If you could have a superpower, what would it be? I think most would say super strength or flying, maybe even invisibility. However, I would argue that possibly the most powerful superpower would be the ability to read minds. Hear me out. Think of a situation where you did not know what another person was thinking, but you desperately wanted to. What feelings arose? Did you feel anxious, nervous, or scared? Not knowing what someone else is thinking or feeling can cause a large amount of anxiety and lead us to overthink the situation. Well never fear because I have great news! You have had the ability to read minds all along! Here’s how.
What is the situation?
The first step to accessing your mind-reading abilities is to analyze the situation or scenario. To do so, you have to answer the questions: With who? What happened? When? Where? In order to get a full understanding, it is important to know the details of what triggered a negative response. For this example, let’s say you texted a friend earlier in the day and they have yet to respond.
How are you feeling?
The next step is to assess how you feel about the situation. Do you feel anxious, sad, frustrated, annoyed, etc? Once you have identified the feeling(s) that are present, rate them on a scale from 1-10 or percentages. For example, you could say you felt 80% nervous/anxious while waiting for the text, 15% fearful about why they have not responded, and 5% frustrated because they have yet to respond in a timely fashion.
What are you thinking?
Now that you have addressed your feelings regarding the situation, it is time to address your thoughts. Ask yourself what is it about this situation that you are responding negatively to? What is the worst thing about this that could happen in this situation? Being left on “read” can produce many different thoughts. Some examples may be “they don’t want to talk to me,” “I’m a burden,” or “they want to end our friendship.” I’m sure we’ve all had variations of these thoughts at one time or another.
It is typically at this point that our thoughts and feelings run wild. We overthink and hyperfocus on every little detail leading us down a rabbit hole of emotions. The anxiety and frustration you felt earlier become more and more intensified to the point where you want to explode! These intense feelings lead to intense behaviors like lashing out, emotional outbursts, or extreme sadness (to name a few). But hang on, let’s back this up a bit. You have assembled your thoughts and feelings about the situation, but those are not concrete. Just like detectives, we have to examine the facts of the situation instead of our own assumptions. First, we look at the facts supporting our assumption. For example, if our unhelpful thought is “My friend thinks I’m a burden,” are there any facts that would deem this to be true? Unless the friend has explicitly stated that though, the chances are you have little to no hard evidence of that unhelpful thought.
Now here’s where the superpower comes into play. Just as we examined the facts supporting, we need to examine the thoughts that do not. If we use our previous example, some facts could be that the friend works a full-time job, often loses their phone, and has always expressed love and care in previous interactions, or could even have blatantly stated you are not a burden. See how many facts we have against versus supporting? This is how you read minds! When we examine the facts, we have a better understanding of the situation and can move forward with concrete evidence instead of assumptions and opinions.
Now that we have the facts, what’s next? We explore a more realistic perspective that uses concrete facts as the foundation instead of assumptions. A simple way to do this is by asking yourself, “What would I tell a friend in a similar situation?” You may say that your friend is just busy, but will reach out when available. This thought is much healthier than our original because it is based on the evidence of your friendship.
Now that you have a healthy thought in hand, the last thing to do is re-rate your feelings. Are you still just as anxious and frustrated as you were before? Are there new feelings that have come up instead like curious instead of fearful? Do these feelings feel intense and cause distress? Your answer is likely to be that your anxiety has lessened and the feelings are not as intense now that you examined the facts. While we may never be able to truly read someone’s mind, basing our thoughts and feelings on the facts is the next best thing and a superpower in my book!
If you would like to learn more coping mechanisms for shifting a negative mindset, give Tx Harmony Counseling a call at (832) 352-1600 or contact us here.