esteem and connect with the community.
I was recently asked to speak at a meeting in which the speaker chose a reading from As Bill Sees It. I flipped open the book randomly, and came to the entry on page 226 entitled Give Thanks from the March 1962 episode of the Grapevine. It read:
Though I still find it difficult to accept today’s pain and anxiety with any great degree of serenity – as those more advanced in the spiritual life seem able to do – I can give thanks for present pain nevertheless.
I find the willingness to do this by contemplating the lessons learned from past suffering – lessons which have led to the blessings I now enjoy. I can remember how the agonies of alcoholism, the pain of rebellion and thwarted pride, have often led me to God’s grace, and so to a new freedom.
I have not read every page of As Bill Sees It, but I don’t know if I could have turned to a page that I agree with more. Although I do not practice this in every moment, I try my best to. Turning toward our suffering and not running from it is a indispensable practice. The tendency of recovering addicts to run from unpleasant feelings is often a result of what is taught in twelve-step programs: to call your sponsor, go to a meeting, or help a newcomer.
Generally, I think these things are great. I call my mentors every day, go to many meetings, and work with as many newcomers as I am able to. However, these are not solutions for our own issues. When I am feeling an unpleasant feeling (like anxiety), calling a sponsor may not be the right choice. A sponsor may tell me to go to a meeting or help a newcomer, but these are not helping me grow how I need. Going to a meeting or working with somebody else are both important aspects of my recovery, but again, they do not necessarily offer the best solution.
I have found that the best answer is often to just sit in it. I don’t mean whine, play the victim, or blame others. I mean that we simply must sit in our feelings sometimes. When anxiety takes over, we must allow ourselves to feel the feeling. There are many ways I have benefited from doing this.
First, awareness of our suffering allows us to learn about the feelings. When an unpleasant emotion arises, I run. It is one of the foundational parts of being an addict. When I began to sit with my emotions, I began to learn about them. I noticed that my anxiety was generally a combination of tightness in my chest, a feeling in my arms and hands, and racing thoughts. Only when I sat with it was I able to see that anxiety was just a combination of other sensations, and not really as “bad” as I had thought. It was just unpleasant.
When we sit with our suffering, we are doing the most compassionate thing possible. It may not seem this way at first, but when we truly sit with our pain, we are able to change our relationship to it. When we accept our pain and look at it with a curious eye, we are able to treat it with more love and compassion. When we run from it, we are not giving it any attention, nor allowing it to teach us anything.
We also learn a lot about our instinct to run from unpleasantness when we sit with our feelings. When we run, we encourage ourselves to not feel the feelings. Every time we sit with an unpleasant feeling, we are able to strengthen our ability to change our relationship to unpleasantness. We may see our immediate reaction of aversion, and work on changing it to a more loving and compassionate response.
Finally, as the reading in As Bill Sees It points out, suffering has a lot to teach us. If we are willing to learn, our pain may be our greatest teacher. Pain is a motivator for change, and without it, we probably wouldn’t be on a spiritual path. When we suffer, we are truly offered a chance to learn something about ourselves. Buddhist monk Ajahn Chah says, “In each moment of suffering lies an opportunity for awakening.”
1. Work the steps – Whether or not you have gone through the steps before, go through them this year. The steps are great practice for all of us, and can be a tool of great growth.
3. Read the literature – Regardless of what group you belong to, read the literature. Most programs have a fair amount of official literature, and many unofficial books and pamphlets.
4. Check out a new meeting – Many of us have “home groups” or regular meetings. Although this is great, it is also beneficial to step out and try a new meeting. You may meet new people or hear new things!
5. Find a home group – If you don’t already have a home group, find one! This should be a meeting you attend consistently, have a commitment at, and are a part of.
6. Get a commitment – Even if you already have commitments, grab a new one! Commitments are a wonderful encouragement to show up, and also help us become a part of the community.
7. Greet a newcomer – When newcomers identify in a meeting, watch and listen. After the meeting, stop and talk to them. Remember how it felt when you were new, and how beneficial a kind word can be!
8. Greet a visitor - Just as with the newcomer, watch for visitors from other areas. Welcome them, offer a phone number, and make sure you do what you can to make them feel at home!
9. Sign up for a panel - You may have a local Hospitals and Institutions group (H and I) where you may find opportunities to speak at jails and hospitals. If not, you may keep your ears open in meetings and ask around for ways to bring your program to those who are not able to come to you.
