Do you know how to identify toxic thoughts? There are certain thoughts whose main utility is to make us feel bad. Whether for their content, the way in which they are raised or the consequences they have, some thoughts are better to keep them away from us to continue our daily functioning without any problem.
However, not only people with a clinically significant problem have toxic thoughts. They also appear in people who do not have any psychological condition. These sometimes hinder our day to day attacking our self-concept, self-esteem, our feelings of self-efficacy or the perception of our own worth.
Therefore, and even if they do not make up the roughness of our thinking, it is important to know how to identify these thoughts to ensure a good performance of our social, psychological, work and family activity. Here are some keys to recognize them.
What is a toxic thought?
In psychology, toxic thoughts are identified as irrational thoughts. In fact, great therapeutic tools, such as cognitive restructuring or rational emotional therapy, deal with irrational thoughts as a way of working with anxiety, depression, or any disorder with cognitive elements – they are practically all.
The treatment of irrational or toxic thoughts is of utmost importance for the advancement in therapy and the achievement of objectives. Many times it is these who are not only keeping the bars of our cell, but they are also the ones who have locked us in it.
Characteristics of toxic thoughts: know to identify
Toxic or irrational thoughts are characterized by a series of aspects that involve the opposite in rational and healthy thoughts. To know how to identify them, it is important to put that thought on the table and mark their characteristics. If most of them refer to the following, we are facing irrational thinking.
The intensity of the emotional response
Usually, the approach to irrational thoughts results in an emotional response that is too intense. It is not that a thought reminds us of something, elicits a certain nostalgia for the holidays or allows us to have an internal dialogue. They are thoughts that provoke an emotional response that is too intense that can lead to very negative consequences.
Thus, following toxic thoughts, we do not feel fear, but an excessive terror; we do not feel nostalgia, but a lush and deep sadness; We don’t feel angry either, but uncontrolled anger. This does not mean that thought cannot lead us to feel fear or anger, but the intensity of that response is excessive.
Toxic thoughts not based on evidence
Another characteristic of irrational thoughts is related to the veracity of what they say. Nothing happens to think of something that can make us very angry or sad, as long as the content of that thought is real.
The memory of the death of a relative, the thought that something that we do not like has to be done, the recapitulation of mistakes made on a stage … If those events have already happened and are palpable, we will not talk about toxic thinking.
However, some of them are not based on evidence, that is, they deal with things that have not been confirmed, that may not occur or through arbitrary inferences.
For example, a teenager may have a toxic thought of the type: “I have been the cause of my parents divorcing” and feel guilt that drowns her.
As we can see, that thought is nothing more than a covariation bias, since its behavior may not be related to the divorce of its parents, and it also has no evidence that it was the cause. This would be a toxic thought.
Another example can be found in a woman who thinks: “the boss seems angry, and it sure is because of the bad presentation I made yesterday.” Although this may be true, and in fact the boss is not too proud of her performance, this is a toxic thought because it is not based on evidence either.
Maybe the boss has argued with her partner, has slept badly … However, that thought that is not even confirmed is going to be causing fear in the woman even without knowing if what happens to her boss has something to do with her.
Absolute approaches: the construction of thought
To know how to identify toxic thoughts, one must also look at how, grammatically, they are written. Although this does not seem relevant a priori, the big difference between an irrational thought and a rational thought lies in the use of absolutes.
Thus, it is not the same to say: “I always suspend all my exams”; to say: “I have suspended this exam.” In the first thought, the toxic, which uses the adverb “always”, take for granted things that do not have to be real, just for using that adverb.
The boy who has suspended the exam is useless because he always suspends everything, has never passed anything. That is not true, because suspending an exam or five is not equivalent to always suspending. The use of absolutes facilitates the appearance of that emotional response so intense and negative.
Other examples of absolutes in toxic thoughts are: “I never do anything right,” “I will always be unhappy,” “I will never get a job.”
Customization in irrational thoughts
Another characteristic that can help us identify toxic thoughts is the fusion between what one does and what it is. Toxic thoughts identify the results of an action, a project, a training, a workday, a conversation … with the value of oneself.
Thus, if a girl loses a game of tennis, she may think “I am useless.” She is useless for losing the match when she has simply lost a match. It has nothing to do with your ability or worth as a person.
In another example, a father may have an argument with his son, and think “I am a bad father.” That does not have to be that way since an argument with a son does not prove the worth of a man as a father.
You should in toxic thoughts
Finally, many of the toxic and irrational thoughts we usually have a deal with self-imposed demands, that is, what we think we need to be happy. This group of thoughts makes up the should.
For example, thoughts raised in these terms could be: “I have to be happy when I am with my partner”, “I should try harder at work to be happy”, “I have to have everything under control”, “I must always be available to my children », etc.
Although of course there are obligations under which you can use the should (“I must finish this work for Monday because it is the day of delivery”), many of them deal with what we need to be happy, to achieve happiness, and many of those you should do are homework because we want it that way.
Therefore, it is important to differentiate between those who should really be a palpable duty, and what we impose on the road seeking happiness. Stripping the thoughts of verbs like “have,” “must,” “have,” can be a great little movement to stop imposing things we don’t know if we will be able to accomplish, and that we really don’t even have to do.
Conclusions: the Cartesian doubt in toxicity
Toxic thoughts are not simply thoughts that make us feel bad because they are. In fact, they have a morphology and specific characteristics that make working with them in therapy interesting and possible. Also, these characteristics can help us differentiate between toxic thoughts and thoughts with normal negative emotional charges, and act accordingly.
One does not have to trust what irrational thoughts tell him, and even if they continue to come to our head, it is useful to inspect them well – especially in situations of discomfort – before believing them and acting accordingly.