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Break Free from Unhealthy Thinking

Jun 05, 2023
couple fighting in the bedroom

Break Free from Unhealthy Thinking or in the south we say, "Stop your stinkin thinkin!" We've pulled this great exercise from the Intimate Encounters Workbook by Dr. David and Teresa Ferguson. You can purchase this workbook by clicking here. Russ and I did this exercise when we were engaged and we still refer back to it.

Print out  2 copies and mark and 'x' by the statements that are true for you. Have your spouse do the same.

___ 1. I see things as pretty much black and white.

___ 2. I tend to make mountains out of molehills.

___ 3. I often take things personally.

___ 4. Past disappointments seem to predict the future.

___ 5. What I'm feeling is more important than the facts.

___ 6. I often think people make too much out of their problems. They should just get over it.

___ 7. There's a place for everything and everything in its place.

___ 8. I seem to make things a "big deal."

___ 9. It's very important to sense others' approval.

___ 10. I just know things won't get any better.

___ 11. I can't really believe I'm loved unless I feel it.

___ 12. I can handle almost any problem that comes my way.

___ 13. Being perfect in what I undertake is essential to me.

___ 14. I seem to overreact to relatively small irritations.

___ 15. If someone in my family is upset, I must have been part of the reason.

___ 16. I tend to write people off if they hurt or disappoint me.

___ 17. If I feel unloved, it must be because no one loves me.

___ 18. There's no reason to get so worked up or so emotional.

Compare the ones you marked and see which category below resembles your thinking pattern. We've included a description below of each of them.

Polarizing - 1, 7, 13

Magnifying - 2, 8, 14

Personalizing - 3, 9, 15

Generalizing - 4, 10, 16

Emotional Reasoning - 5, 11, 17

Minimizing - 6, 12, 18

Polarizing is a perfectionistic thinking pattern that views life as all-or-nothing, good-or-bad, black or white. More than a little difficult to live with, "polarizers" hold to rigid rules for evaluating their life and marriage; they classify events as right or wrong, good or bad; and they judge their performance (or spouse's) on the basis of their own impossible standards.

Magnifying is taking life's events and exaggerating them until everything seems like a catastrophe. None of us are built to cope with a life that feels that big all the time. Nor can a marriage long endure the constant bombardment of a "magnifying" mate.

Personalizers tend to be moody and easily hurt by so-called rejections. Filled with insecurities, they develop low self-esteem and many blame themselves for everything. Others often see them as fragile, overly sensitive, childish, and even hysterical. Frequently personalizers felt rejected in childhood or came from highly critical home environments.

Generalizers rely on past events to predict the future, which can undermine your worth, cast doubts on your adequacy, and prevent you from trusting others or yourself. Couples with this self-defeating style of thinking may conclude, "No matter what we do, we will never get along with each other."

Emotional Reasoning confuses feelings with facts. Regardless of the evidence to the contrary, they are convinced if they felt it, it must be so. This skeptical unbelief pattern may have been role-modeled by fearful parents or evolved out of the pain of broken promises - the "I'll believe it when I see it" mentality. Or they possibly suffered some deep emotional trauma during childhood, such as physical or sexual abuse.

Top 5 Marriage Secrets Russ and I have Learned ---> Click Here!

Minimizers tend to verbalize few emotions themselves and expect the same from others around them, often leaving spouses lonely, frustrated, and feeling deeply wounded. Even during tragic events, minimizers often demonstrate little or no feeling. They deny that anything troubles them, and, when pressed to communicate, they may give facts, opinions, or data instead of vulnerably sharing their needs and feelings.

Russ and I identified with two of these unhealthy thought patterns early on in our marriage. I'm a personalizer and he's a magnifier. Probably the worst combination to be married to each other. :)

Understanding how we process life is extremely helpful when Russ knows my lens is to assume everything is my fault. I'm sure it comes in handy for him when we're fighting! It's a dangerous thinking pattern because I can misinterpret someone's actions and make decisions about relationships without all the facts.

Brene Brown has really helped me by providing language on how to approach folks instead of being certain about my assumptions. One suggested clarifying question Brene recommends is, "Can I get clear about ..." So if I ever start off our conversation that way with you, you'll understand I've personalized some word or action and I'm nervously trying to be vulnerable with you. I've actually done this with a friend and I couldn't have been more wrong about personalizing that she didn't like me...but I was so certain at the time. I love using this Brene Brown question so I don't make bad assumptions and I don't stay stuck in my faulty thinking default!

When Russ is upset over something he will use words like "never," "always," forget it." I used to take them at face value but I quickly learned that he magnifies when upset. At the moment everything is over or completely finished until he comes back to a more compromised approach once he's calmed down.

Would you like more information? Email and tell us what you're interested in at [email protected].



Learn new communication skills you can immediately apply in your marriage and some harder skills (with practice) that will transform your marriage.