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Does challenging your thoughts ever cause to feel like you're lying to yourself?

Trixie

Well-Known Member
#1
Thought challenging? Thought stopping? I'm not even exactly sure what that particular "technique/coping skill" is called, but I've often had problems using it because the result is I feel like I'm lying to myself. There's also my tendency to feel terribly guilty when I can't make myself believe the alternative thought. For me it's the same as toxic positivity or using motivational quotes. Those are things that must be very specific and believable in order for me to get any benefit from them whatsoever, which is rarely the case. To be beneficial they can't invalidate what I'm actually feeling.

For example, take the thought, "It's too late for me to accomplish my career goals." Now, I could probably list more than a dozen valid reasons why I believe this to be true. Most people would quip, "No, it's never too late," or list any number of people who have succeeded later in life despite incredible challenges. The thing is, those people are the exception, not the rule. Statistically speaking, the number of people who are able to overcome challenges, secure the resources, find the motivation, and succeed is incredibly low in comparison to those who cannot. To believe otherwise, would be a lie. I mean, sure, I could keep telling myself that I will be one of those exceptions (and I did for the longest time); yet at the same time, I felt guilty and ashamed of myself every time an obstacle sent me back to square one or each time someone called my career aspirations a "hobby" rather than acknowledging the hard work and time I was actually putting into it.

One of the main reasons why I vehemently refuse to tell people any of my long-term or short-term goals is that I'm easily influenced by other people's negativity as much so as my own negativity. I'm highly sensitive in that way (in addition to so many other ways). It creates a cycle of confirmation bias when others reinforce the same negative thoughts I'm already having. Generally speaking, finding that balance between realistic expectations versus delusional thinking at either end of the spectrum is far more difficult than most make it out to be.

How do you make yourself believe an alternate thought? How do you know when a thought is realistic versus a cognitive distortion?
 

sinking_ship

woman overboard
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#2
Yeah, it's gonna feel like you're lying to yourself bc you've trained yourself so well to believe the negative stuff. My therapist always tells me brains are dumb, and will believe what you tell them. So if you've told yourself a bunch of negative stuff it feels like 'truth' and it takes a while of saying the positive stuff for THAT to feel like 'truth'.

As far as what's realistic versus a cognitive distortion, I think that maybe comes with practice questioning yourself. For my part I a lot of times have to step back and think about what I would tell *someone else*, bc I generally have way unrealistic expectations for myself compared to others.
 

Gonz

sick and tired of being sick and tired
#3
I have trouble with this as well. I did not arrive at my "negative beliefs" in a vacuum. I have evidence and experience to back them up.

So, in order to be effective, in order to not feel like a lie, any positive thoughts or beliefs I try to counter or replace them with must also be backed up by at least some evidence.

I am not unwilling to try (as I have been told by professionals in the past). I understand the ideas behind cbt, and have even found them to be effective in dealing with one particular issue I used to struggle with. But that was because, in that case, the positive beliefs I tried to insert in place of the previous negative beliefs were actually based on, like I said before, evidence and experience.

You can't just tell me "Hey, believe this instead of that" unless you can give me at least some crumb of a reason to believe it. Repetition isn't enough to make something that feels like a lie start to feel true.
 

Lara_C

Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
#4
Thought challenging? Thought stopping? I'm not even exactly sure what that particular "technique/coping skill" is called, but I've often had problems using it because the result is I feel like I'm lying to myself
How do you make yourself believe an alternate thought? How do you know when a thought is realistic versus a cognitive distortion?
I just let my thoughts be, accepting they are there and watching them come and go in a train. You can pay attention to each thought as it comes then goes, noticing it is nothing more than a thought, without getting carried away by the train . Just stay still as the watcher, let the thoughts go and don't grab hold of them. If they're accompanied by strong feelings, focus on them as pure sensations and they too will fade into nothingness. You'll notice a new thought arises as the old one vanishes. If you just observe this process you will notice there are tiny gaps between every thought which become longer as you focus on them, and that you are still present in the thought free gaps. There is an other aspect of us which is distinct from the thoughts which come and go before us, which we've rarely paid attention to before. It's just being ourselves free of any disturbing negative thought, and free of all thoughts. You don't need to try to force yourself to believe positive things about yourself instead of negative ones, you only need to find and be yourself.

