Thinking Patterns That You Can Learn to Change

Thinking Patterns That You Can Learn to Change | Transcend Recovery Community

One of the most significant contributors to our own unhappiness is our thinking. The thoughts that we possess in our minds can add to having a bad day or an unfulfilling experience. Of course, those thoughts also create feelings and those feelings can lead to behaving in a certain way. The thought-feeling-behaving cycle can eventually create a miserable life.

For instance, we might have the thought that we are not good at anything we do. That can lead to unpleasant feelings of shame, embarrassment, lack of confidence, or perhaps guilt. And those uncomfortable feelings might lead to lashing out at someone else or drinking. Those feelings might cause us to behave in a way that we might regret later.

But thought-feeling-behaving cycle can also work positively too. The positive thoughts we have in our minds can lead to fulfilling and joyful feelings, which can lead to behaving in ways that are loving towards ourselves and others. For instance, you might have the thought that you are an excellent mother. You might then having feelings of appreciation towards your children, yourself, and perhaps your husband. You might have feelings of love and affection towards the members of your family.

Because thoughts are such a significant part of our well being, paying attention to them can support staying sober. Unhealthy patterns of thought, although unspoken, might be prevalent both at home and in the workplace. These patterns of thought are:

  • Self-Flawed – I am inadequate, unworthy, or unlovable.
  • Helplessness – There is nothing that I can do to change my life.
  • Pessimistic – Life is chaotic, stressful, and miserable.
  • Catastrophic – Something terrible is going to happen; I need to expect the worst.
  • Resistant –Life is a battle; I must fight to have what I want, resist what I don’t want, and hang onto what I have.
  • Victim – Other people and events are to blame for my life.
  • Telescopic – I forever feel like a failure because I ignore my successes and focus on what is flawed.
  • Co-Dependent – I need another to make me whole; I do not let others close to me or they might not like me.
  • Resentful – I will never forgive others for what they’ve done to me.
  • All or Nothing – I am either the best or the worst at things and there is no in between.
  • Perfectionist – Everything must be perfect for me to be happy; nothing I do is ever good enough.
  • People Pleasing – If I can get others to like me, I’ll feel better about who I am.
  • Wishful – I wish I could have other things because the things that I do have are not of any value.
  • Serious – Playing and having fun is a waste of time because life is too full of problems.
  • Externalized – Happiness and satisfaction can be found outside of myself. Therefore changing the external world will help how I feel inside.

As you notice yourself having thoughts that follow one of the thought patterns above, you can change it. You can switch those negative thoughts into positive ones. Little by little as you continue to notice what you’re thinking and as you continue to keep your thoughts positive, you might see your life change. You might one day realize that you’re happy, healthy, and sober.


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Use Thought Records to Curb Your Negative Thinking

Use Thought Records to Curb Your Negative Thinking | Transcend Recovery Community

Frequently it’s a negative thought that leads to drug use. Or it’s a pattern of thinking that continues to encourage drug use. For instance, people frequently end up using drugs or alcohol because they want to escape, relax, or reward themselves. In some way, people use drugs and alcohol to relieve tension.

Yet that tension begins in the mind. Emotional or psychological tension begins within. And for this reason, one of the most significant ways to improve the way you feel is to change your thoughts. In fact, according to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a popular form of therapy in drug treatment, there is a strong relationship between thinking, feeling, and behaving. In short, a thought leads to a feeling and a feeling leads to a thought.

For instance, the thought, “I’m no good at my job” might lead to feeling embarrassment, shame, or disempowerment. Those feelings might lead to calling in sick more often, looking for another job, or even doing things to get fired and go on unemployment. On the other hand, the thought, “I love what I do and I love getting paid for it,” can be empowering. You might begin to feel joyful, more energized, and find yourself volunteering for tasks at work that you might otherwise would have avoided. In other words our thoughts can create our experiences based upon the thought-feeling-behaving cycle.

So, the point here is that by changing your thinking, you can change your feelings and behavior, particularly with respect to drinking or drug use. If you’d like to change your inner experience in order to stay sober, consider using a thought record. It’s a documentation tool for monitoring feelings of anxiety, fear, hurt, anger, shame, guilt, or sadness. Along with noting when and where these feelings were experienced, you would also write down the associated thought you had with that feeling, in a particular situation. Reflecting on the self-talk you had during a specific situation can facilitate finding those thoughts that are harmful and self-defeating. Without this sort of reflection, these damaging thoughts might go unnoticed, and cultivating this sort of awareness is the benefit of CBT.

However, that’s not all. A thought record also invites you to write down an alternative thought – one that is more helpful, realistic, and supportive. For example, instead of “I am worthless”; the new thought might be “I am powerful”. Recovering addicts working with a CBT Therapist would learn that helpful thoughts are those that promote self-acceptance and state preferences versus thoughts that make absolute demands with words like “should” or “must”. Helpful and supportive thoughts are those that promote well being, love, and inner sense of peace.

A recovering addict using a thought record would likely also be encouraged to use their new, alternative thoughts, particularly when in circumstances that typically created negative thoughts. As this process continues and deepens, the next step is to distinguish feelings as well. Just as you become more and more aware of the thoughts that are passing through your mind during particular situations, you can also become more and more aware of your feelings and how they affect your behavior and choices.

