We are pleased to bring you this regular column by Dr. David Creel, a licensed psychologist, certified clinical exercise physiologist and registered dietitian. He is also credentialed as a certified diabetes educator and the author of A Size That Fits: Lose Weight and Keep it off, One Thought at a Time (NorLightsPress, 2017).
Do you have a weight loss question for Dr. Creel? Email him at [email protected]. He may answer your question in a future column.
Some people find it difficult to dispute their own thoughts. If you’ve spent years believing something and feeling a certain way about it, changing your viewpoint is tough. These may be things you learned in childhood and never questioned.
Several strategies can help adjust your perspective. One of the most effective ways to deal with stinkin’ thinkin’ is asking, “What would I tell a close friend who has dysfunctional thoughts about this exact situation?”
Imagine your friend, a single mom, calls you and says, with a note of hysteria in her voice: “I just got laid off at work. I won’t be able to feed my kids. We’ll be homeless and my kids will never forgive me for putting them through this. I’m such a loser! If I’d finished college, I’d have a better job and none of this would be happening.”
With those thoughts, no wonder she’s upset. As a good friend you would be a voice of reason, helping her calm down and see things differently so she can begin problem solving. After expressing your sympathy, you might start by asking if she has any savings or family members who can help. You might have suggestions for finding another job right away. Plus, what evidence does she have that her kids will be traumatized? You might gently point out that the kids are influenced by her reactions. You would certainly remind her that she isn’t a loser —hasn’t she always provided for her children and found a way when times were tough? In short, you would show your friend a different perspective, talking her down with a combination of affection, calmness, and logic.
Your friend’s emotional reaction to losing her job probably stems from thoughts and beliefs about herself, such as: “I’m a failure. I can’t control what happens to me and I can’t deal with challenges.” You would never say those things to her, but she says them to herself.
Have you noticed we sometimes show kindness to our friends while being cruel to ourselves? You wouldn’t tell a friend, “Yes, you’re a big loser for not finishing school and losing your job. You’re going to be homeless and get what you deserve.”
Hopefully, you also wouldn’t give your friend superficial feedback, like “Stop worrying. Things will work out for the best.” Instead, you would dig into her concerns to help her balance logic and emotion so she could stop worrying so much and find a solution to her solvable problems.
When you’re trying to dispute your thoughts and beliefs, I challenge you do so as if you were speaking to your best friend. Acknowledge negative thoughts, but also look for a functional perspective that will help you calm your nerves and feel hopeful. See yourself as your own best friend. Disarm negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself by providing facts to the contrary. Accept your imperfections, speak to yourself respectfully, and lift yourself up as you work on making better decisions in the future.