We all have them, thoughts that take us from care-free and effervescent to down and depressed. The kind of thoughts you would only say to yourself but would never say to a friend. They are the kind of thoughts that make you doubt your own desires and needs. Martin Seligman puts in concisely when he describes this way of thinking as, “making personal, permanent, pervasive explanations for bad events.” Once you enter this mode of thought, it will damage your self – esteem and create a sense of helplessness. This thought pattern can ultimately lead to depression as you feel you cannot escape from the bad event.
During a divorce, you may engage in a thought process that is entirely self-defeating. You may think, “I am unlovable.” “I failed.” “I cannot go on without this other person in my life.” “This other person is my happiness.”
However, in order to succeed in divorce mediation you have to maintain a positive outlook for yourself and your future. If you remain negative and dwell in the past you may miss the opportunity to proactively bargain for yourself. You may let your needs go unmet based on a hope that you may reconcile. Without an optimistic outlook for your future, the past will shroud your vision of what your future could be.
There are two ways general ways of beating self – defeating thoughts, distraction and disputation. Distraction is as straightforward as it sounds. You simply distract yourself with other thoughts. Thus, it may be good to arm yourself with stock images you can visualize, say lounging on the beach staring out at the light rolling waves in the ocean, when you feel a refreshing light cool breeze or perhaps you’re walking through a forest. It could even be simpler than a visualization, you could simply repeat a phrase that you are fond of, or a phrase that empowers you. Distraction can even come from an activity you enjoy, perhaps running, cooking or baking, can take your mind of the negative thoughts long enough to prevent you from entering that negative spiral.
The second way to beat self-defeating thoughts is disputation. Disputation initially requires a gentle mindfulness that the thought is simply a belief that may or may not be reality. In order to dispute a such a thought there are four main approaches – asking yourself what the evidence is for your belief, whether there are alternatives to that belief, what the implications are and the usefulness of holding that belief. After assessing whether the belief is useful, if you determine that is not, the best approach may be to find ways to distract yourself.
Martin Seligman states, “Learned optimism works not through an unjustifiable positivity about the world but through the power of “non-negative” thinking.” It is easy to fall into the trap of all or nothing thinking, however, through the approach of disputing your thoughts and distraction you can move away from thoughts that are self-defeating. Harnessing positivity has been shown to improve creativity, once you are on solid ground where you are not being hindered by negative thinking, you can begin to think creatively about your future choices and options in the settlement process.