Many people live with anxious or negative thoughts and feelings about
themselves, others or situations which keep them from being able to
fully enjoy their lives. Usually these thoughts and feelings are so
strong, and have been there for so long, that they are never questioned
anymore. In other words, whenever the thoughts and feelings occur, they
are simply accepted.
For instance, some people approach a situation that seems inviting to
them, but quickly stop themselves from moving toward it because of a
sudden, limiting thought such as, “Oh, every time I do that, I fail,” or
“I wind up feeling silly,” or “I don’t think I’m smart enough …” You
get the idea. These negative thoughts and feelings move closer and the
idea of pursuing something interesting moves farther away.
Another variety of negative thoughts or feelings seem to focus on
someone else. Thoughts such as, “I can’t ask him, he never comes
through,” or “she always misunderstands what I want,” or “he is always
grumpy and mean.”
One quality most of these kinds of thoughts share is that they are
evaluating oneself or someone/something else. It is this evaluating
quality that we believe, and rarely question. Often, the thoughts are
based on some past event that did leave us feeling that way, but we
conclude (often incorrectly) that it will always be the same in the
For instance, if someone is shy, and finds moving into a social setting
challenging, thinking that it will be impossible will probably make it
so. We can’t stop memories from returning (for example, on some
occasions it was hard to do) but it’s important to distinguish between
something we felt or thought previously from all possible future
situations. A shy person who accepts that she is shy can still enter a
social setting by also remembering that she still wants to be with
people. Will it be hard? Perhaps, but having the thought that it would
be impossible would cut off any kind of social interaction at all.
Evaluating things is a necessary skill in our daily lives. But
unfortunately, we often over-use it, so that we are evaluating things we
cannot actually know about (how a future situation will turn out, how
someone else will respond, how we ourselves will feel when we do
something). We have expectations based on past experiences, of course.
It’s only when the expectations become so intense that it’s difficult to
consider doing something important that we usually start to look at the
way we are evaluating the situation.
Many people who come to psychotherapy find it to be a process in which
they examine many of the assumptions, feelings and thoughts they have
habitually used to make daily decisions about people and situations.
Often this leads to a positive change in living that is very fulfilling.
If you are living in a way that seems to be lacking in positive
relationships and vitality, perhaps psychotherapy would be useful for
Copyright Kathi Whitten 2007