There are several types of negative thoughts that can harm you. They are usually automatic ideas, some of which are nothing more than introjected beliefs; that is, beliefs that were passed on to you by your parents or other significant adults during the first few years of life and that you continue to carry along with you. Other negative thoughts are the result of a distorted view of events or simply unmet expectations.
Albert Ellis, creator of Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy, was adamant that what strikes us is not the things that happen to us, but the interpretation we give them. These interpretations take the form of negative thoughts that generate discomfort and, even more serious, prevent us from finding a satisfactory solution to our problems because, usually, they only serve to feed a vicious circle of negativity. The first step in getting out of that cycle is knowing all kinds of negative thoughts that can haunt your mind.
There are as many types of negative thoughts as there are people in the world, but they can be summarized into 8 general categories, easy to identify by the attitudes they generate.
- Permanent state of emergency
Whenever something happens, you assume it as a total emergency. This reaction is due to the fact that your amygdala activates and you can only see the warning sign. A full-fledged emotional abduction occurs in your brain, triggering a panic reaction. By assuming reality as if it were a crisis, you react disproportionately. This type of catastrophic thinking leads you to exaggerate the dangers and underestimate your resources to deal with problems, an attitude that can become very dangerous as it triggers a state of learned helplessness.
- The autosabotatore
At the slightest difficulty, you automatically sabotage yourself. You take everything that happens as personal and blame yourself for things you have no control over. Your negative thoughts prevent you from thinking logically, so you punish yourself and criticize yourself incessantly. As a result, whenever a problem arises, you lose self-esteem and self-confidence. This type of thinking turns you into your own worst enemy since it will constantly trip you up.
- The extremist
When something happens you can only see the extremes. This type of negative thinking, also called dichotomous, makes you see the world in black and white, or all or nothing, with no middle terms. Ignoring the range of grays and colors in between, it will be difficult for you to find a good solution and you will feel a lot of anxiety as you will feel that every decision is a path of no return.
- The tagger
Whatever happens, you label it negatively because you can only see the dramatic consequences of the situation. The problem is, by applying these labels, you can't see the possibilities that a situation includes, so you're just foreclosing on the path to the solution. Also, this type of negative thinking can cause you to self-label and end up developing a very limited image of yourself and your potential.
- Tunnel vision
When you have a problem your vision is immediately reduced, like when you enter a tunnel. You can only see the negatives, the problems, the mistakes and the shortcomings. You fail to appreciate any positive details, possibilities or strengths, so you fall into a downward spiral of negativity. This type of negative thinking is based on the phenomenon known as selective attention. In practice, it is as if you put on blinders and sunglasses, so that you see only a very limited part of reality, missing the most important part to find a solution.
- The generalizer
When you have a problem your mind wanders and begins to establish free connections between the present and the past. These connections lead you to make erroneous and negative generalizations, often recognizable because words like "never", "always" or "everything" appear. This kind of generalization leads to hasty conclusions about something that has not yet happened, thinking that the results or consequences will be disastrous. Obviously, with each such statement you lose some self-esteem and strength, condemning yourself to a cycle of negativity.
- The impostor
Since you have a tendency to confront yourself, you constantly magnify the positives you notice in others, but minimize your own strengths and talents. This type of negative thinking makes you feel like an imposter who doesn't deserve what he has. You are afraid that others will find that you are not that smart, capable, nice and bright, when in reality you only have a problem with self-esteem. In fact, you are likely to fall victim to the phenomenon called "mind reading", according to which you believe you are imagining what others are thinking.
- The superhero
You strive not to disappoint anyone, you are proud to do everything, whatever the cost. Your life is governed by the "must" and "should" to the point that you completely forget what you really want. The problem is that every time you realize that you can't save the world, your self-esteem plummets and you feel extreme disappointment. This is one of the most harmful types of negative thoughts, because you think in terms of "duties" and "obligations", and you end up letting your life, decisions and mood depend entirely on others.