Relationships and Negative Thought Patterns

Relationships and Negative Thought Patterns

Do relationships leave you anxious or depressed? Does the lack of a significant relationship cause distress? Do your unmet expectations of a relationship leave you feeling lost, anxious, or questioning yourself? Do you depend on relationships to define your self-worth?

The Hollywood Ideal

As a society heavily involved in social media, the “Hollywood Ideal”, and the American Dream, it is easy to get caught up in unrealistic and inhumane expectations. We often judge ourselves and our relationships based on either out-moded or idealized versions of what we think the lives of others are. When a celebrity gets married in grand fashion or a neighbor down the street has the seemingly perfect family, we take those things at face value. We fail to see the cracks beneath the surface - the proof that everyone is indeed human and all relationships have flaws.

Relational Strain

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes, from clients to coworkers, from parent/child to significant other. Each of these can offer great mutual benefits, but can also cause significant strain, anxiety, and even depression. How we filter encounters, process communication with the other person, and respond internally and externally to their behaviors can seriously affect our mental well-being. Anxiety and depression can spring from a series of unmet expectations, assumptions, and experiences that leave one feeling stuck and unable to change the outcome. It is important to work through these feelings to be healthy personally, and relationally.  

Missing the Boat

Anxiety and depression can also arise by continually thinking about what we don’t have. Whether it’s a marriage, children, friends, or a better relationship with any of these, we can lose sight of the relationships we do have, and our place and purpose in each one of them. The glass is half-empty mentality leads to negative thought patterns that could jeopardize our current relationships and lead further down the hole of anxiety and depression, so we need to work through these. 

Misconnection and Disconnection

Relationships are work. They require focused attention on another and vulnerability. Relationships by nature are a two-way road of relating to one another. If it feels like only a one-way dialogue or if there are enough misfires in needs or expectations being met, then stress becomes a constant companion. When stress comes in, circumstances and conversations start to get filtered through an unhealthy lens. This can lead one to start feeling unsure of where they fit into the relationship, if they are “good enough,” or if they need to somehow work harder to deserve what they hope for. Often, open and genuine communication can shed needed light on things and provide everyone a chance to improve the situation. Sometimes, things run deeper. When this happens, looking at thought patterns and instinctive behaviors can create a healthy balance.

Maintaining a Sense of Self

Relationships are wonderful blessings, that can provide a needed connection to the world around us. They remind us we’re human and capable of giving more of ourselves than we often think is possible. That said, they are not intended to be our measuring stick for self-worth. Not all relationships are beneficial, and the majority that are, are not meant to hold up the weight of one’s personal worth. We can fall into a habit of seeing ourselves through the eyes of the other person, without also taking into account our own view of self. This can lead to an unhealthy dependence on the relationship to succeed, and eat away at our ability to see ourselves clearly and in a healthy way. If you find yourself in this position, consciously working on finding acceptance within yourself can drastically alter and improve self-worth, and potentially, the relationship.

Getting Unstuck

If you find yourself in one of these categories and stuck on how to move forward, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be very beneficial. CBT provides a safe space to work through tough situations and offers needed tools to improve potential outcomes. You don’t have to be a prisoner of anxiety and depression. You can move past negative thought patterns. CBT can help.

Dr. Michael Messina

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