We all subconsciously make up stories that are not even true about other people and ourselves. Sounds outrageous, right? Even though you may be disagreeing with me right now, I hope you will sit tight and read on.
How does such a thing happen to educated spiritually minded people? When a person feels stressed out the brain releases hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. These hormones encourage anxious irrational thoughts to develop. Ever heard of the term, jumping to conclusions?
Your brain also does not like a vacuum. When facts are missing, it fills in the blanks. The problem is when you assume a negative intent is happening when in fact it is not or you take it in the opposite direction making a situation more positive than it actually is. Where does the brain get this extra information? It goes to your past experiences vault and picks a memory with a positive or negative association.
The risks of reacting
The problem with reacting to negative thoughts and stories is it isolates you and keeps good people at a distance when you are incorrect. When you assume the worse in people, you lose your trust in yourself and others who have good intentions. Slow your roll, and assess the truth of what is going on before moving forward. You could be right, yet you could be wrong.
On the other side of the coin, you may be too trusting. Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses sets you up for a big fall when reality hits because no one and nothing is perfect. Empaths get stuck in this one when they imagine a person who has hurt them did not mean what they did or said. Being in denial put you at risk from people who act abusive to you.
Assuming the worst
Recently, I had a conversation with a person who did not want to hear my “no” to her request. I became like a robot saying multiple no’s again and again. The humorous part of it was that we were both stuck in this irritating moment. Finally, something kicked in and she moved onto someone else.
A couple of weeks later, I received a phone message from the same woman requesting to call her, yet she did not say why. As I listened to the recording I heard her demand to talk to me and said out loud in an angry voice, “I am not doing that.” Luckily, I chose not to respond in that moment. I recognized that I was triggered from our first exchange and every other person from my past who did not respect and honor my “no.” I let it go and listened to the message again the next day. Wouldn’t you know it, I heard it differently because she didn’t demand to talk to me like I thought she did.
Assuming more than what is
I have had experiences of verbal and emotional abuse from those I thought loved me. I built up in my head glorious stories of how kind and great they were. A part of this problem was they were narcissistic and I was uneducated about what that meant. These people had an exaggerated sense of self that I played into without questioning. They thought they were great and I absorbed that energy empathically, fully agreeing to it. When I was educated about these types of behaviors I still found I was susceptible to being manipulated at times. Many of us are, even the best of professionals, please do not feel bad when this happens to you. The goal is to pick up on the cues sooner than previous times in order to set your boundaries and protect your energies.
My wish is for everyone to see and hear clearly what is.
There is no substitute for psychotherapy which is the best way to unravel the stories of our lives. I have developed some tips in the meantime to help you get out of this habit.
- Practice the pause and use mindfulness
The more you are under stress, the worse the stories become in either direction. In order to see reality more for what it is rather than a reflection of your past experiences, do not assign it any label. Watch and observe the behaviors of others. Mindfulness is about being in the present moment which means leaving your assumptions at the door. The truth about a person is revealed through time, be patient and see what develops before you fill in the blanks. When you catch yourself assuming, be kind with yourself. Understand that this is an indication that you need more stress management, awareness and self-care.
- Use cognitive refuting (a fancy term for questioning your thoughts)
When you have a thought that feels irrational, don’t accept it, question it! Ask yourself the following;
Is this thought true?
Are these thoughts based on fear or love?
What is another possibility here?
Does this belief connect or disconnect me from others?
Lisa Hutchison LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist and writing coach who works for empathic healers and artists. She helps you recharge your depleted energies and increase your awareness and skills. Her thought-provoking sessions remove the blocks that help sensitive souls not only survive but shine! Click here for your FREE 10 page E-book called 8 Simple Things That Release Chaos from Your Life Now!