Once you’ve gotten sober and as you proceed in your recovery, you may notice there are patterns you have that seem to affect your happiness, and perhaps that affect your sobriety. You may notice that they even get in the way of feeling satisfied with your life or that they create certain levels of unhappiness, anger, and sorrow.
The advantage of being in recovery is that it gives you the opportunity to look at these facets of your life. You have the opportunity to explore the parts of you that are creating unhappiness versus adding to your wellbeing. The following is a list of thinking patterns that are common in recovering addicts. If you notice any of these patterns in yourself, you may find that you have an opportunity to change your thinking to what is healthy and less harmful.
Consider whether any these thought patterns are familiar:
This is the tendency to draw broad conclusions based on very limited data. For example, an addict might say to him or herself, “I’m worthless because I did poorly on my driving exam,” even though she has excelled in all of her classes and will likely do well.
2. Selective Abstraction
This the pattern of attaching a negative bias to one piece of information and excludes other pieces of information that indicate the opposite. For instance, someone might think that he is a horrible father because his teenage son is rarely home. He is not taking into account that his son is in the middle of adolescence, a classic time for children to begin to pull away from their parents. He is excluding other pieces of information while focusing on one detail, and assigning a negative conclusion.
3. Discounting the Positive
This is the pattern of rejecting positive experiences by insisting that they “don’t matter.” You continue to believe in your negative thoughts and disregard what’s positive in your life. Core beliefs about the world can prevent you from seeing the positive. For instance, if you have a core belief about being unworthy, you may not be able to see the value that you bring to your job and your workplace. You might discount the positive when a co-worker praises your efforts.
You tend to see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which you are not responsible in the least. You tend to put yourself to blame for situations and circumstances that have nothing to do with you. This can begin with experiencing a troubling event early in life which affected you deeply but for which you weren’t responsible. The thought pattern that began with an early event in life can continue into someone’s later life.
5. Should Statements
This is a pattern to continuing to place should’s and should not’s on yourself. However, if a person has too high expectations of themselves and never meets them, the emotional consequence can be guilt and shame.
Keep in mind this is a two part article. Look for the second article in this series which will continue this list of unhealthy thought patterns. Again, as mentioned above, these patterns are to learn from and to use to learn and grow. Perhaps if you recognize any of these patterns in yourself, you can change these thoughts to ones that are healthy and positive.