MH@H Mental Health

Mental Myths That Get in our Way

Mental Health @ Home - list of common mental myths

We tend to create a lot of rules about how we should think, feel, and act.  We may believe that there is some sort of objective truth to these rules, but the reality is they’re really just mental myths.  These examples come from dialectical behaviour therapy.

I don’t deserve to get the things that I want/need.

Wanting and needing have nothing to do with deserving, for you or for anyone else.

Asking for help makes me a weak person.

Asking for help makes you proactive.

I should only ask for something if I know ahead of time that the person will say yes.

Your crystal ball probably doesn’t work any better than mine does.

Making requests of others is selfish.

Even if it was selfish, that would make everyone on the planet selfish.

Saying no to others is selfish.

Saying no is part of establishing healthy boundaries

Others’ needs are more important than my own.

Their needs are important, and so are yours. They are looking after their own, and it’s up to you to look after your own.

If I can’t fix this myself there must be something wrong with me.

If you can’t fix it yourself, then you’re human.

In a given situation there is a certain way I should feel.

Humans have a wide range of possible emotions, and there’s no one right way to feel.

If I let others know I’m feeling badly then I am weak.

Chances are others are feeling badly too, and you just don’t realize it, because they’re also afraid of looking weak.

Negative feelings are harmful.

Would you want to, or would it be good for you, to feel happy at a funeral? There’s a time and a place for positive, and a time and a place for negative.

Some emotions are wrong or stupid.

Emotions aren’t right or wrong, good or bad, or smart or stupid. They just are. Some are more comfortable than others, and that’s okay.

If others don’t approve of my feelings, then there must be something wrong with them.

Feelings are intensely personal. It’s not up to anyone else to decide what goes on in your head.

Painful emotions should be ignored.

Emotions are there to tell you something. Listen to what they have to say.

My emotions define who I am.

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has a good metaphor for this – thoughts (and feelings) are like leaves on a stream. You are the stream, and thoughts and feelings come and go without changing the nature of the stream itself.

I can always trust my emotions.

There is no literal truth in emotions; that’s not what they’re there for. They are a reaction to what is, not the definition of what is.

Do you have any thinking/feeling rules or mental myths that you commonly get trapped in?

Source:  adapted from Marsha Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, 2nd ed.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Skills for Mood Disorders mini-ebook

DBT Skills for Mood Disorders, a mini-ebook that’s available from the MH@H Download Centre, focuses on how dialectical behaviour therapy skills can be useful for people who don’t have borderline personality disorder.

21 thoughts on “Mental Myths That Get in our Way”

  1. Dear Ashley

    I learn something new every time in your posts. Thank you for writing.

    I was wondering if we can communicate via email or WhatsApp

  2. A big one for me has always been “I am who/what/how others judge me to be.” It can be quite liberating to recognize that people usually make important judgments of others on the flimsiest evidence, and that I needn’t take these superficial judgments as being especially veridical.

  3. “If others don’t approve of my feelings, then there must be something wrong with them” –》 that is a huge one for people with trauma histories to unlearn. We’re taught that our own wants and needs are selfish, that we’re too stupid to accomplish our dreams, and that it’s always our fault. Unlearning those early messages and not feeling like we’re automatically what others said we were if we do set boundaries, leave bullying situations (Well, if and when we find a new job. Rent is a thing!) or practice self-care is the work of a lifetime.

  4. I get trapped in the thought that I’m not worthy of feeling upset/ down because there is people in worse situations than I am! I know we are all fighting our own battles and shouldn’t compare. X

  5. I’m getting out of the habit of saying “it’s just James” when I introduce myself on the phone, especially at work. I’m me, not “just James”. I tend to slip back into the old habit when i’m feeling a bit meh!

  6. Wow I have all of these unfortunately 😭 I learnt to say no more often and remember that my feelings are valid even though if not everyone understand them.

  7. I use to feel all these feelings before I learned of my mental illness. I would never ask for help, I was trapped in my own head for so long until I had my therapist and caseworkers that use to help me understand that it was alright to ask for help.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still stubborn at times but nothing compared to what I used to be like.

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