10. Do a tenth step – Not everyone does a written tenth step. This year, try doing a tenth step that works for you, whether it is through meditation, writing, or speaking to a trusted friend.
11. Pray and meditate – Many people slight prayer and meditation. This year, give it a try. Even as an atheist myself, I am able to pray and meditate and find it extremely important in my program.
12. Go through the traditions - Just as we work the steps, many people go through the Twelve Traditions. Going through the traditions with a guide is a great way to learn about their importance and how they hold the group together.
13. Do 30 and 30 – Many newcomers are given the suggestion of going to 90 meetings in 90 days. To recommit to your recovery, try doing 30 meetings in 30 days!
15. Attend a gender-specific meeting – Attending gender-specific meetings is something that many of us shy away from. However, there is some relief in sharing amongst people of your own gender. Try one of these meetings!
16. Sponsor someone - This year, sponsor someone. Taking somebody else through the program you are in is a great way to learn more about the program and be of service. In my experience, being able to take others through the steps is both the greatest tool and the greatest gift of my recovery.
17. Go to a conference - Many areas have conferences or roundups. Attending one is very powerful. There are around-the-clock meetings with different topics, fun activities with others in recovery, and great opportunities to meet others.
18. Be of service - There are many ways to be of service. You may give someone a ride to a meeting, talk to somebody after a meeting, or give somebody a call. The simplest actions can make a big difference.
19. Help your Central Office - Find your local Central Office, and see what you can do to help. Many offices need help answering phones, selling literature, or organizing events.
This is a contribution from Stephanie Croke. Check out Stephanie’s bio at the bottom of the piece, and thank her on her Twitter!
You’ll want to listen to some music to get into the right frame of mind (and heart) to read what’s ahead. For me, hearing this particular piece is like taking an express train through the most poignant, painful valleys of a recovery journey: we all know those the moments when our doubts outweigh our faith; when we feel like the God of our understanding may well have forgotten us. He hasn’t, I learn over and over again. He won’t – so long as we’re clear about who He is (and is not).
I stumbled upon this ethereally longing piece of music (or, perhaps more appropriately, it stumbled upon me) on an ordinary day, writing a grad school paper while I listened to Pandora in the kitchen. Generally, classical music is the only thing I can use as background noise while I’m working if I want to stay productive. But once this came on, everything stopped. This wasn’t just music; it’s an unintentional hymn. One that without words, says everything.
Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMoFmICrISE. You may want to let it play as you read today’s entry.
I heard this score when I saw the movie Castaway during its original release. At the time, I certainly didn’t see the allegories woven throughout the film that I do now, and I’m not even sure whether what I see with today’s lens is a product of accident or deliberation. Either way, it seems to me that there’s an awful lot to be gleaned from a bloody volleyball and Hollywood story when it comes to our own recoveries.
As those of you who have seen the movie will remember, Tom Hanks finds himself alone on a prototypical deserted island, the sole survivor of a cargo plane crash. As he sifts through the wreckage, one of the few items that emerges unharmed is a Wilson volleyball, perfectly preserved in its original box. Overwhelmed by the sad gravity of his situation, Hanks picks up the ball and angrily tosses it aside, only to find that his own bloody handprint has left an impression that looks a lot like a face. It is in this moment that his friend – his only friend – Wilson is born, and the two begin their long journey to survive isolation, desperation, and starvation: physical, mental, and spiritual. (Sounds a lot like the life of anyone who’s struggled with addiction, if you ask me.)
All of hardships that you might imagine befall them as the movie continues – but it is Wilson who keeps Hanks alive (or so he thinks). The ball with a face becomes his lifeline, his touchstone, his reason to go on. And then he falls asleep on a ramshackle raft one day, and wakes up to find his beloved Wilson gone – lost to the sea. Unrecoverable. Hanks is devastated, apologizing profusely to Wilson for having lost him. Viewers wonder if he’ll give up his fight for survival; if this loss the final straw – more than any man can be expected to bear.
It’s beautifully tragic, isn’t it? Can’t we all so viscerally identify with that feeling of the last fraying thread of a lifeline snapping; the last breath of hope leaving our bodies? I can. But in relating to this particular story, we forget an important truth: it was just a volleyball.
