Unhelpful thought patterns are ways of thinking that do not serve us well. They don’t make us happy and they don’t give us good results in our life. One of the most common unhelpful thought patterns, is a critical inner voice. Almost all of us will have picked up one, or more, of these types of thought patterns, during our life journey. They are often similar to the thought patterns of influential people in our lives when we were children. And although they do not serve us well, these thoughts seem very real.
According to Owen O’Kane (10 to Zen) there are 6 main types of critical inner voice. See the list below.
Note we probably don’t use these thought patterns all of the time. There will be things that trigger them for us. For example, when the children fight, we may find ourselves saying, “They always fight, I can’t cope! (drama queen). Or when we look in the mirror and say to ourselves “I hate my nose. It is so ugly!” (The terminator).
If we recognize that we use any of these patterns, we can start to work on changing them. The first step to changing them would be to ask ourselves, “would I talk to my best friend like this?”. Remember to always, always, do this with kindness towards ourselves however.
If we have this thought pattern going on, then everything will be super bad. Dramatic, catastrophic thinking. Examples: Everything is a complete disaster! It’s all going to go wrong! I can’t cope. It’s all too much! It’s all ruined! And so on.
Merciless is the only description for this thought pattern. It is cruel and harsh. We condemn ourselves. Examples: I am stupid, I am useless, I am worthless, I am disgusting, a loser, a failure, ugly, bad, dirty, etc.
The rubbish collector
This pattern will tell us that nothing good happens to us and we don’t deserve anything good in our life. It tells us to focus on the negative stuff. Examples: It will never work out! Don’t waste your time! Yes I know but……! Good things never happen to me! I am always unlucky! If something bad is going to happen it will happen to me!
The Judge and jury
This thought pattern is judgmental, critical thinking and self-blame. It gives us evidence of everything we have done wrong. Examples: You should have known better! How could you do this?! I knew this would happen. You are useless, pathetic and weak! You never get it right! What is wrong with you!
The military General
Should and must are a priority with this pattern of thinking. Lots of rules about how we should behave to prove ourselves worthy, lovable and likeable. Examples: You must please people or they will reject you. You should be a good person. You should think of others first. You must not fail. You must be successful. You should not expect too much.
With this thought pattern conclusions are reached quickly and one plus one equals 23. Examples: The “look” from the boyfriend means he is going to end it. the expression on the managers face means he thinks you are hopeless at your job. That person ignored you and you immediately think it must “mean” something. You have the feeling something bad is going to happen etc.
Written by Lynda Timperley BTCH, Dip psych, cert Life Coaching.
Member ANZCAL (Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance).
Acknowledgment. Owen O’Kane in his book 10 to Zen.