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Negative thoughts...

Negative automatic thoughts (NATs) are negative thoughts or impulses that pop into our heads without any warning, which if left unchecked, worsen our mood and contribute towards anxiety and depression. Many psychological treatments and talk therapies, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) recognise the importance of indentifying and removing negative thoughts in the treatment of mental health disorders.

NATs can vary from minor, irritating thoughts to more serious debilitating ones. For the prupose of this post I wanted to make a list of the really minor, petty, irrational, nit-picking, under the radar thoughts that flit in and out of our heads countless times every hour of every day. In doing so, I don’t want to elevate them to any particular status, or obsess about them, but just recognise them for what they are – minor irritants that we should recognise and swat away.

In making this list, it has occurred to me that Negative Automatic Thoughts often dress themselves up and disguise themselves as something more important and profound in order that we don’t just dismiss them. They often present themselves as ‘home truths’ or little ‘nuggets of wisdom’. These are usually based on lazy, disfunctional belief systems that you slowly acquire over time and, in my case, probably result from an overly cautious or fatalistic approach to life. I have put some of these ‘home truths’ in inverted commas alongside the NAT to which they relate. Anyway, here are a few of my favourite NATs:

Feeling that everything – even the tiniest, most trivial things - seem to conspire against you no matter how hard you try for it not to happen. You find yourself thinking, ’That’s just typical’.

Belief in Sod’s Law. If something can go wrong it will do – it’s bound to. It always does. ‘Typical Sod’s Law’

Belief that something good is usually followed and ‘evened out’ by something bad – ‘One step forward, two steps back’.

Feeling that ‘I deserve this misfortune’. Something bad happens as a result of a bad thought or deed by ourselves. ‘That was Divine Justice’.

Feeling ‘unlucky’. Certain random things always go against you.

Feeling that things aren’t fair.

Thinking ‘I’m too tired to do that’ (no matter how minor or trivial the task). ‘I haven’t got the energy’.

Feeling that the same things keep going wrong all the time in the same old cycle. Things never correct or resolve themselves. ‘This is always happening.’

Feeling superstitious. Feeling the need to do something in a particular, or very precise, way, otherswise something bad may happen.

Feeling that you mustn’t be too cocky and get ‘ahead’ of yourself or it’ll ‘serve you right’ and you’ll be brought back down to size. ‘If you fear the worst you’ll never be disappointed’.

Thinking that you’re doing something too slowly and need to get things ‘finished’. Telling yourself to ‘hurry up’ for no proper reason or impatiently muttering ‘come on’ under your breath when there’s no rush.

Feeling that certain random thoughts that flit across your mind are somehow ‘shameful’ or wrong.

Feeling that your’e constantly being judged by people. ‘They don’t approve of me’, or ‘They’re just waiting for me to trip up’.

Setting yourself pointless, improbably high targets and standards (‘They give me a challenge’) and feeling frustrated when you can’t meet them.

Impatience / resentment. Feeling that ‘boring’ things (eg household chores, TV adverts) are a curse, sent to ‘try’ us and are a personal test of our endurance and should be railed against rather than just accepted.

Recognise any of these? All of the above are unproductive, pointless gripes and negative thought processes that drain your energy and clog up / slow down your mental ‘hard drive’. Some of them are so trivial and habitual you hardly realise you’re thinking them. Learning to recognise them takes their power away, frees up your mind and hopefully gives a more positive approach to life. I hope sharing this is useful.

Anyone else have their own pet gripes or negative thoughts?
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