Dysfunctional Thinking 3 - Mental Filter/Disqualifying the positive

These two types of thinking are separately categorised in the list, yet I have found that they often come hand in hand in my sequence of thoughts.

My (Clarke's) experience of these types of thinking was borne from a constructive base.

In order to develop and grow as a footballer, I was taught to continually work on my weaknesses, that I was never the finished product.

I trained my mind to be open to criticism, to receive it, to use it to inform what I needed to work on and improve my game.

There were two things that I didn't learn to do which turned this productive approach into a destructive mentality.

Firstly, I never had the knowledge, wisdom or experience to be able to discern objective, constructive criticism from subjective, emotional criticism.

This meant that I took EVERYTHING on board, whether it was about my football, my appearance, my likes and dislikes or even the relationships I had.

I was such a people pleaser that my identity was like putty in the hands of anyone unscrupulous enough to take advantage.

The second thing was that I didn't learn to acknowledge and celebrate the positives in my game, or my life.

If all you ever look for is negative, all you will ever see is negative.

This was never more apparent than on social media.

After a game, interview, commentary or even a general post I would receive hundreds of responses. 99% of these would be supportive, friendly or balanced messages.

I ignored them

My sole focus was on that one negative comment.

"Why did they say that? Why do they think that?"

"I must to win them over. I NEED to make them change their mind"

Then I would spend the next hours, even days, in a back and forth with someone I have never met trying to convince them of my worth.

Why? I needed them to like me. I wanted them to love me, but I'd settle for like.

My self-esteem was so tied into external approval. If people showed anything other than that, I took it as a rejection and evidence that I am no good at what I do or, sometimes, that I am not a good person.

Going through Cognitive Analytical Therapy lifted the lid on these thinking styles for me.

Years of therapy (and practice) have enabled me to change the way that I receive and perceive criticism.

And after making such progress over the years in becoming aware of when my mind is doing this, it still surprises me when I encounter it again, as I always do!

An important point to make is that (as with all of these types of thinking) working on them doesn't mean that they Go Away. Our first thoughts are always 'intrusive', they aren't consciously controlled, and so a lot of these will have the potential to be very negative, even unpleasant.

What changes is the fact that we become aware that this initial thought isn't definitive, either about us or our situation.

That enables us to acknowledge the thought and then dismiss it or counter it with objective rationale, giving us control over the impact that this thought can have on our state and our actions.

An example of this occurred just yesterday.

Carrie and I are so excited about our Hello Friend Chat with Robbie Williams (who wouldn't be?) and have been promoting it with gusto amongst our family and friends.

One of our friends got back to us to say that they had ventured a little further and read some of the other posts on the site too.

"You're quite a good writer Clarke"

I beg your pardon?!



What do they mean, 'quite'? Who even are they? Ernest Hemingway?

I felt myself getting angry, my mind launching into many various responses that ranged from defensive to outright offensive

And then I read the message again, all of it.

The whole note is nothing but effusive about how good the site is, how the pieces resonated with them and has caused them to instigate plans for the coming months. It's lovely.

And I laughed to myself

In this array of compliments my mind managed to isolate one single word. It wasn't even a negative word, I had just interpreted it to mean something negative.

I had almost allowed my emotions to get fully involved, allowed the negativity to be pinned to my mind and my self-esteem, until my new skills kicked in.

Carrie and I never grow in silence. I shared the mini-drama with her and we both chuckled.

Then she told me how proud of me she was.

Making change, practicing skills, sharing growth. It's how we are continually moving forward, and we want you to be doing the same.

So, in your reflection time this week, pay some mind to your initial thoughts in situations.

Are they balanced?

Do they reflect the entire situation/comment or just a portion of it?

Does your response reflect a measured consideration of ALL of the facts?

Is your response proportionate?

Remember, your first thought does not define you or the situation, your measured response does x

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