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.
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.