For example, emotions such as annoyance, concern, regret, or remorse can be examined to uncover their effects on the choices you’re making. Lastly, a thought record is also used to rate the intensity of emotions, further increasing your awareness of the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. CBT’s ability to increase your awareness also facilitates the ability to stop making choices unconsciously and start to make decisions that support a healthy self-esteem, which is essential for recovery.

If you can uncover the thoughts that lead you to drinking or drug use, you can stop them in their tracks. You might still have the thought, but you don’t have to let them persuade you to drink. Instead, you can think healthier and more loving thoughts, have happier and more pleasant feelings, and make different choices.

To begin your process of inner investigation and change, here’s a thought record to utilize and continue to use until your happy, healthy, and sober.


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Dangers of the Inner Critic

Dangers of the Inner Critic | Transcend Recovery Community

Some men, women, and even teens have a strong inner critic. They can be very self-judging, which leads to challenging feelings. And in turn, those feelings of low self-worth, shame, and self-rejection are difficult to bear and can lead to making choices to help remove oneself from those feelings, such as choosing to use drugs or drink.

For some, these difficult feelings are so strong and the sense of relaxation in the mind that drinking and drug use can offer can be the impetus for an entire addiction. Feeling better about oneself while drinking can be the power behind a lifetime of addiction.

Yet, addiction can be incredibly harmful to oneself and to others, as well as create great destruction in one’s life. Someone who is drinking on a regular basis might lose his or her job, end up divorced, and lose their children.

The inner critic is a part of their mind that tends to be critical and even negative. Sadly, many people who suffer from anxiety and depression experience a strong inner critic, a part of themselves that might make worse the psychological symptoms they experience. This is particularly true with depression. Often, depression is a way of being cut off from who you are, which is frequently a result of having had a destructive life. For instance, the difficult experiences of an abusive childhood, a life of addiction, growing up among strong criticism, living with intense guilt, and/or experiencing abandonment early in life can be situations that destroy the spark of life within. These situations and others can create thought patterns and beliefs like “I’m at fault”, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m not worth being loved”, or “My life isn’t worth anything”.

These kinds of thoughts, and worse, when these thoughts turn into beliefs, life can be very challenging, making drinking and drug use a viable option, regardless of the circumstances. The inner critic is sometimes referred to as having an oppressive ego structure. Yet, whatever you call it, there is a part of the self that is frequently judgmental, critical, and negative,

Interestingly, marijuana seems to be a drug of choice for those who tend to experience a strong inner critic. It seems to soften this part of the self, making it easier to be who one is. However, the transformation is actually illusory and instead might create a dependence on marijuana for feeling at ease with oneself. Of course, this kind of dependence is true for any drug that one uses on a regular basis.

Fortunately, instead of drug use and the possibility of addiction and self-harm, there are proven ways to ease the inner critic and make living a bit softer. The following are ways to quiet the inner critic, or at least challenge some of his or her beliefs.

  1. Examine Your Thoughts – The way one responds in their mind to the circumstances in life can have an influence on mood and feelings and thoughts. The thinking that goes on inside is the cognition domain and refers to all that happens inwardly, such as thoughts, images, memories, dreams, beliefs, attitudes, and where attention goes. All of these can contribute to negative thinking. And these can eventually lead to making choices that are destructive. Whether it’s with a therapist or by yourself, watch the thoughts you’re having and whether or not they are harmful.
  2. Evaluate Your Judgments – When you experience a judgment of yourself or others, take a close look at it. Is it true? Does your judgment have substance? Or is it simply a part of the negative thinking patterns that tend to follow the inner critic? If you can refute it, then it might be easier to let it go and not give it any more power.
  3. Challenge Yourself with Kindness – When you’ve seen that you’re judging yourself or when you notice that the inner critic is alive in your mind, do something kind for yourself. Perhaps go spend time near the ocean or prepare yourself a nurturing meal. Challenge that inner critic with kindness rather than believing in it and doing something later that you might regret.

Don’t let the inner critic ruin your life by propelling the start and growth of an addiction. Turn the volume down on that inner critic by no longer believing in it.


If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community
or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert
Come and visit our blog at

Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part Two)

Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part Two) |

In the first part of this article, Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part One), we discussed the daunting task of living sober. Achieving sobriety isn’t simply the ability to no longer choose drinking or drugging; it’s also the ability to think healthy, to love yourself, to create a life that is fulfilling and meaningful. It’s the ability to recognize those negative patterns of thought and to actually think differently. Continue reading “Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part Two)”

Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part One)

Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part One) | Transcend Recovery Community

Living sober is at first living without alcohol or drugs. It’s at first taking the challenging steps towards no longer choosing to get drunk or high. In the beginning, sober living and recovery is all about choosing again and again to stay away from the drug that has created so much destruction. However, over time, living sober takes on so much more, making it much than quitting a bad and destructive habit. Continue reading “Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part One)”

Alcoholism: Stinking Thinking Leads to Drinking

Alcoholism: Stinking Thinking Leads to Drinking | Transcend Recovery Community

Experts in the drug counseling field and those within the Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) community know the term stinking thinking. It’s a phrase that refers to the destructive and dysfunctional thinking patterns of alcoholism, regardless of whether one is drinking or not. Continue reading “Alcoholism: Stinking Thinking Leads to Drinking”