I think people who succeed in their goals despite all the challenges they face are those who have found their way out of the self repeating cycle of self and life sabotaging thoughts . When we let them go instead of holding on to them and being carried away by them from ourselves as the quiet, still, ever present witness of all the activity in our minds, there is no need to force ourselves to think positively .
 
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#5
This is such an interesting thread, I find cbt doesn’t work at all for me. My therapist told me to fake it till you make it, but realistically if you believe something and have all the evidence then you are never to change your mind. I had some homework the other week asking me to challenge my negative view of myself. I was asked to write evidence that proves and disproves my thoughts. It took me 4 days to force myself to write what I knew I was supposed to write because I found the whole process so triggering and painful.
Mindfulness may be the way to go to accept, note and try to ignore the thoughts but when they are so deep rooted I really struggle to see a way through. Take care and good luck. Xx
 

Trixie

Well-Known Member
#6
The mindfulness approach feels far more beneficial to me than the thought challenging approach. It feels more natural and helpful to me to simply watch my thoughts like Lara_C described. I use a river analogy or sometimes bubbles. As a child I developed that ability to simply go with the flow naturally in that way. I'm not really sure how I came to that ability because it certainly wasn't taught to me and definitely wasn't part of my religious upbringing. As an adult, though, there seemed to be so much interference from other people that I began second-guessing how I perceived my thoughts. As a kid I didn't really perceive my thoughts as either negative or positive. They were just thoughts, random stuff that popped into my head at random moments.

Somewhere along the way, though, everyone jumped onto this bandwagon of labeling their thoughts either positive or negative, which feels like a cognitive distortion in and of itself because nothing is that black or white, right? Maybe that's why I'm finding this technique so difficult because somehow you first have to be able to identify what is "negativity" before you can even challenge it.
 

sinking_ship

woman overboard
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SF Supporter
#7
Maybe that's why I'm finding this technique so difficult because somehow you first have to be able to identify what is "negativity" before you can even challenge it.
It's not about challenging negativity, it's about challenging things that are cognitive distortions. Like it's just as unrealistic to think "I'm going to be perfect at everything!" as it is to think "I'm going to fail at everything!", so both of those should be challenged, really. But, uh, I think most of us here are more prone to the latter, haha.

I think the mindfulness approach is a good one for the reasons you state though, thoughts don't necessarily have to *mean* anything, they just are.
 

Nick

☆☆Still Ducking Fantastic ☆☆
Safety & Support
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#8
I'm very much with @Gonz on this. CBT only works for me insofar as I can actually believe the things I'm reframing. If I truly believe it's utter bullshit, and I've got years of background to back me up, CBT isn't all that helpful. Much of my reframing goes something like ...
I'm a piece of shit
Walker doesn't think I'm a piece of shit
NOW ... technically that's not reframing, but I do truly believe that second statement. I also don't believe it's Walker's job to convince me I'm not a piece of shit. While I'm unable to fully fathom why he doesn't see me this way, he doesn't. It's all a work in progress.

This of course was a simple example, at Walker's expense, but I think you get the point here. There are things my brain says that I can truly reframe into something else, because it is utter bullshit my head is throwing out. I'm not really sure what the answer is here, but I'm not much into lying to myself.
 

sinking_ship

woman overboard
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#9
I'm a piece of shit
Walker doesn't think I'm a piece of shit
NOW ... technically that's not reframing, but I do truly believe that second statement. I also don't believe it's Walker's job to convince me I'm not a piece of shit. While I'm unable to fully fathom why he doesn't see me this way, he doesn't. It's all a work in progress.
That's one of my go-tos too. Once my therapist had me write 2 lists, one reasons why I am a piece of shit, and another reasons why I'm not. You can imagine which one was longer :D
 

sinking_ship

woman overboard
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SF Supporter
#10
But yeah, this is why CBT was much better for anxiety for me than for depression. It's a lot easier to argue against things like 'my boss must be mad at me', versus 'I'm a selfish piece of shit'.
 

