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Pollyanna, Depressive, Anxious, Victim, and Realistic Thinking

The Problem: There is not enough money to pay the mortgage this month because my hours at work have been cut.

  • Pollyanna Thinking“There is no problem. Everything is just fine.”

  • Anxious Thinking – “My family and I will soon be on the street, homeless, and all freeze to death.”

  • Depressive Thinking – “This is completely hopeless. I am a failure. I am worthless.”

  • Victim Thinking – “Those bastards cut my hours just to ruin my life!”

  • Realistic Thinking“This is a problem I must face and try to solve. Let’s look at my options and see which one might help solve my problem. If I don’t know how to solve this problem, I can seek help.”

Pollyanna thinking denies ANYTHING is a problem. Depressive, Anxious, and Victim thinkingPollyanna thinkers deny problems. add self-created problems on top of legitimate ones.  Realistic thinking accepts that there is a problem, but does not add unnecessary “stinking thinking” to muddle the situation and make it more difficult to deal with the problem at hand. 

Pollyanna thinkers deny any problems exist, so they pile up until they become a crisis (as when the bank arrives at your door and evicts you!). Pollyanna thinking is NOT positive thinking; it is denial of reality. Pollyanna thinking is the opposite of self-care (“the courage to change the things I can”), but instead it is an extreme form of passivity and avoidance.

Anxious thinking is caused by catastrophic thinking patterns – always expecting the worst Anxious thinkers add catastrophe to every problem.possible outcome – usually learned in childhood while growing up in a chaotic or traumatic environment. The catastrophe “tape” fills the mind with scary images and thoughts making it significantly more difficult to focus on the problem at hand. Thus, instead of directly dealing with the shortage of funds for the mortgage, anxious thinkers must also contend with the “megaphone” in their brain that blares “disaster, calamity, danger!” As a consequence, anxious thinkers turn one stressful situation (a shortage of money for the mortgage) into a chronic disaster film in the mind adding unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation.

Depressive thinking is caused by the thought patterns of hopelessness and self-loathing,Depressive thinkers add self-loathing and hopelessness to every problem. usually learned in childhood, which are triggered (like a cassette tape being turned on) by stressful situations. These “tapes” depress a person who is trying to deal with a problem, making it significantly more difficult for them to solve their problems. Thus, instead of having to deal only with the shortage of money to pay the mortgage (which is bad enough), they also have to fend off the “megaphone” in the brain that tells them the situation is hopeless and they are worthless failures. Thus, depressed thinkers turn one stressful problem into two or more by creating problems that do not exist because the situation is RARELY hopeless and they are certainly NOT worthless.

Victim thinking is the thought pattern that others, or life, are intentionally trying to cause Victim thinking leaves one pain, which is triggered (like a cassette tape being turned on) by stressful situations. These “tapes” instill anger and rage in one’s attempts to deal with a problem, making it significantly more difficult to solve. Thus, instead of having to deal only with the shortage of money to pay the mortgage (which is bad enough), the person also has to fend off the “megaphone” in his brain that blares that others are trying to make his life miserable. Thus, victim thinkers turn one stressful problem (paying the mortgage) into two or more by creating new problems that do not exist because the situation is RARELY the case that one’s problems are entirely caused by someone intentionally trying to do harm. In addition, victim thinkers make themselves powerless by insisting that they can't be happy unless others change, which they can't possibly control.

Realistic thinking acknowledges that problems exist and faces them directly. avoidingRealistic thinking faces problems head on without adding anxious, depressive, or Pollyanna thinking. getting sucked into unhelpful thinking (self-loathing, hopelessness, catastrophizing) that only muddies the waters, zaps their energy and concentration, and destroys motivation. Realistic thinkers try to understand the problem as best they can through acceptance of what is: “My hours are cut. I will come up $200 short for the mortgage, which could lead to foreclosure.” And then they brainstorm to find solutions and choose the best option. If that option does not work, then they try another option. If nothing seems to work, then they seek help from someone or some source more knowledgeable. They deal with problems directly, avoiding denial or minimization AND avoiding unhelpful thinking such as hopelessness, self-loathing, victimizing, and catastrophizing.

Summary: If you have a tendency toward Pollyanna, depressive, anxious, or victim thinking, then Finding the realistic thinking part of your mind is a skill worth learning and practicing as you deal with life's challenges.YOUR OWN MIND will work against you as you try to solve life’s inevitable problems, such as coming up short with funds to pay this month’s mortgage. You mind will stress you out unnecessarily by creating horrible disaster films in your mind, or demoralizing you by telling you that you are a terrible failure or a horrible person, or destroying your motivation by declaring the situation hopeless. In reality, these are the distorted, programmed, knee-jerk reactions of a wounded mind that most likely suffered repeatedly in childhood, such as growing up in an alcoholic, abusive, or highly dysfunctional environment. Or maybe you were chronically bullied or teased at school. Or maybe you suffered a series of traumatic losses, such as the sudden deaths of loved ones, through sad misfortune.

When these knee-jerk reactions of the mind are triggered, the IMPORTANT thing to remember is that they are not facts or the truth, but simply what your programmed/wounded mind tells you under stress. They are simply mental events and nothing more. But since they are so emotionally charged, they tend to grab your attention and sweep you away into a trance-like state of fear, hopelessness, and/or worthlessness. When you recognize this is happening, here are some things you can do to ground yourself back into reality so you can approach problems realistically:

  • Focus on your breathing by riding the wave of each inhale and each exhale, trying to become one with breath itself until your mind calms down.

  • Or do some physical exercise and focus through your senses on the here and now experience of exercising – the feel of your muscles or the sensation of the wind on your face as you jog – while letting go of any “stinking thinking” as best you can.

  • Or focus on two things you can see, two things you can hear, two things you can smell, two things you can feel by touch (example: pants against your leg), two things you can taste, and repeat this as necessary until your mind calms down.

  • Or do a safety visualization imagining yourself in a place where you feel absolutely safe; try to visualize this through all your senses – hearing the sounds, seeing the sights, smelling the smells, etc.

  • Then, when calmed down, try to view the problem as it is (“I need to find a way to deal with not having enough money to pay the mortgage.”) using realistic thinking while avoiding depressive, anxious, and/or Pollyanna thinking. 

  • See this related article, Spam of the Mind

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