All humans have to deal with irrational thoughts, it is just a part of life; these thoughts are usually harmless so long as you do not act on them. If a stranger cuts you up in traffic, you may briefly think about doing something terrible to them, but you are easily able to dismiss such thoughts. What is more dangerous is a pattern of irrational thinking that can influence your behaviour negatively in recovery. It is vital that you remain vigilant for such thinking because it could prevent you from finding happiness in recovery.
What is Irrational Thinking in Recovery?
Irrational thoughts can refer to any beliefs or ideas you hold that are preventing you from getting the most out of recovery. This could include patterns of thinking such as:
- Delusions of grandeur/grandiosity – this means greatly overestimating one’s own significance
- Magical thinking -believing one can directly control the world by thinking a certain way
- Catastrophizing – involves blowing things out of all proportions
- Personalisation -similar to delusions of grandeur, where individuals believe that everything that happens is about them
- Leaps of logic -haphazardly choosing information if it seems to back one’s beliefs
- Black and white thinking -believing things are either right or wrong
- Paranoia -believing others are plotting against him/her
- Delusional thinking -referring to many different types of irrational thinking where the thought is not backed by any evidence
Why Do People in Recovery Suffer from Irrational Thinking
Individuals need to apply a lot of irrational thinking in order to justify alcohol or drug abuse. It is common for many to carry at least some of these unhelpful ideas and beliefs with them into recovery. There are also many individuals with a dual diagnosis – this means they are dealing with a mental health problem alongside their addiction.
One of the most common reasons why humans fall into the trap of irrational thinking is cognitive biases. This means being likely to believe things that seem to support current beliefs. Like all humans, you are likely to feel more receptive to certain ideas and beliefs because they fit in with what you already think you know – even if the information is completely wrong. Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort individuals experience when dealing with conflicting beliefs, so cognitive biases allows them to deal with this discomfort.
Another reason many fall victim to irrational thinking is peer pressure. If those you spend most of your time with have certain beliefs, you may feel pressured into accepting these beliefs – even if these beliefs are completely wrong. This type of irrational thinking can be particularly nasty because it can lead to racism, bigotry, and other forms of prejudice.
How to Deal with Irrational Thinking in Recovery
It is not possible for you to overcome irrational thinking unless you are able to acknowledge that you are engaging it. Some of the steps you can take to avoid the suffering caused by believing the wrong things could include:
- developing your ability to think critically about your own beliefs as well as the beliefs of other people
- not identifying too much with your thinking – understand that it is healthy for people to change their thinking as they accumulate new information and experience
- using meditation to develop the ability to become more objective about your thoughts
- keep a daily journal
- listening to alternative opinions and not just spending your time listening to those who agree with everything you say
- looking at your thinking to see if this is what is causing the problem.