neutralbuoyancy

stuck in place yet again
#11
im just going to answer, yes i have, i told myself its not my fault but was speaking of getting urself do something me being a idiot experimented with voices and half successfully created a voice in head well more or less i can have two different thoughts spoken in my head at the same time
 

extraterrestrialone

hi, guess who... its me...
SF Supporter
#12
Thought challenging? Thought stopping? I'm not even exactly sure what that particular "technique/coping skill" is called, but I've often had problems using it because the result is I feel like I'm lying to myself. There's also my tendency to feel terribly guilty when I can't make myself believe the alternative thought. For me it's the same as toxic positivity or using motivational quotes. Those are things that must be very specific and believable in order for me to get any benefit from them whatsoever, which is rarely the case. To be beneficial they can't invalidate what I'm actually feeling.
Hi Trixie,
figuring out the difference between truth and nontruth for me has been a challenge all my life. i think that this might be because i’ve never known either with certainty. i think a person establishes a truth somewhere along the line in life as she matures and that it is not necessarily a universal truth but that person’s own specific truth. or things come along to challenge that possible truth or dispute it or whatever. then the person can operate on rejection of that thing or being swayed by it or whatever. in my own experience i think i had a truth that i also found unacceptable so i hid it away but i never could completely kill it. it then came back in the only way it could in the form of self harm. for most of my life i tried to fight it off but i was unsuccessful. fortunately i was unsuccessful in hiding the real me from me. just recently i have become able to pin down my truth.

i’ve started attempting to do something that is in one way a coping skill. it is also what i believe is positive affirmations and then also could be considered brainwashing. but there seems to be this feature of not knowing if it is truth or lie. i think that is because it is really neither - in my case anyway - and maybe for others. having never known for sure what my truths were, how would i know for sure if something in particular now is a truth or not?

so now for me, it is a matter of preference if nothing else. what i am choosing also seems right, or surely not wrong. parts of me say yes this is the truth but those parts of me seemed to have hurt me in the past. then i consider that the only reason for the hurt was to alert me that i had been ignoring my truths. and the part of me that is inclined to reject the possible truth has to agree that it may really be my real truth, so i’m left having to decide what to do and for me going the way of the stuff hidden in the past seems right and true to me so thus, positive affirmations to strengthen what i want to become my strength. like i said this could be thought of as brainwashing and i may be but it is actually just strengthening something good that just does not have enough strength. that is not a lie, it is just giving power to what is real but undeveloped.

and it is a good thing. it does not hurt anyone and it makes me feel i’m being true to myself. so in a sense i have chosen to define my own truth. or at the very least to affirm my truth. but ultimately it is a matter of allowing acceptance and letting that be the truth i want to live with when otherwise confusion reigns and i would not know what to do. i think a person has to define or recognize what is good inside and do what it takes to help that to flourish. if one can find nothing then selecting good options by observing others could be helpful.

i hope this did not just sound like rambling. it is to me a pretty difficult concept to latch onto. maybe that is why it took me so long in my life to reach it. if i’ve been confusing please feel free to ask anything about it and i’ll try to explain better. most important is that i do think there is a way to pin down truth and separate it from non truth. and some of that may simply be to make a decision - an educated decision.
 

Lekatt

Love Cats Love All
SF Supporter
#13
A few thoughts. I look upon the brain as a computer. I know we can and do exist without one. We are not just bodies, but something much more. So the principle with computers is "garbage in, garbage out." If you fill your brain with negative thoughts, then that's what you get out of it. Be a programmer and be careful to put positive thoughts in so you can get positive thoughts out. It is not a matter of truth or lies, it is a matter of building a better outcome in life for yourself, and you are worth it. Love and good programming.
 