Can’t the same be said for a drink, or a high, or for anything that we substitute for a rich, spiritual connection with a higher power?
At the heart of any addiction, won’t we always find a Wilson?
In my view, then, Castaway begs the question: what are we hanging on to in life that fools us into believing that it’s our only hope? What people, places, or things have we mistaken for God, or for the higher power of our own understanding? What or who have we elected as our own charlatans of hope; our carpet baggers of healing? What are our Wilsons? And perhaps most importantly, what would it take for us to let them go, and to turn instead toward a real higher power – the true and only source of grace and redemption?
I’m loathe to give a movie ending away, so for those of you who hate spoilers, consider this fair warning…
As we consider the bloody handprints we’ve left all over our own lives by desperately clutching volleyballs, let’s not forget that Tom Hanks made it off that island just fine. Wilson didn’t, but he did.
Friends, so long as we anchor our hope to a truly spiritual pillar – we are never cast away.
Based in Williamsburg, Va., Stephanie Croke has been writing about wellness and recovery since 2008. She holds a B.A. in communications from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and a J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law. Croke is also pursuing a master’s degree in addiction counseling from The College of William and Mary.
When I was very new in sobriety, I put forth almost no effort. I went to meetings, and that was about it. As I began to work the steps and grow fond of sobriety, I gave it my all. I had 4 service commitments a week, attended at least 10 meetings a week, was active with Hospitals and Institutions, and took my sobriety extremely seriously. I gave it my all, as I wanted so badly to remain sober.
As time went on, the effort in sobriety I have put forth has fluctuated. When I find myself in an unpleasant place, I often work extremely hard. When everything is going well, I slack. This cycle of effort reflects my ups and downs. I don’t always put 100% in, and I don’t always feel 100%. Things work like this in my life, and I am okay with it.
I think it is important to note that I don’t need to give it absolutely 100% in order to stay sober, grow, and progress. When I look at my effort in sobriety, I see that I have always given some of myself to my program. No matter how little of a program I was working, I always went to meetings, was of service, and meditated. I never put no effort in.
When I was new and putting forth a great amount of effort in sobriety, I would not necessarily have benefited from knowing this information. But now, I am grateful that I know that I don’t have to stress about how perfect of a program I am working. To me, that is the point… I don’t have to work a perfect program. It is okay that I don’t give it my all every single moment. It is okay that I don’t work my program without error. I do put forth effort in my sobriety consistently, and I never give up.
With the ups and downs, I am able to find peace in the reality that I may choose to work my program to fit my needs. I know that at the very least, my needs are that I stay sober, help others, and continue going to meetings. I have learned about myself enough through the Twelve Steps and my meditation practice that I know when I need to put more effort forth. Similarly, I am beginning to recognize when I am expecting too much of myself.
Recently, it seems that many people are up in arms over some things The Easier Softer Way is doing, specifically that we charge money for our daily email lists. In order to help you understand why this is, we would like to give a little background on us here, and hope it gives you some insight.
In early 2011, I was an aspiring web designer and SEO specialist who needed a site to test my skills on. I started The Easier Softer Way as theeasiersofterway.wordpress.com, on the free web host WordPress with limited capabilities. As the site grew, we moved over here to www.theeasiersofterway.com and began to change the site. It was just a simple one-page blog with my musings, experience, etc. The site gained a little traffic and footing, and we decided to take this a little more seriously! My SEO and web design company was doing well, but I was working for some questionable clients, and felt my skills could be better utilized.
The Easier Softer Way Now
The Easier Softer Way now receives thousands of visitors every month. We have three daily emails we send out, are posting constantly on our social media pages, have new posts on our website weekly, and run our shop. The Easier Softer Way takes about 10-12 hours a day to keep running. We receive hundreds of emails asking for information, help, and opinions every week. We like to think that each minute we spend with the site helps us reach somebody else who would like to grow.
I personally write every single daily email (Daily Minfulness, Daily Meditation, and Big Book & Twelve N’ Twelve Quotes). It is not some big automated process. Every day, I spend at least an hour compiling the quotes and thoughts, sending them out in emails, and posting them on our social medias. I work from about 9am to 7 or 8pm every day on The Easier Softer Way.
