Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Overcoming Negative Thinking Patterns With #Aspergers

Here in the last few years especially I have been trying to get rid of old, outdated thinking patterns and usher in some new ones.  I've not got it figured out, by far, but one thing I am absolutely certain of, changing our most automatic behaviors is hard.  It is really difficult to do.  If it weren't, let's be honest we'd all do what we know in our most rational moments to be the best all the time.  We'd never have an emotional reaction that snuck up on us and took our logic away, causing us to say and do things we regret later.

I have not been anywhere near entirely successful in dealing with some of my most ingrained automatic negative thoughts and behaviors.  I'm sure that my husband would testify to that.  I, however, have been able to start the process.  I have made some tweaks, and had a few successes, even if they were minute, or short lived.

I have a lot of issues with negative beliefs about myself, and subsequently my behavior is negative.  Some of these things were borne out of a childhood where I was not supported, loved or cherished consistently.  Some of them are probably just my personal way of dealing with things, while quite a lot of it I suspect is from my neurology.  There seems to be quite a lot of people with AS that struggle with self-soothing.  I tend to be the most rational, grown up, logical level headed person you ever meet 98% of the time.  I am so predictable and methodical I make everyone crazy with it.  However, there's that 1% of the time where I've had too much routine change, or sensory input, or some other issue with executive functioning and I go into sobbing meltdown.  This is not logical.  It is the opposite.  It's emotional overload.

Then, you have the other 1% of the time where I have jumped off of the deep end into the negative assumption pool.  This is where my terrible self esteem causes real problems other than making me feel bad.  This is when I cannot help but assume that others are out to get me, because they think just as badly of me, as I do myself.  This 1% of the time I feel everything in my environment is a reflection of me.  It's a sort of sad, negative, bleak self centered way of being.  Like it or not, it's probably mild depression.  Depression has a way of turning everything into something personal.  Everything around us when we are feeling depressed is somehow about us, or going to negatively affect us.  Fights with spouses, and friends are easy to come by when you have depression glasses on.  After all, everything they do is a result of how they feel about you, when you feel this way. They might be late, because they don't see you as important, or that friend didn't wave at you, because they don't like you anymore, or your boss didn't tell you you did a good job with whatever task, because they think you're a failure.  The possibilities to link yourself to your environment are endless when in this frame of mind.

For me, I can get to where I need a release. I need to get it out, and be reassured that I am okay and things will be okay. I turn into a child that needs consoling.  My husband made a good point last night when I mentioned this to him.  He said it was because a child only sees the immediate problem, whether that is not getting their way, or getting punished, or feeling lonely. In their mind they have no capacity to see that the situation is temporary, or to have the power or ability to problem solve. They can't see a future, they only see now and if the present is awful they feel it always will be.  I think due to my AS and my parents not giving my the reassurance and care I needed I never really developed a very good coping strategy to dealing with the situations where I feel knocked down and emotionally overwhelmed. I lash out and look for ways on the outside to alleviate it.  I look for short term solutions. I problem solve with my feelings the way an 8 year old would. Thankfully, I don't get knocked into this space easily.  I do however, need to find better ways of dealing with my emotions and my extreme self loathing when I do get into this space.  After, researching and doing quite a bit of thinking I have come up with a little cognitive behavior exercise that I am hoping will help.  I've tried it a couple of times and it seems to be helping so far.  I will share it, in case it may be of help to anyone else.

So, here goes... the CBT-type exercise I came up with for myself.  Of course, I am not a doctor, and have not professional training in CBT.  I am just offering up my experience.

Thought: This is where you list the thoughts/feelings that is causing you discomfort.  Example: I can't go to the party, because I am fat, or I can't do the project. I know I will fail and people will laugh. This should be only a few short sentences, if that.

Consequences Of Thought/feelings: This is where you would list how this thought makes you feel and what consequences of it will be. For example: we may avoid people and miss opportunities due to irrational beliefs, or the thought may cause so much stress that we will feel depressed and waste a day moping.

Past Occurrences That Are Similar: Here you would want to think of a time in your past (childhood if applicable) where this thought or feeling occurred. Then, list a recent time where this thought, or feeling occurred.  This helps you to see why the behavior might be there.  It probably served a purpose way back when, but if you look at a recent occurrence of the same behaviors you might see how it's no longer working.  This is important for me, because it helps me to see the logic behind my emotions, as well as pulls me back in. I can look at the recent occurrence and see how I handled it then, and realize I'll get the same result if I keep on with the same thoughts and behaviors.

