Sunday Edition #25: MY Column in Yellow
I started dating someone recently. I know I like him and he likes me, but I can’t stop doubting it. I worry that something I say or do will cause him to lose interest. I think about all the reasons why he will probably decide to not stay with me. I over analyze his texts and behavior and create scenarios in my mind about why he won’t choose me. I’ve done the same thing in my past relationships and don’t know how to make it stop. Why do I keep doubting everyone’s interest in me?
As we move through life, we collect information. We store it away and pull it out as needed. Most times, this is good because it helps us grow, learn and become better based on experience. There are times, however, when the information we collect haunts us more than it helps us. Let me introduce you to the word Schema.
I first heard this word 2.5 years ago. Shortly after I broke up with my boyfriend, I was reflecting back on the relationship as a way to let go and move on. I had a sudden realization I was experiencing common patterns in all my relationships… unhealthy patterns. I knew I needed help to understand and break them, so I found a therapist and started to see her weekly. In one of our first sessions, she told me about the schemas I’ve developed and how they are impacting my life. Basically, they are stories we believe to be true (whether they are or not) based on events that occurred in our lives. We then live accordingly around them.
One of my schemas is very similar to what seems to be happening in your question. In the history of my relationships, starting with my father, I have felt abandoned. Therefore, whenever I meet someone new, I’m already preparing for their departure from my life. If you expect it to happen, then it hurts less, right? Not so much.
This negative thought pattern becomes natural and we look at it as true, making it even harder to break. I’ve gotten into a full out argument with my roommate when she challenged me on something I said about how I didn’t expect to hear from someone I had a great date with. I couldn’t see and accept any other idea than, “he will leave me.” I became confused and frustrated with the concept that someone might stay.
Guess what… I did hear from him again.
These self defeating thoughts are a form of self sabotage. Your negative mindset influences your actions and will cause you to drive someone out of your life which then validates the story you’ve created about no one staying. It strengthens this belief system for next time and the cycle continues.
The battle with your brain can be won. The first step is awareness, which you have, but now you need to learn to reject the negative thoughts each time they arise and accept a positive one instead. Stick to the facts of a situation rather than coloring them in with assumptions and examples distorted from past experiences. It is easy to draw conclusions around scenarios that have similarities to what we encountered before. When you catch yourself falling into a negative pattern of thinking, don’t get upset with yourself. Stop and acknowledge it. I sometimes say to myself, “Oh, there you are again. I’m sorry, but I no longer believe what you’re telling me to be true” Then, I counter it with a positive mantra that can be repeated until the negativity passes. An example might be, “I am enough and worthy of love.”
Each time you block the negative thought and transform it into something positive, it retrains your brain and creates new neural pathways. They are rivers of information flowing through your brain. If you stop up a river, the water always finds a new path. This is also true with your brain. Just make sure you are redirecting it in a positive direction and not towards a new negative belief.
Choose to be different and make it a priority. With time and dedication, you can change the story on repeat in your head. You deserve a happily ever after. Don’t let your schema tell you otherwise.
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My Life in Yellow is not a licensed psychologist or health care professional and the advice within this column does not replace the care of psychologists or other healthcare professionals. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a health/medical professional. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.