13 Ways to Enjoy Misery

The self-perpetuating cycle of misery.

This article appeared in the Australian Signs of the Times. Author unknown.

We're too hung up. It's a fact. And being so will affect your relationships, your performance and, eventually, your health.

How do you get to be that way and who's to blame?

Too often, unfortunately, we bring it upon our­selves. In a self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling cycle, we nurture the very substance of a poor self-concept with its resultant low self-esteem. This, in turn, reinforces itself by our thinking the worst of ourselves.

While our society's brutal demand for the "per­fect 10" doesn't help us to think anything else of ourselves anyway, we still do, too often, perceive ourselves as being in worse shape than we really are. And while we can't do a whole lot to change what others might think or say of us, we can work on what we think and feel about ourselves. If we think positively, our outlook will improve.

Where do we start? The first step is to identify the negative ways in which we think of ourselves and begin to avoid them. Like someone once said, "Know your enemy."

What follows are 13 common cognitive distor­tions or false self-concepts, adapted from the re­search of Patrick White, that people on themselves.

1.      Filtering. You take the negative details of a situation and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects.

2.      Over-generalization. You come to a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you ex­pect it to happen over and over again.

3.      Mind reading. Without their saying so, you know what people are thinking, feeling, or what they will do. You know especially well how they are feel­ing toward you.

4.      Catastrophizing and awfulizing. You actually expect disaster and, often, you're not disappointed.

5.      Blaming. You hold others responsible for your pain, or take the other direction and blame yourself for every misfortune or reversal. 

6.      Control fallacies. If you feel externally controlled, you see yourself as helpless, a victim of fate.

7.      Personalization. You think that everything people say or do is some kind of reaction—to you.

8.      Shoulds/musts/have-tos. You have internalized a list of ironclad rules about how you and others should act. People who break these rules anger you, and you feel guilty if you violate the rules yourself.

9.      Emotional reasoning. You believe that what you feel must be true—automatically. If you feel stupid or boring, then you must be thus.

10.    Heaven's reward. You expect all your sacrifice and self-denial to pay off, as if there's someone keeping score. You feel bitter, resentful, and cheated when the reward doesn't materialize.

11.    Being right. You are continually on trial to prove that your opinions or actions are correct. Being wrong is unthinkable, and you will go to any length to demonstrate your rightness.

12.    Fallacy of fairness. You feel resentful because you think you know what's fair, but other people never agree with you.

13.    Polarized thinking. Things are "black and white," "good or bad." You have to be perfect or you're a complete failure. There's never any middle ground, and it's all your fault.