What evidence do I have that my thoughts or feelings are true?  That one is pretty self explanatory.

Is it Helpful to carry this pattern of thinking into the present? Here again, pretty straighforward question that you can probably figure out from the last 2 questions quite easily.

Why or Why not?  If no, then come up with an alternative belief, or action to do instead of the old pattern of behavior.


  1. OMG! So many things in here that I relate to. This post is in line with exactly what I am dealing with and processing right now. It is such an excellent reference guide. I am having a problem gathering my thoughts to come up with some sort of game plan to help me.

    Starting our new virtual home schooling and routine has been very challenging and rough. I keep falling into patterns of thinking, "I cannot do this. I am never going to get them to do school. I have to put them in public school. I can't do this."

    I keep losing focus and sight of what HAS been accomplished because of moments of meltdown, or the kids getting frustrated. I cannot see it ever getting better. However, I also know that after my thoughts calm down that I do this every year and I always think that I cannot home school them or get them to do school when we start a new curriculum or routine. :-/

    That is why I keep trying to write out the positives so I will stop those negative loops. I go straight into self-attack mode when we do not complete an assignment, or something goes wrong. Granted it is nothing like it used to be and I do not fall into accepting those thoughts, it is still hard.

    I am so glad you shared this today!

  2. I would like to say that I too resonate with everything here, particularly about the negative self talk that was set up as a childhood reaction towards abuse at the time, yet still react in pretty much the same way now and finding it hard to consistently change these patterns as an adult on the aspergic spectrum. I think I will give it a try and write down the feelings and thoughts which triggers the negative self talk and keep on trying to write out the positives to stop the negative loops I keep finding myself in. Thank you so much for sharing this I am sure it will help many people on the spectrum out!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope it helps or at least gives you some new ideas as to how to respond to that neg. self talk.

  3. This post is really informative. This reveal out the different expect of aspergers.

  4. I think its a great article coping with negative thinking & expressing it in writing is half the way to absorb the ways to react in coming future. as for myself i always turn to films & tv series to learn how 2 act in reality (socialy interact),I make notes of how 2 speak or how 2 act within some social events that i dont understand or when to go aggressive ,in my work space & it works Iam now more confident & do not have serious melt downs.

    1. My negative thoughts bring my confidence so far down and bring my toxic depression up so much that being socially appropriate is actually not even in the ballpark of worries at that point. Dealing with my cognitive distortions has to be first before I can even delve into the second layer of socializing, the outer world. Glad that you have been doing better, and are having less meltdowns. Success is always good to hear about!

  5. I think its a great article coping with negative thinking & expressing it in writing is half the way to absorb the ways to react in coming future. as for myself i always turn to films & tv series to learn how 2 act in reality (socialy interact),I make notes of how 2 speak or how 2 act within some social events that i dont understand or when to go aggressive ,in my work space & it works Iam now more confident & do not have serious melt downs.

  6. I found this whole post really helpful, especially your insight about short-term problem solving and wanting to alleviate the discomfort as quickly as possible. I get trapped in negative self-thought at times and it's usually in response to blowing a minor issue out of proportion and assuming the worst. It's very helpful to think of this as emotional immaturity.

    I'm not sure if I have the patience to work through the exercise but I'm going to mindfully try questioning why I'm reacting negatively the next time it happens and see if that helps me shift myself out of that space a little more easily.

    1. I'm glad you found it helpful! I find that even if I can't remember all of this stuff in the moment, it's still really helpful to go back later and do the exercise. We don't always have a moment to go get a notebook and work through our thoughts in daily life, but we can always do it later when we do have time. Also, just asking for a moment to collect thoughts and work through things is an option that I had not considered until very recently. For some reason, I didn't think I had the right to do that, but now if I think I am getting too upset I might ask for a break or tell the person that I will have to get back to them later on something, if it's possible.

  7. You write very eloquently about this topic. I'm a therapist working with both Aspies and non-Aspies, and I also use CBT methods to correct my own skewed thinking at times. It's so true: a child doesn't always have the resources to be able to examine thinking. But we don't have to live our childhood stories: we can write new ones! This is a free resource I found for cognitive thinking worksheets I want to share with you:

  8. Nice information.. These are general tips that are very useful to increase your emotional Intelligence.. I also have a blog of health care which have various tips like to enhance personal development and so on.. so if you want then please visit my <a href="" health blog .

    1. That is a very well put together site full of info. Thanks for stopping by, and sharing it with me.

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