In the previous blog post, we learned that certain thoughts can sometimes provoke certain emotions which in turn can sometimes provoke certain actions. That’s why it’s so important to figure out what’s in our TEA! We also learned a variety of automatic negative thoughts or ANT’s. And then we learned how to stomp those ANT’s with three simple questions: Is it logical? Is there evidence? Does it matter?
In this blog post, we are going to learn a simple way to transform those unhealthy thoughts into healthier ones. I call this skill “Working the TOM.” You can execute this skill in three simple steps: Thought, Opposite, Middle. Now do you see where the TOM comes from?
Step 1: Thought
- First, identify one of those pesky ANT’s that you learned in the previous lesson. Let’s assume your thought is: “All guys are predators and only want one thing.”
Step 2: Opposite
- Now let’s identify the exact opposite of that thought: “All males in human history are completely innocent and would never do anything to exploit another human being.”
Step 3: Middle
- Now let’s identify a thought somewhere in the middle: “Some people are predators but most people are not. The key is to learn which people to trust and which people to avoid.”
Which of those three thoughts is the most accurate? Which thought is the healthiest way to live your life? Even though the first thought may have once seemed accurate based on your own life experiences, is it still the most accurate? Do you see how the first thought will exclude you from healthy relationships with people who really are safe? Do you also see how the opposite thought is naïve and will only set you up for further victimization? Finally, do you see how the middle thought is the best approach to dealing with life and people? Many people call this middle thought the Balanced Response or the Middle Path.
Congratulations! You have just learned how to balance your thinking, which is the entire purpose of this blog post. If you remember back to the introduction, balanced thinking means learning to think in the middle, instead of at the extremes. Balanced thinking means learning to see things from new and different perspectives—instead of thinking about things in only one way. Finally, balanced thinking also means that we are flexible in how we think, that we can change our thinking if we learn new evidence, and that we can see things from someone else’s perspective.
Besides “Working the TOM,” here are some more tips for balanced thinking:
- Avoid words like “always” and “never.”
- Practice looking at other points of view.
- Remember that no one has the absolute truth (except God).
- Use “I feel” statements.
- Remind yourself that the only constant is change.
- Accept that different opinions can both be valid.
- Consider that we all have both good and bad qualities.
- Check out your assumptions.
- Do not put words in other people’s mouths.
- Do not expect others to read your mind.
- Think about how everyone is different and what a gift that is.
10 Steps to improve balanced thinking:
1. Identify a problem situation.
2. Identify your thoughts regarding this situation.
3. Identify your emotions about this situation.
4. Identify your actions toward this situation.
5. Identify any automatic negative thoughts about this situation.
6. Identify the exact opposite of your ANT’s.
7. Identify a middle thought that is in between your original thought and opposite thought.
8. Identify your new emotions about this situation.
9. Identify your new actions toward this situation.
10. Ask yourself: Is your new way of dealing with the situation better than the original one?