Jolene

Well-Known Member
#14
My therapist told me that my emotional and rational brain use to fight. It's not the case now, but like two years ago I was convinced that soemthing almost impossible (and really bad) was happening. My rational brain listed the reasons to know that it wasn't happenng, I knew that, but the emotional brain was like "forget that, of course it's happening, don't deny it to yourself or it will be worse, all your arguments are lies". Of course it wasn't happening, my rational brain was right, was pretty obvious, but the emotional one rules.
It keeps happening but this time my worst fears become true and even in a worse way than my worst nightmares, so the rational brain, even if sees some "cracks" there, can't do much. The illusion some people is projecting about something, even if there are lieas benath and my rational brain kinda knows, is stronger and the facts are the facts, so this time it's all work for the emotional brain. The rational one can only control my behaviour. That's why my therapist thinks I'm really better, because I'm not acting as a desperate person in my situation would, but that's because the rational brain tells me "it's useless, you can't control your feelings but you can control your actions" so I remain "quiet" and giving the "rational" speech about certain situations, but the emotional brain is suffering because the pain is huge and all inside me is about that. The only thing the emotional brain can make for me is prevent me for making the situation worse myself (it keeps getting worse but I'm "outside", I'm not doing anything about it).
 

Nick

☆☆Still Ducking Fantastic ☆☆
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#15
That's one of my go-tos too. Once my therapist had me write 2 lists, one reasons why I am a piece of shit, and another reasons why I'm not. You can imagine which one was longer :D
I completely missed this reply. I think my alerts get lost in my head. I've made this lists before, they aren't helpful. It's better for me to make a list of only the reasons why I'm not and try to focus on those. My brain doesn't work that way. It's a crap shoot.
 

Walker

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#16
I can't do any of this crap myself. I definitely feel like I'm lying. I know that I'm a dumbass compared to the people I'm around. Am I a dumbass compared to the universe at large? IDK but you know, bottom half at least. But either way, if you're stupid compared to the people you're in contact with then you're stupid.
You're a fat fuck. It's right there on a chart. You can't buy clothes that don't come from the tent factory. You're fucking fat. Why "reframe" that into something better?
You're unmotivated. You're lazy. You're pointless. Why lie about things that are true? It's like telling your kids "yes, put all your eggs in the basket of being a pro footballer." instead of telling them "aim for that but get good grades in case that doesn't work out". Useless.
 

Gonz

sick and tired of being sick and tired
#17
It's not about challenging negativity, it's about challenging things that are cognitive distortions.
This is precisely why I have such a problem with CBT as the "go-to" technique for most therapists. It assumes right off the bat that any issues the client is presenting with are "cognitive distortions" when a lot of us are looking for coping techniques for stuff that frequently happens, rather for stuff we think is happening. And has no contingencies in place for when the client's issues are not based on distorted thinking. It is likely extremely useful for certain specific issues (I applied it's ideas and concepts to my social anxiety to the point where I no longer have social anxiety, for example, or at least no more than the average person's normal level of awkwardness). But having it as the first-step for just about any issue, as seems to be the case, is a mistake.
 

sinking_ship

woman overboard
Forum Pro
SF Supporter
#18
This is precisely why I have such a problem with CBT as the "go-to" technique for most therapists. It assumes right off the bat that any issues the client is presenting with are "cognitive distortions" when a lot of us are looking for coping techniques for stuff that frequently happens, rather for stuff we think is happening. And has no contingencies in place for when the client's issues are not based on distorted thinking. It is likely extremely useful for certain specific issues (I applied it's ideas and concepts to my social anxiety to the point where I no longer have social anxiety, for example, or at least no more than the average person's normal level of awkwardness). But having it as the first-step for just about any issue, as seems to be the case, is a mistake.
Oh totally agree. I think some of the ideas are useful for depression stuff, like black or white thinking is usually a bad thing to avoid. But if I have 36 years of evidence for a certain thing it's probably much more effective to come up with strategies to avoid it rather than spend the next 36 trying to convince myself of the opposite.
 

Aurelia

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#19
The problem is that you're telling yourself things you don't truly believe. It's not your thoughts that you should be fighting. It's your core beliefs. Those are what's stopping you. Your thoughts are based on those. And you can't tell yourself things you don't truly believe. Be rational and logical about it. Say it in a way that you can agree with. Avoid black and white thinking, words such as never and always. Those are usually false. And most importantly, think about what your core negative beliefs are and challenge them with logic.
 

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