I have no day job, and work with The Easier Softer Way full time. For those that are unaware, I am still on parole and have a criminal record showing Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. It is very difficult for me to find a job, although I have been sober and with a clean record for years. I really find that my work with The Easier Softer Way is the most fulfilling work I have done in my life. I love reaching new people, learning from followers, and hearing other opinions.
The Easier Softer Way has many expenses that people may not be aware of. We have web hosting and expensive email hosting (as we have large email lists and newsletters and send thousands of emails a day), down payments on renting space and artists for our charity events, and paying people to keep it going when I am on my frequent retreats. On top of all these expenses, THIS IS MY ONLY JOB!
The Easier Softer Way would not be what it is if I did not spend my time here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I truly have a deep love and respect for this work. However, any time I mention that we charge for our daily emails, people post mean comments across all of our social medias, unfollow us, and bash us on their own pages. I understand that there are many people out there making a lot of money in this field. However, I promise you we are not. After our expenses and rent, I barely squeeze by. Furthermore, we have many volunteers who help keep stuff running by donating a few hours a week to making things happen.
I am in no way asking for your sympathy or pity. I simply want people to understand the truth behind The Easier Softer Way. We are not a huge company getting rich. I am a young man using my web design and SEO skills for good. The $1/month contribution is not very large, but it makes a huge difference to us! If you are offended by us asking for just $1/month (as many people have said they are), we truly apologize and do not mean to cause any harm.
I truly hope that you understand The Easier Softer Way a little better. I am extremely proud that we offer as much inspiration and help as we do for free, and have reached as many as we have. As just one person running this without any money at all, I am excited that we have reached the thousands of fans on our social medias, thousands of visitors every month, and hundreds of emails we answer helping others. You may take a moment to notice that we have done this all in an AD FREE environment!!! If you have any questions at all, you can email me on my personal email at Matthew (at) TheEasierSofterWay (dot) com.
Owner, The Easier Softer Way
These are some of our favorite recovery jokes! Please note, some are PG-13!
Why did the accountant do so well in AA?
He was already a friend of bills!
How many alcoholics does it take to change a lightbulb?
Just one – he holds the lightbulb and the whole world revolves around him.
How many Al-Anons does it take to change a lightbulb ?
None. They leave it alone and let it screw itself.
A new definition for 13th stepping….
Steps 1 + 12, “My life is unmanageable and I want to share it with you!”
What did one co-dependent say to the other co-dependent after they got done having sex?
It was good for you, was it good for me?
On May 6, 1998, an old man stood up in a meeting and said that he hadn’t found it necessary to take a drink since July 1, 1956. Another man stood up and said, “You old liar, I saw you last night and you were as drunk as a skunk!” The first old man said, “You’re right! I was drunk last night but it wasn’t necessary.”
Newcomer: “My conscience finally brought me to the Program.”
Old-timer: “How so?”
Newcomer: ” I kept seeing this eyeball staring at me from the bottom of the glass! I’m sure it was my conscience.”
Old-timer: “Probably an olive. But never mind—whatever works!”
You know you have a problem when your night begins with a single beer and ends with eating a mushroom out of your front yard and yelling, “I’m Mario!”
If you have recovery jokes that we missed, submit them as a comment or on our Facebook Page!
This is a wonderful anonymous guest post on hitting a Bottom while sober. A honest, raw piece, we are very grateful for this insightful submission!
Being sober is the most wonderful gift I’ve ever received. And for the first five years of my sobriety, I lived in a world of perpetual perkiness. I even walked through a marriage and divorce with what dignity and grace. And then that special someone walked into my life. And I was completely smitten! People commented on a regular basis about how good we were together….and we were. Or so I thought. What I realized was that I had entered my first relationship in recovery and was truly in love for the first time. But I was alone in that and the relationship ended abruptly and very unexpectedly. This was an emotional bottom, for me, of great magnitude.
I never hit a bottom like this as a still suffering alcoholic. And it was huge. The stages of grief were almost more than I could handle. I was desperate to turn off the emotions. I was desperate to not feel at all. And I wanted to drink!
My heart physically hurt and the pain was nearly unbearable. The question that may come to mind for some people reading this is, “How could a person cause this much pain to someone with five years of sobriety?” The answer to that question is: I still had a lot of work to do on me and God waited until I was able to handle it to do the work.
