When Negative Thinking Becomes Harmful
What people think will have an impact on how they behave. Experiencing negative thoughts all the time is bad for people. Such thinking can cripple the human spirit. It can lead to depression and stops people from getting the most out of life. Too much negativity can be particularly hazardous for those individuals who have managed to escape an addiction. Everyone will experience a bit of stinking thinking occasionally, but if it occurs too regularly it will be harmful.
Stinking Thinking Defined
Stinking thinking can be used to refer to any type of negativity. It is a widely used term in 12 Step groups where it is used to describe people who have reverted to old patterns of thinking. This is an undesirable state of affairs because if people are thinking like an addict then it might not be long before they follow this with action. It is possible for people to think their way out of recovery and back to addiction.
Types of Stinking Thinking
Stinking thinking can include negative ideas such as:
* Resenting other people
* Bitterness about the past
* Blaming other people
* Feeling superior to everyone else
* Feeling inferior to everyone else
* Ill-will towards strangers
* Focus on the faults of other people
* Viewing the world in black and white
* Being overly pessimistic
* Schadenfreude – getting enjoyment from watching other people fail
* Blowing things out of proportion
* Always attributing negative motives behind the actions of others
The Dangers of Stinking Thinking
This pattern of thinking can be dangerous to people because:
* It usually means that people are looking outside for the source of their problems when the real culprit is themselves. If people are looking in the wrong place it means they will be unable to find what they are looking for.
* It means that life feel unsatisfactory. Thoughts are a bit like nutrition and stinking thinking is similar to junk food. Those who live on a diet of junk food will end up paying for it. The same is true or stinking thinking.
* Those who are recovering from addiction will be far more likely to relapse if they experience negative thoughts. Even if they manage to avoid a return to alcohol or drugs they could still harm their recovery – this is called dry drunk syndrome.
* This type of thinking leads to conflict and prevents the individual form meaningfully connecting with other people. Loneliness can be the source of a great deal of unhappiness and it can easily lead to depression. Negativity makes it difficult to both make friends and be a friend.
* Those who think this way will have more stress in their life. If they blow even the smallest problem out of proportion it can mean personal suffering.
Stinking Thinking and the Relapse Process
Those individuals who relapse after a period of sobriety will tend to experience a number of events prior to picking back up alcohol or drugs. This is referred to as the relapse process. What happens is that the individual becomes stuck in recovery, and they fail to do the things needed to get them unstuck.
Dry Drunk Syndrome
There are some recovering addicts who go through long periods of stinking thinking. They might not relapse but they suffer the consequences of this in other ways. Dry drunk syndrome is when people are sober but they act in many ways as if they were still drinking. Their unhealthy patterns of thinking mean that they do not find much enjoyment in recovery. Family and friends may still find such people to be very hard to deal with. This individual may be technically sober but they live their life almost in almost a maladaptive way as when they were substance abusers.
How to Avoid Stinking Thinking
There are a number of actions that people can take if they want to avoid stinking thinking including:
* One of the main difficulties with this type of thinking is that people slip into it without even realizing it. It is therefore necessary for people to keep track of their thinking to observe for any persistent patterns of negative thinking.
* A great method for helping people to become more aware of their thoughts is through meditation practice. Mindfulness in particular can be a fantastic technique for allowing people to have greater awareness of their thinking processes.
* Keeping a journal is useful because it means that the individual can put their thoughts on paper. People can be shocked to see how much negativity there is inside their minds when they see it written down on paper.
* Gratitude and positive thinking are an effective way to counterbalance an excess of negative thinking.
* Those who are recovering from addiction should seek help if they are feeling constantly negative. This is often a sign that something is going wrong, and if they do not take action it could lead to relapse.