This is not what I do.
I have made a conscious effort, day after day, week after week, month after month not to call myself names. I have used positive self-talk and steered clear of labeling myself in any way that isn’t positive and helpful.
So why in the past 24 hours have I caught myself doing it? Twice. This is new and is irritating, foolish, disappointing, and worrying. It leaves me feeling vulnerable.
Where is this coming from?
This morning, as I was completing my bathroom routine, I labeled myself stupid. The thought about my decision to retire last year had popped into my head and that was the next, automatic thought. I did not focus on it, but let it drift away.
Then I asked myself additional questions to see if this was an accurate thought. It was not. Under the spell of my concealed, unrecognized depression, any idea that wasn’t “it’s idea” was not considered. My depression was right there, but I did not see it or understand what it was doing to me and my thoughts about when to retire.
The tools I have been learning are working.
But that still doesn’t explain why I am labeling. The second incident occurred yesterday afternoon. I was on the back deck, writing, using my laptop when a feeling of worthlessness washed over me. It passed but it seemed to come out of the blue.
Using the tools, I watched the emotion and tried not to engage it. Then I asked myself, “what evidence do I have to support this thought?” I wrote out my response.
My feeling of worthless came from thinking that here I was sitting on the deck, without getting paid. But that was not true. I had just earned a sizable fee for the workshops I had performed. I have another monthly source of income. And, I am back to engaging clients for my business. All of these are income-producing efforts.
I am not worthless.
My depression is telling me something different. It is trying to undermine my progress, my small successes as I build a new structure for my days. My depression is sneaky and persistent.
Knowing I caught both incidents of my labeling is a success story. That may be the takeaway. Using the tools, I must slow down my thinking, and not encourage this type of labeling. This was good practice.
Coping thoughts will help, too.
“I can think of different thoughts if I want to.” And “my thoughts don’t control my life, I do.” This can offset these automatic thoughts, giving me different ways to consider them. The more sunlight these automatic thoughts are exposed to, the more I can see through them.
I haven’t finished my second cup of coffee and I have already filled out a sizeable portion of my daily checklist. I am on my way to handling distress without losing control.
Have you engaged in labeling? What has worked for you to overcome this type of unhelpful thinking?