If you already read Part 1, you learned about 3 different types of faulty thinking and different ways your ADHD may be related to these thought patterns.
In this continuation of the series we’ll look at the hypothetical case of Amir’s negative thinking traps, as well as methods he can use to address his faulty thinking. As you read about Amir, consider whether you have similar thought patterns.
And hopefully, as you become curious about how your thinking about events and situations in your own life can lead you down one path or another, you will choose to manage these thoughts with one or more the suggestions below.
Check out Amir’s thinking, first.
When you overgeneralize you decide one bad event or situation will be repeated throughout your life. As an adult with ADHD you may be thinking, but “it” does keep happening!!”
If that is what you are thinking about a current situation in your life while you read this, it could be you keep doing things the same old way. So you keep getting the same old results. If that is the case, you may not be overgeneralizing. But with support you can figure out what keeps you in this stuck place, and get the help you need to move forward.
However, when Amir decides he is a loser because he will be late delivering the project to Lara, he is overgeneralizing. He forgot about all the times his family came to him in times of emergencies. In fact, he is the go to person in times of crisis for the extended family. They trust him to know what to do.
And, while he has a difficult time getting projects in on time, he often does meet deadlines. So, he can be trusted in his work life, as well. Sure he could also improve in this area, if he wanted to work on this.
But, in the mean time, one way he could address his overgeneralization is to use Byron Katie’s Work process.
The four questions are ones Amir can use to explore the truth of his thoughts.
1. Is it true that I am loser? – “Yes”
2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true? – “Ok, I guess not… “
Q: What does it mean to be a loser?
A: I can’t be trusted and I never get anything in on time.
Q: Is it true that I can never be trusted and I never get anything in on time?
A: Well, I guess I am trusted by family in crisis situations. And I guess I do often get things in on time….
3. How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? “I am anxious and scared.”
4. Who would I be without the thought? “I wouldn’t be so anxious, and I would feel like I could fix this and it wouldn’t ruin my career.”
A turnaround is a statement that could also be true and is the opposite of what Amir originally believed.
1. I am not a loser.
2. I do deliver on time.
3. I can be trusted.
Amir was able to start to let go of his view of himself as a loser after going through this process.
Where might you be overgeneralizing in your life? Try the Work process and see how your thoughts change.
Yet, some people may question their thoughts and still conclude that how they feel is a fact. This is what is happening when you are engaging in Emotional Reasoning. You decide your feelings are evidence of reality.
So, for example, if you feel helpless and pathetic, you might decide it must be a fact that, “I am pathetic and helpless!” And your feelings and thoughts become a mutually reinforcing cycle.
In the case of Amir, if he allows his feelings to guide his actions, he may not address his challenge of getting his work in on time. After all, losers just can’t get their work in on time so why even try, right? Kind of like trying to plug holes in a leaky bucket!
If he has not yet learned how to address his executive function challenges, such as planning and estimating time, his Emotional Reasoning may be in part a reflection of his history of untreated ADHD.
Amir could take the following steps to address his thoughts of himself as a loser:
1. Relable the messages – “I definitely goofed. But that doesn’t make me a loser, just human…
2. Reframe the situation – “I’ll need to clean this up and make it right with Lara. And I also need to get some help so I can get better at delivering projects on time.”
3. Refocus his energy – “I need to get in touch with Lara and renegotiate the deadline. I also have to pay attention to my other work right now.”
4. Revalue these feelings for what they are – “I feel like a loser now… But it’s not who I am, and I’m not quitting my business because of this.”
Try this process with one of your thoughts right now.
The sky is falling… When you catastrophize, also called magnifying, you think things are much worse than they really are.
When Amir knew he was going to be late delivering the project he started thinking,
“Lara is going to tell everyone how irresponsible I am. Then no one will want to hire me ever! Ok, maybe I’ll get a job, but not one I like. And I’ll never be able to pay the bills!
Can you think of a situation when you have followed a similar bunny trail? And what happened when you did this?
Like his other faulty thoughts, catastrophizing kept Amir from focusing on his work. But, as in the case of overgeneralizing, Amir’s thoughts are not based in reality.
It will take work for Amir to address these automatic thoughts, and one way he can do this is to use a Thought Record (Click on the link for a full explanation of each prompt).
1. Situation / Trigger – Amir realizes he will be late delivering the project to his client.
2. Feelings – “I am anxious and scared.”
3. Unhelpful initial thought – “I am a loser and can’t be trusted.”
4. Facts that support unhelpful thought – “I’m late delivering a project for a new client! Who would do that!”
5. Facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thoughts – “Well, I often delivered projects on time and my family always trust me to help them in emergency situations.”
6. Alternative, more realistic and balanced perspective – “I didn’t plan very well and need to get better at that. Right now I need to tell Lara I’m going to be late and see what I can do to make it right. She might be mad, but I can handle that. It is not the end of the world, for sure!”
7. Outcome rerate emotion – “I feel like I can handle this, and I don’t have to keep repeating this mistake.”
Try the Thought Record this week when you become aware of your negative thoughts.
Jumping To Conclusions
Another way you may become ensnared in a negative thinking trap is by jumping to conclusions not supported by facts. Mindreading and Crystal Ball Thinking are two ways you might reach unsubstantiated conclusions.
Amir was engaging in Mindreading when when he thought he knew how Lara was going to react before he even talked to her! And he was using Crystal Ball Thinking when he concluded that Lara will tell everyone how irresponsible he is, and then he will never get another contract… anywhere.
When is a time you have jumped to false conclusions?
Again, Amir could use Byron Katie’s Work process to check the validity of his thoughts about what will happen when he is late delivering the project to Lara.
1. Is it true Lara will tell everyone how irresponsible I am, and I will never get another contract… anywhere? “Yes, of course!”
2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true? Well, no, I’m not really sure…”
3. How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? “I’m anxious and scared, and have a hard time working …”
4. Who would I be without the thought? “A lot calmer!”
1. I don’t trust myself.
3. She might actually trust me to do good work.
4. She isn’t the kind of person to spread rumours.
Try this strategy with one your own thoughts.
Should statements, rules you have about how you and others must behave, are a particularly insidious type of negative thinking for adults with ADHD.
Consider the following examples from Amir:
- “People should never be late delivering work.”
- “People should not be trusted if they are late delivering work.”
- “People must always follow through on what they promise if they want to stay in business.”
- “To be considered a professional you must not make mistakes.”
When Amir directed these statements at himself he felt guilty and frustrated because he was not living up to his own rules.
And when he directed them at others he became angry, frustrates and resentful! Because, well, they are just as fallible (a.k.a. human) as he is, and also could not live up to these rules.
What should statements do you have? How do you feel and behave when you direct these statements at yourself or others?
Even though your own rules are not helpful you may use should statements because you think they will motivate you. But they probably just leave you feeling rebellious… and you may end up doing the opposite.
Amir ended up shutting down, right? Maybe you do the same.
Consider how Amir might feel and behave if he replaced these thoughts with:
- Stuff happens, and I will miss deadlines sometimes.
- I will create deadlines with the information I have at the time, and will do my best to give a trustworthy estimate.
- There will be good reasons to change course, including timetables, in my business. It is not a good practice to always follow though.
- To excel in business I need to stretch or I will stagnate. This means I will make mistakes.
Give it a try. Turn around your own should statements.
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
You distorted thinking will hold you back from working effectively with your ADHD. The good news is there are many strategies you can use to avoid these negative thinking traps.
Which strategy are you going to try today?