Sara was so frustrated with herself and with the situation that she couldn’t take it anymore. She had repeatedly tried to please her boss, but once again he yelled at her for not meeting her expectations, then simply ignored what she said when she tried to explain what was wrong. had happened. When he did this, she felt the familiar feelings of shrinking fear and defensive retort.
But she had done neither. Instead, she just sat there, a little frozen, and nodded with a goofy smile on her face. And now she was back home, sitting on her bed, wondering what was wrong with her: Why couldn’t she be more assertive? Why was his boss so dumb? Why did she feel so vulnerable? Why was life so bad?
This is the second in a series of seven articles that will give you the tools to reverse maladaptive cycles and move towards a healthier life. The first article clarified what internalizing conditions are and identified neurotic loops as the central process underlying them. To briefly recap, internalizing conditions are the primary reasons people seek psychotherapy and consist of adjustment disorders, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders, and generally involve low self-esteem, self-criticism, relationship conflicts and general dissatisfaction with life. A neurotic loop is a maladaptive strategy for dealing with negative situations that is analogous to adding fuel to a grease fire: it makes logical sense but ends up making the problem worse. This blog will teach you how to identify neurotic loops and explain why they create so many psychological problems.
What are neurotic loops?
A neurotic loop occurs when a negative situation elicits a negative feeling, which gives rise to a secondary negative reaction. Getting fired from your job, arguing with your spouse, missing a deadline, and failing a test are all examples of negative situations that should elicit negative feelings. However, these negative situations/sequences of negative feelings often trigger a secondary set of negative reactions that escalate both the situation and the feelings. We can see it in Sara’s answer. As she sat on her bed, she struggled to come to terms with what had happened, needed control of the situation to move on, and blamed herself, thinking something was fundamentally wrong. At her place.
This example helps us see the three components of neurotic loops. First, there are negative situations (for example, his boss yelled at him). Second, there are the “primary” negative feelings that came about as a natural consequence (ie, she felt hurt, vulnerable, and defensive). Third, there are secondary negative reactions that make the situation worse (for example, while she was sitting on the bed, she hated her life and herself). These are the three loops in the chain of neurotic loops and that is why we often call them the “triple negative” neurotic loops.
What does it mean? This means that when you are feeling bad, it helps to be clear about 1) the situation you are reacting to; 2) the main negative feelings you have about the situation; and 3) secondary thoughts, feelings, and cravings you have about it all. Next, ask yourself if you are engaged in a neurotic triple negative loop. To answer this question, you can ask yourself if you have activated a “CRITIC” – an inner voice that is vscritical, rexisting, Iirritable, youneck, Iinsistent, and vslost to new information or are otherwise engaged in misguided avoidance, blame, or control.
The ABCs of the Critic Reacting Negatively
To avoid neurotic loops, it’s important to be aware and in tune with what our emotions are communicating. Our emotional responses have evolved over millions of years to help us navigate the world according to our goals. In this way, our emotions are very informative about our valued states of being and can help us deal with stressful situations by directing us to what is important. Negative feelings are natural and reflect a set of automatic responses to negative situations. Feeling upset after an argument, disappointed after making a mistake at work, or betrayed after finding out your spouse cheated on you are all expected negative emotional reactions to stressful events.
In neurotic loops, however, there is an inability to tolerate the distress that negative events naturally elicit. Thereafter, we engage in a defensive secondary reaction that is often judgmental, judgmental, and controlling. For example, failing a test can be seen as a temporary failure from which one can recover, or it can be interpreted as a sign of fundamental inefficiency.
In many ways, CRITIC makes sense. In other words, it’s natural to be critical if bad things keep happening. However, the way the CRITIC reacts is often counterproductive. Activating CRITIC in response to negative situations is often like adding fuel to a grease fire. It only makes a bad situation worse.
The CRITIC tends to adopt one of three problematic reactions that form the ABCs of neurotic loops. Because the CRITICISM is tense and distressed, he tries to resist his feelings and deny the reality of the situation. This gives rise to problematic avoidance strategies and reactions. The CRITIC is, well, critical and therefore tends to blame themselves, others or the world for the issue at hand. Finally, the CRITIC is often irritable and pushy and closed off to new information, which makes them narrowly focused and oriented toward controlling themselves or the world in problematic or mistaken ways. This means that to overcome neurotic loops, we must become aware of the CRITICAL, understand its logic, and then learn to transform our reactions of avoidance, blame and control into a curious and accepting, loving, compassionate and motivated attitude towards states valued. to be.
Go from CRITICAL to CALM
There is a more effective way to deal with negative situations and negative emotions. The CRITICAL voice makes sense, but it fails to cultivate long-term well-being. When we realize that negative reactions to negative feelings are a bad combo, we can shift from a CRITICAL perspective to a CALM perspective. CALM is an acronym that stands for curiosity, acceptance, loving compassion, and motivation toward valued states of being.
The CALM perspective is aware of and attuned to the reality of the negative situation and the nature of the negative feelings associated with it. He tells us that faced with a stressful scenario, it is better to be curious rather than critical and closed; accept rather than resist the negativity of the situation; loving and compassionate rather than irritable and blaming; and motivated to improve rather than insistently control.
Coming back to Sara, we hope she takes a CALM breath and transitions from her negative reactivity to a more reactive set. Indeed, we might even ask him to take a minute and imagine himself looking at his experience from a different angle, perhaps from the corner of the room. Seeing herself from this distance might help her see the situation differently, perhaps from the perspective of a trusted friend or an ancient sage.
From this perspective, she may ask herself, “What would this friend or elder sage say about my situation and my feelings, and what would they advise me to do? This shift in perspective from negative reactivity to reflective reactivity is the first step in the CALM-MO approach, and we will focus on how to develop it in our next blog in this series.
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