Barbara sought my help because of her chronic fatigue. She had been to different doctors, trying different nutrition plans for years yet nothing was helping her. One of the doctors suggested that she try psychotherapy.
It became evident early in our work together than Barbara was deeply addicted to thinking the worst. Constant negativity went through her mind about every aspect of her life. She would get out of her car and worry about getting robbed. In social situations, she would tell herself that people didn’t like her.
She was always worried about money, even though she was a successful graphic designer. Her husband could never do anything right. There was something wrong with every doctor she saw.
Negative thinking causes much stress in the body. I told Barbara to imagine that she was telling these negative thoughts to a child. How would the child feel most of the time? Barbara could see that this child would, of course, feel anxious and stressed much of the time. This is in response to all the negativity and catastrophic thinking.
The medical profession has long told us that stress is one of the leading causes of illness. Stress sets into motion the body’s fight or flight response, pouring cortisol into the body and eventually exhausting the adrenal glands. Adrenal exhaustion can be one of the results of so much negative thinking.
While Barbara could understand the possible effect her negative thinking was having on her health, it was extremely challenging for her to give up her negative thinking. Barbara deeply believed that her negative thinking kept her safe from disappointment.
She believed that thinking the negative thought before the bad thing would happen prepared her to deal with it. Barbara didn’t want to be caught off guard. She believed that she could not handle the pain of disappointment. If only she knew about it ahead of time and actually expected it, she wouldn’t feel disappointed.
In addition, Barbara believed that if she was vigilant enough and thought through all the bad things that could happen, she could prevent them. She believed that by thinking ahead, she could somehow have control over the outcome of things.
Finally, Barbara also believed that she could control how people felt about her by acting right and saying the right thing. She was constantly vigilant about her behavior with others in her attempts to control how they felt about her and treated her.