In this series, we are taking a look at some of the most common ways our thoughts can become distorted, causing us to feel depressed, bad about ourselves, negative or hopeless. In this final installment, we will take a look at Filtering.
Filtering occurs when you “filter” out the positives about a person or situation, and focus instead on only the negative details.In your eyes, the negative aspects of a person, situation, or yourself outweigh the positives, or you may not even notice the positives anymore!
Jamie has always had trouble accepting compliments. When people tell her that she did a good job, or that she looks pretty, or thank her for going out of her way to help them, she brushes it off as them just feeling obligated to be nice to her. She is overly critical of what she views as her many flaws, both physically and in her personality- telling herself that she needs to lose weight, stop being so selfish, and work harder at her job. She feels bad about herself most of the time, and devotes almost all of her free time and energy to “improving” the areas of her life she views as broken. Even though she is constantly working, she sees herself falling short of her high expectations for herself and never quite reaching her goals.
Jamie is an example of the toll filtering can take on self-esteem and the ability to love yourself. She isn’t able to maintain a balanced view of herself, focusing only on the negatives and ignoring the positive things that others see about her or dismissing them as “flukes”. She is not able to recognize progress for herself, instead denigrating herself for not having reached her ultimate goals.
Filtering can also occur when interacting with others- seeing them as “all bad”- or in a situation. If you catch yourself dwelling only on negatives or percieved flaws, you may be falling prey to filtering. Try giving yourself credit for the things that others notice as positives, or looking for the positives on your own. Explore what seems to make the negatives more prominant or important- why don’t your positives count as weightily as the negatives?
In this series, we’ve looked at only a few examples of the types of distortions our thoughts can fall into – there are many, and not everyone experiences these the same way.
The good news is, no matter how your thoughts might be distorting themselves, there are ways you can start to think in a more rational and healthy way. You can start the process yourself, you can ask your loved ones to help you, and you can always seek guidance from a licensed professional. Calmer, more rational and balanced thinking is within reach!
Molly Halbrooks, LAMFT
mhalbrooks @ growcounseling.com