Stress-vulnerable patterns include the following:
1. Mistaking feelings for facts. I did not make the sale and I feel rejected and, therefore, I am a failure. I am not worth anything.
2. Black-and-white reasoning. I either succeed or I fail. Anything less than doing it completely right means that I have fallen short of doing it right.
3. Emphasizing negative events. Telling myself that only what I have not accomplished is the true measure of my worth and value. My successes either don’t really count for anything, or I believe that I was just “lucky” when I succeeded.
4. Obsessing over painful events. Dwelling on an experience from a painful vantage point that causes me shame and embarrassment. I try to make a sale, and someone throws me out and calls me an idiot. I keep going over it again and again, each time feeling as if I am actually an idiot.
5. Worshipping the “should” god. I should never feel bad, insecure, lonely, frightened or inadequate. I should always say the right thing. I should never be late. I should always be a great conversationalist. I should be more like the person on TV, in the movie, in the song, in the book, etc.
6. Inflate and exaggerate the negative. Because the publisher did not like the first chapter of the book, it is not worth writing. Because you were late for the meeting, I do not want to work with you. Because I feel anxious and depressed today, something must be very wrong with me.
7. Here comes the judge. I am a failure, instead of, I failed to keep that sales account. I lost my marriage because I was bad, instead of, sometimes I was not the greatest husband or wife.
Through self-observation, we can become aware of how we get trapped into these stress-promoting patterns. This can serve as a foundation for insight and change. Stress hardiness is a goal worth striving for, and with the right tools and knowledge, it’s easy to achieve. Stress hardiness improves quality of life on all levels.
Dr. Jim Manganiello is a clinical psychologist and diplomate-level medical psychotherapist based in Groveland and West Boxford. He is also an author and teacher focusing on stress, personal growth, meditation and “inner fitness.” His book “Unshakable Certainty” is available on Amazon. Email him at email@example.com or visit www.drjimmanganiello.com.