If you feel stuck in life, you need to give up on these 9 common self-destructive thought patterns

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” –

Hamlet Act II Scene 2

Sometimes, we all get stuck in life. No matter who you are, it’s easy to fall into patterns that don’t help and can actually make any situation worse.

But more than any external events, more than wealth, relationships, or luck, what most determines our happiness in life is our thoughts.

That can be a blessing or curse, depending on your thoughts.

Often, feeling stuck in life is a matter of perspective. Many times, it’s our own destructive thought patterns that keep us stuck in a bad situation, or even make a bad situation out of something that might otherwise be good.

To show you what I mean, let’s take a look at some common thought patterns that can ultimately be extremely self-destructive.

1) Rumination

 Rumination is a term psychologists use to describe frequent negative thoughts about either the past or the future.

“While it seems like solving the problem with resolve the stress, rumination does not lead to any solutions,” writes author and educator Elizabeth Scott. Rumination “tends to have a more negative bent, often including thought patterns that involve pessimism and cognitive distortions and focusing mainly on the negative aspects of a situation.”

Unfortunately, we all fall into ruminating on things sometimes. Whether it’s fears of the future or regrets about the past, some things can be hard to let go of.

But the important thing to remember about rumination is that not only will it not help you, but it will actually make the situation worse.

You can’t change the past, and no amount of dwelling on it will change what has happened.

And while you can affect the future, endlessly ruminating on what might go wrong is a guaranteed way to ruin the present. None of us can predict the future, and obsessive worry over it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 2) Negativity

 I don’t want to sell you on the benefits of positive thinking. After all, that can become its own kind of trap.

But focusing on everything that is wrong with the world is a thought pattern that can only be destructive.

Look, there’s always something wrong. There’s always a war going on somewhere, injustice being visited on innocent people, people dying of curable diseases, and all the other horror that makes the world what it is.

You shouldn’t be blind to that. You shouldn’t forget it.

But you shouldn’t dwell on it either.

The same is true in your personal life. Yes, sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes horribly wrong. But if you dwell in the darkness long enough, you’ll become unable to tolerate the light.

Shaking negative thoughts is easier said than done. Still, there are a few techniques that you may find helpful in at least softening the impact of your more negative impulses:

  •       Use mindfulness to build self-awareness so that you recognize your thought patterns
  •       Replace negative thoughts with more positive realistic ones
  •       Learn to accept your negative thoughts instead of trying to fight them
  •       Use a diary to track your thoughts so you can see when you are spiraling into negativity

 3) Victimhood

These days, being a victim is all the rage. But in my experience, it’s one of the most harmful and self-destructive mindsets you can possibly have.

We all know the world is full of injustice. And these days, the media is determined to highlight every instance of injustice it can to fit the narrative that society is nothing but a wasteland of oppression.

This can easily make anyone feel like a victim.

But when you do that, you surrender your well-being to a world that fundamentally doesn’t care about you.

This is called an external locus of control, and as psychologist Kendra Cherry writes, “our locus of control influences our response to events in our lives and our motivation to take action.”

In other words, if you see yourself as a victim of fate, society, the universe, or simple bad luck, you’re making excuses for yourself not to act and try to better your situation.

I’ve had friends who were capable of great things, but they’ve never achieved anything because they fell into the trap of seeing themselves as unfortunate victims of a cruel universe. This mindset persuaded them that any attempt to better their lives was pointless.

No matter how popular this mindset might be at the moment, it doesn’t lead anywhere good.

4) Believing your emotions

This one might sound a little strange. But the truth is, your emotions rarely have your best interests at heart.

We all have various emotions. And frankly, life wouldn’t be worth living if you never felt anything.

At the same time, our emotions are something that evolved in a world completely different from the one we currently live in. And often, our emotions do more harm than good.

I often think of emotion as a kind of lens through which we see the world. When we are angry, the world seems aggressive, hostile, and dangerous. When we are sad, the world seems gloomy, sorrowful, and ugly.

When you’re in the grip of emotion, it’s all too easy to interpret everything in the light of that emotion. In that way, emotions feed on themselves.

But making decisions based on emotion is never a good idea.

Practicing emotional detachment doesn’t mean you won’t feel anything. But it means you won’t believe what your emotions tell you.

Instead, focus on using your reason and logic to make your decisions for you while you let your emotions do their own thing.

5) Assuming things will never change

This is a common pattern of negative thinking. But history is full of evidence that it isn’t true.

Former options trader and author Naseem Nicholas Taleb wrote a book called The Black Swan about how unforeseeable events can change everything.

And as Taleb writes, ““The inability to predict outliers implies the inability to predict the course of history.”

A hundred years ago, people thought we’d be living on the moon, but they never saw the Internet coming. Outside of certain scientific circles, no one thought that we would spend years on global house arrest because of a pandemic.

You don’t know what you don’t know. So when you feel stuck in life and assume nothing will ever change, you are betting against all the evidence and the unstoppable forces of history.

6) Focusing too much on the future

sad mature businessman thinking about problems in living 3772618 If you feel stuck in life, you need to give up on these 9 common self-destructive thought patterns

Of course, it’s also common for people who are unhappy with their present situation in life to focus excessively on the future. After all, it offers a way out of their current unhappiness and hopefully promises something better.

It’s important to plan for the future. But it’s just as important to remember that the only time you can live is in the present.

Because when the future arrives, it won’t be the future anymore. It will be the present, and if you have never learned to enjoy the present, you won’t be able to enjoy the future you’ve been planning and working for.

7) Relying on others to save you

This is another common one, and in many ways, parts of the media feed into this destructive idea.

I’m talking about The One. The special person who is supposed to complete and fulfill you in every way.

Believe me when I say this as someone who has been in a happy relationship for decades: no one is coming to save you.

Relationships are part of what makes life worth living. But if you want a healthy relationship built on mutual respect, affection, and love, you need to stop looking for a savior.

Because when you put all your emotional eggs in one basket, any person you find to fit that role will only disappoint when they turn out to be just as human as you are.

If you want to be loved, learn to love yourself. Only then will you be ready to love another person properly.

8) Perfectionism

This is another highly destructive thought pattern that has prevented so many people from achieving what they wanted in life.

None of us are perfect, and so nothing you ever do will be perfect either.

There will never be a perfect time to get your life in order.

There’s only this imperfect moment and your imperfect self to build the life you want.

Hoping for perfection will only leave you discouraged, bitter, and disappointed.

9) Comparing yourself to others

This is one of the big ones.

Thanks to our hyper-connected culture, it’s never been easier to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. But there will always be someone with a bigger house, a nicer car, a better job, and a more loving family than you.

Let that get to you, and you’ll never appreciate what you have.

Instead, try to remember that this is your life, and nobody else’s. Live according to your beliefs, principles, and desires, and don’t worry about what anybody else is doing.

Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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