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Here in the last few years especially I have been trying to get rid of old, outdated thinking patterns and usher in some new ones.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.