Prior to that relationship beginning, I had begun work on a very intense sex inventory. This one involved all of my past and it was quite scary. You see, my story includes a lot of alcohol combined with sex. And I did NOT want to do this inventory. So when a new distraction came along, I opted to stop doing the inventory.
When this breakup happened and I was in so much pain, I had two choices, jump deeper into recovery or drink. My instinct was to drink. It’s what I wanted more than anything. However, that was not much of an option for me. From day one of the breakup I began reaching out to people. I begged for help. I begged God to let me die. I cried every day for nearly four months. I prayed for the willingness to surrender that person. I prayed to let it all go. But through all of that, I never picked that drink and I finished that sex inventory.
The sex inventory was the most painful inventory I had walked through. Looking at my past behaviors with men and women alike, people I had mistreated and used and manipulated through some type of sexual behavior (even if only flirting) to get what I wanted was not my idea of a good time. But cleansing it was. I had also made the decision to not allow any intimate relationships into my life for at least six months. What? Six months? I had never been single longer than two months. This was absurd.
For the next six months, I focused on being as involved as I could. I went to tons of meetings. I picked up new sponsees and worked closely with my sponsor. I let myself feel what I needed to feel. I cried and cleansed and eventually began laughing again. I really began to understand what peace and serenity really is. That understanding came to me because for the first time in my life, I surrendered to a power greater than myself, all of me. I believed so completely in God’s will for me and abandoned my own will. And I knew freedom.
What I learned of myself was that I had lived in ego for five years. I’d always relied on someone else to bring me joy and had no idea what being happy on my own looked like. In that time, I learned to love myself and be my own friend. This is the biggest gift I’ve received in recovery.
There are particular mindsets or points of view that can be counter-productive. These errors in thinking, especially if taken to the extreme, can inhibit the personal growth and development in relationships.
1. All or absolutely nothing pondering: You see items in extremes, everything is black or white. This can be evident or subtle, for instance saying ‘He is always late, but I never get angry about it’. This mindset can be that of the perfectionist also. This thinking error is common amongst addicts.
2. Minimizing or catastrophizing: You exaggerate the relevance of modest issues. ‘The whole meal was ruined since the desert was not served promptly.’ Is this a catastrophe? An illustration of minimizing is taking a substantial problem or occasion and minimizing its value so it seems inconsequential. People often do this so as not to have to deal with uncomfortable feelings or consequences. It is a form of averting from discomfort and confrontation.
3. Overgeneralization: You get a single event and draw basic conclusions that it is universally true. If your date is late you say ‘No guys/girls are ever on time’.
4. Minimizing or qualifying the optimistic: If an individual says you did well, you reply by saying ‘I could have/should have done better’. These thinking errors are often a result of low self-confidence.
5. Jumping to conclusions: This is fairly self explanatory. You interpret events even though there are no definite facts that genuinely prove your conclusion. ‘My boss didn’t say Hi this morning, I am in huge trouble.’ ‘My girlfriend is not at home, she’s cheating on me.’
6. Thoughts reading: Couples are usually guilty of this, ‘If he/she loved me they would know what I want.’ You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting in a negative way to you and never bother to check it out. ‘I know what you’re thinking.’
7. Ought to and need to statements: These are shame generators, and some of the most painful thinking errors we make. “Musts” and “shoulds” are also offenders. This can be the product of inflexible and rigid pondering. ‘I should not let them see me cry.’ ‘I should have been there’. The emotional consequence of failure to adhere to the rule is shame and guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you are setting up unrealistic expectations and if they do not behave they way they ‘should,’ anger and resentment can be the results.
8. Emotional reasoning: While your emotions are valid, and they are your own. They do not necessarily reflect truth. Currently being frustrated at not being in school does not mean you are not intelligent. Feeling hopelessness does not indicate you are hopeless.
9. Personalization: You see yourself as the result of some damaging event for which, in fact, you had been not genuinely accountable. Your loan application is not accepted, and it does not mean the loan officer had it in for you. Your daughter not getting asked to the prom does not imply you are a poor mother.
10. Believing every thought: This is often one of the most difficult thinking errors for us to deal with. We rarely question our thought process. We simply think something and believe it. Our thoughts are not always based in reality, and it is important that we don’t listen to every single thought.
Many of us deal with these thinking errors on a daily basis. However, there is good news! With spiritual practice, mindfulness, and concentration practices, we are able to become more aware of these thinking errors and take steps to grow.