Edward L. Oriole L.C.P.C. C.A.D.C. N.C.C.
One of the techniques that I advocate, whenever emotional deregulation is chronic, is the use of meditation. The key signal that meditation is needed is when emotional thinking and emotional decision-making have taken hold. Mindfulness is developing an awareness of your mental processes. When you have developed the necessary training of awareness or thinking about the way that you are thinking, remediation of the emotional deregulation can begin. What follows is the clear, lucid light of reason. This is a much better thinking process. Because we live in a society that is filled with movement, filled with distractions, filled with noise and filled with instant gratification, that likelihood of “mental overload” is likely. This is the foremost cause of emotional un- wellness. It is my position that if emotional wellness is be re-achieved, three components must be in place:
1, Support from others
Feelings of connected-ness
A change in thoughts and behaviors
All three are supportive of the skill oF mindfulness. When the ability to be mindful is in place clearness of thought returns. I apply the technique of mindfulness for patients suffering from chronic anxiety, chronic depression and relapse prevention. This is the rigorous examination of thinking about how you are making conclusions, assumptions and decisions. If the thinking is erroneous then it is likely that the outcomes will be poor.
Home work usually includes an examination of “The Ten Most Common Thinking Errors.” The patient internalizes the thinking errors then assesses if that are guilty of committing any of the errors. The outcomes with thinking errors are discussed and compared with outcomes without thinking errors.
1. ALL OR NOTHING THINKING
When this error is present the black and white thinking is assessed in terms of likely outcomes. Life is seldom addressed well with black and white thinking. Is it the best way to make decisions or is it a way to settle the matter quickly. Beware of terms like “never” and “always.”
This is a cognitive error because seldom can a generalization be extended from a specific. For example this occurs when a single error or mistake leads to labels like “idiot” or “screw-up”. Poisonous stereotypes emerge from over generalizations.
3,. MENTAL FILTER This cognitive error is when you take a single, negative event and dwell on it. This negates all of the other positive events. The difference between negative and positives are viewed, incorrectly as equal. Critical thinkers weigh the evidence without the attached emotion.
MAGNIFICATION AND MINIMIZATION This is the byproduct of a disordered thinking process. It includes blowing things out of proportion or denying that a problem is present. Is tempting to categorize something as either too big or too small in order to lower your anxiety. Ask yourself is this simply a way to reach a premature conclusion or is waiting in order to gather more data a better choice?
THE TYRANNY OF THE SHOULD. For example “You should do this.” or “They should do that.” While the emotion attached to such statements is often powerful, it comes across to others as judgmental and aggressive. Decision-making based upon preconceived ideas are seldom accurate.
PERSONALIZATION is a thinking error when when you immediately categorize everyone’s mood or behavior to yourself. The effect of this is much undeserved mental anguish. Mental anguish that can be avoided by thinking about if this is accurate or simply a way to punish yourself.
PLAYING THE COMPARISON GAME means that all of your behavior is filtered through a comparison to other individuals’ behavior. The result is a reinforcement of reliance on external sources for your self-esteem Internal source of self-esteem in desired.
FORTUNE-TELLING is, on its face, illogical. It is the habitual cognitive error of believing that you can predict the future. Again this is usually used to lower your anxiety instead of gathering information. For example “This always happens to me.” or “I never get what I want.” Ask yourself logically are “always and never” accurate.
LABELING occurs whenever the application of a convenient and anxiety-lessening description.. Again this is usually used to lower your anxiety instead of gathering information. It is a conclusion (i.e. “He is a jerk.” or “She is a dumb bell.”) based on scant evidence.
Finally the use of EMOTIONAL REASONING in order to gain an immediate conclusion instead of using calm, rational and lucid reason to reach the conclusion. When this type of cognitive reasoning is employed the danger of misunderstanding and poor communication is present.
All ten cognitive errors are similar in the sense that they are used to lower anxiety to gain a premature conclusion. The solution is to use the rising anxiety as a signal to DO NOTHING. Reject the notion that you have no control over your emotions. Mindfulness provides a return to your brain’s cognitive ability. Sit quietly and consider that you have limited control over the future. You have no control over the past. However you do have control of the present. In short think about the way that you are thinking. Ask yourself if any of the ten cognitive errors are present. Because if they are the conclusion is likely tainted.
You need a clear, uncluttered mind to accurately assess if you are using cognitive errors to make decisions.
Set timer for ten minutes.
Bring your awareness to solely how you are breathing
Slowly inhale through your nose Focus your thoughts on the sound of your breath. Exhale through your nose. When you feel your mid begin to wander bring back your attention to your breath. Now think about your current conflicts. Ask yourself how you are assessing your decisions. Are any of the cognitive distortions in place? Do you have enough information to make a conclusion?
When the timer rings, open your eyes slowly. Revel in the thought that you are making informed decisions. Write in your journal what your immediate thought was and what your thought was after you used mindfulness. As time passes the journal entries become proof positive of your thinking evolution.
If emotional wellness is your goal, then daily mindfulness is part of the remedy. It exposes faulty logic and cognitive errors that underpin poor-decision making and emotional dysregulation.
The staff at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center often use mindfulness to restore emotional wellness and provide the tools to keep emotional dysfunction at bay.
Edward L. Oriole is a nationally certified Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. Edward is an associate on the staff at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center located located at 1930 Thoreau Drive suite 170, Schaumburg IL 60173 tel 847 253 9769