The saying and direction of ‘Look before you leap’ is proverbial wisdom in many cultures, in Irish it is rendered as Dearc súl sula léim a thabhairt. Yes, cautious vigilance is no bad thing – It may even be the oldest survival advice. This version of looking and leaping is borrowed from the English whom meant it as a forewarning on making a bad marriage. Today it has universal appeal and stands for jumping ahead with any venture without due diligence. It is a prompt to risk assessment.
Sure it is a good idea to look before you leap but an over propensity or deep intensity of scanning for the negative and potential pitfalls is not so good – in fact that is the essence of anxiety. We don’t get to leap forward and progress or overcome if we are frozen in the looking and reticence/hesitance of taking a chance. look but don’t forget to leap too.
What are you so anxious about? It is rarely the past, it may be history repeating itself, it may an inability to let go of past trauma and the continuance of it into today but mostly anxiety is fear or apprehension of future events, the ‘what if’ and the ‘what next’. It is not just looking before you leap; it is predicting how badly you will jump and how far you will fall, even before you get close enough to assess the dimensions of the ravine or what’s over the wall. Yes vigilance is good, but hypervigilance may be a means of self-harm or at the very least self-restriction.
And while we anxious people are perhaps too risk adverse, let’s just go with it for a moment. So, you have had a lifetime of flexing your hypervigilance, that’s why you are so good at your anxiety. It’s not an infection, sure it’s an affliction but it is also a well-practiced skill. One you hone every day. How about utilizing it to cast an eye upon some bad matches, to access some very real pitfalls – to survey those cognitive distortions that blight your living of a full, productive and happy life.
Action. Cast an eye on other cognitive distortions
‘I am this’ or Emotional Reasoning is the propensity to believe and assert that what you are currently feeling is what you are. I am feeling down so I am depressed, I feel stupid I must be stupid, I am feeling lonely so nobody loves or needs me. It is taking the feeling to heart, fixing it as an unconditional reality and using it to exclude other possibilities.
Self-commandments or the shoulds and shouldn’ts, must and must nots, are equally fixed principles that are often more about self-flagellation than any moral compass – I shouldn’t speak up, I should have known better, I shouldn’t have done that, I should always….., I must be this, I must not do that. They really are just guilt triggers.
Of course, we can apply those set rules to others, they should or shouldn’t do x, y or z, they must act this way and must not act that way – this maintains, with expectations that are hard to live up to, our world view and low opinions of others. Its hard to live in a world set so high and beset on all sides. Self-commandments facilitate disappointment, anger, guilt, shame, frustration and resentment.
Global Labelling or judgementalism is a gross generalisation of a person, yourself or a situation. It disregards context, in favour of the pronouncement of an overly critical sentence. It is a kneejerk verdict that may come from an indoctrinated moralistic stance or form an extreme prejudice based upon one bad experience or through selective ignorance; it is the likes of all ‘men are brutes’, ‘all women are duplicitous’, ‘they hate me’, ‘I am worthless’, ‘that invite was not sincere’, ‘nothing works for me’. Again, more unsubstantiated negative assumptions often loaded with aggression toward others or self-pity or chastisement of self, often the excuse to take ‘avoidance action’ in social, career or family life.
The victim fantasy or Externally Controlled Fallacy is a way of absolving one’s self of personal agency. It is the belief that you are a victim of fate, Murphy’s law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) or the bad intentions of others – so there is nothing you can do to change the situation, just suffer it.
The victimiser fantasy of the Fallacy of Internal Control is where you adopt the responsibility for all that goes wrong in the world around you. It all emanates from you – you are to blame, you are the cause, your actions or inherently bad self has tainted or corrupted the happiness of those around you. Everything wrong or bad is because of something you did. You are perpetrator.
Stacked against or The Fallacy of Fairness is the perception that you are on the wrong side of allotted fair deals, that you can’t ever get onto a level playing pitch, that you know what’s what and what’s right but other people or life circumstances deny you it. Ok, life isn’t always fair, and poverty or place of birth or other prejudice against you can be in play but we can persevere, work around or fight for equality/justice. The stacked against mindset is a give up mindset because if fairness is only in the hands of others against you or doesn’t exist at all then why try, things will never work out. The ‘stacked against’ mind set is one that also uses fairness out of context, I was late for work every day for a month because my alarm clock was broke, then I got sacked, how unfair is that. Nobody made me a billionaire influencer or movie star – how bloody unfair. I caught a cold, how unfair.
You be perfect first or the Fallacy of Change is the expectation that others need to change to suit you or accommodate your foibles. It is that one thing (or several) that you want to alter in your partner or friend to make them more acceptable to you. It sets up an irritation point, this can fuel years of angst and let down, this can cause break-ups and years of despondency and or resentment. This distortion takes the emphasis off the flaws in your personality or appearance or mode of behaviour. Your happiness can’t depend on and won’t result from controlling others, no more than you can attain perfection.
I know best or ‘the fallacy of always being right’ is the ultimate inflexibility, it is the quickest way to alienate people or at the very least make them unsympathetic to your plight. It shows often in smugness, argumentativeness, stubbornness, sulkiness, indignation and outrage. It is but a cage. It is but a stick to beat others with. It keeps you bound to all your false assumptions and cognitive distortions. It earns you your anxious life as much as thinking you are always wrong.
Heaven’s Reward Fallacy is the belief that all your suffering and self-denial will pay dividends later – you will eventually be justified – sure, but meantime you are suffering. When is this reprieve? When is this reward? When you are dead? Sure we are a long time dead and without casting aspersions of the possibility of a heaven or after life why not have a good this life. Life is short but it’s too long to be miserable in. Absolution is for now. The joy of life is for now. Radiating gratitude, compassion and loving kindness is for now. How about meeting you maker with a tally of good done rather than bad done to.