Day 4 – You are not the center of the universe!

There are a couple other errors in thinking that are worth spending extra time on. So I am going to spend an entire day of the series on each. I did not talk about them in the anxiety series so don’t tune out!! :)

Today’s topic is about personalization. Essentially, it’s when we interpret events that occur as having a direct relation to us, even when they have nothing to do with us at all.

So for example…

Your boss is having a bad day and seems to be avoiding contact with people. You ask her a question at one point and she snaps back at you. You assume her mood must be about you somehow… did you offend her? Did you mess up on your most recent work project? You feel guilty and ashamed because you just know you must have done something wrong.


Your husband tells you he is stressed out and nothing you say is making him feel any better. You feel guilty because you can’t cheer him up. You think to yourself “If I was a good wife, I would be able to help in some way. I am letting him down.”

In both of the above examples, the situation has nothing to do with you! Let me repeat: nothing to do with you! You may feel like it for some reason but that doesn’t make it true. Each person is having their own isolated experiences in these instances and you have nothing to do with either. And yet, sometimes, and we all do this, we make assumptions that we are somehow at fault for what other people are dealing with.

So how do we change this?

1) We need to realize that there could be another side to the story.

Is it possible that your boss’ bad mood has to do with the big budget meeting she had that morning? Or, maybe you had heard that she and her husband are going through a rough patch in their marriage and perhaps they just got in a fight. There are many possible explanations when people are in bad moods or stressed out and unless you can think of a clear-cut reason that they may be upset with you, it most likely has nothing to do with you at all.

2) Even if it is about us, so what?!

I don’t say this to be insensitive or to act like offending others is not a big deal. However, many of us who fall into this negative thinking trap, do not like conflict. In fact, we avoid it at all costs. So, the very thought that someone’s behavior towards us is anything less than “normal” brings up a lot of fear… the fear that they may not like us or we may be as close as we used to be or we may be in a fight now etc. This is incredibly scary for the conflict-avoider!! So rather than simply approaching the person and attempting to resolve the issue, we internalize the guilt, fear etc. and sit in those negative emotions. This can feel like absolute torture!

So, back to the original question: Even if it is about us, so what? When two people get in a fight, it is in fact possible to make up! And even come out of the fight, closer than ever. Think of a marriage; I don’t know a single married couple that doesn’t fight sometimes. Fighting indicates a level of relationship where two people are close enough to reveal themselves completely, even if it means conflict. This is incredibly important in fostering genuine closeness and even longevity in relationships.

So let’s recap this week.

A) An Activating Event occurs
B) A Belief (a thought) crosses our minds
c) There is a Consequence


Our thoughts most likely fall into one of the Faulty Belief categories discussed either yesterday or today. We’ll go over another one on Monday as well.

Keep practing your ABCs! See you Monday!

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