Mental Health

Reining in the Thought Gremlins

One of the (many) things I’m working on is checking myself on my thought gremlins – depression-related misinterpretations of things happening around me.  Not stopping the misinterpretations (I’m nowhere close to being ready for that yet), but noticing them for what they are.

This past weekend I was exchanging emails with someone in my life who I consider “safe“, and helping him out with a course he’s taking.  At a couple of different points during those exchanges, I felt really hurt.  Thoughts started running through my head: he’s just using me, he’s taking advantage of me, he doesn’t care about me at all, he’s judging me, I can’t trust people, I can’t deal with people, etc, etc.  The reasonable part of my brain knows none of those things are true, but the thoughts kept going full steam ahead.

So I tried to sit with them.  I did a guided meditation on emotions in mindful communication.  I cried for a while.  I thought about how hard it’s been to find any hope for the future.  After a good chunk of time wallowing in miserableness, I thought about whether he would have wanted me to feel this way, or how he would react if he knew how I was feeling.  Whether my thoughts were consistent with the gratitude he frequently expressed and the regular check-ins to see if I felt pressured into helping him.  Whether he did anything “wrong”, or if this was all me.

The only conclusion I could come to was that yes, it was all me.  He did nothing wrong; I misinterpreted based on what’s going on inside of me.  I needed to take ownership of my own thoughts and feelings, and not project blame onto him.  It didn’t make the gremlins go away, but it meant I saw them for what they were.  I’m proud of myself for that.  There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I deserve to give myself credit along the way.  And maybe the next time I misinterpret, the wallowing period will be ever so slightly shorter before I’m able to start to rein in those thought gremlins.

CBT Fundamentals mini-ebook from Mental Health @ Home

The CBT Fundamentals mini-ebook, available from the MH@H Store, provides an introduction to cognitive behavioural therapy.  It’s also available as part of the Therapy Mini-Ebook Collection.

19 thoughts on “Reining in the Thought Gremlins”

  1. You are not alone. I have fought and fought these “gremlins” for years, and I can honestly say that I still feel abandoned by people, most of the time. But when I turn to Jesus for the truth? Nine times out of ten, my feelings are off the mark. Trust your gut, girl. Take no guff from no man, set your boundaries, and learn the difference between projection and the right to your feelings. Great post.

  2. For the longest time I struggled with anxiety and unpleasant ruminations. Then I finally found my current therapist, a CBT therapist. She has done so much for me, including how to challenge dysfunctional thinking. She’s given me numerous tools to use, my favorite of which is a “Dysfunctional Thought Record”, which can be found online. I’ve found that the time spent challenging dysfunctional thinking is far less and also more productive than allowing such thinking to go on and on.

    1. I haven’t had much success with doing CBT. I think a lot of that is because I’ve been trained in doing CBT with patients, so I know the concepts. Doing things like thought records felt “too easy” in a sense, because I could quickly identify all the things that “should” go on one, and I really wasn’t internalizing it. I guess what I’m trying to do is the spirit of CBT but more organically on my own.

  3. You certainly deserve credit! It’s hard not to feel/think irrationally, even when we know we’re feeling/thinking irrationally. We feel how we feel, but it’s great that you’re able to recognize this.

  4. This is progress. You can not work on something that you refuse to identify. This is, in my recovery, when my mom cheers me on and credits me. Hearing it from your point of view makes me say ” you are damn right you deserve credit!!” Great job!!

  5. I think it’s great you can look at you and see all kinds of stuff and how it can be subjectively different depending on how you choose to take it. Yay! It’s so cool to find ways to make life easier and happier.

  6. What I hate most about this mental fight is the fact that it sometimes feels like it’s ongoing 24/7. I successfully manage to examine and dissect some of these thoughts sometimes, but other times they can get so overwhelming. But we take the small victories as they come, always. Congratulations on this huge progress.

  7. Great post and I’m glad you are giving yourself credit. It can be so hard to separate the need to sit with the feelings versus eliminate the feelings. I’m still in the “sit with” stage too; I do a lot of reminding myself I’m safe with my thoughts. There’s a lot of kindness in this post. Gremlins don’t like kindness, they like chaos. So keep throwing all that evidence and insight their way. Eventually, they may start to retreat a bit.

Leave a Reply