A couple of years ago, I had a course of psychotherapy. After lostcountofhowmany let downs, disappointments, losses and betrayals I wasn`t coping at all with life in general and becoming increasingly paranoid, always expecting the worst. Never mind the stigma – I`ll be forever grateful that I chose therapy instead of medication (or alcohol, for that matter).
I learnt loads about cognitive distortions (great link – check it out!!) and how to deal with them, and while I, of course, was able to practice this particularly well under the supervision of my therapist, I continued to apply my new skills after the sessions had finished.
One which is particularly relevant to me is reading too much into (interpersonal) things, then behaving as if my assumptions were true and thus creating a negative outcome that`s caused by my reaction rather than the initial situation. While I`m still tending to try too hard to make sense of other people`s behaviour, I`m now also able to pull myself back sometimes.
There was one particular situation where I had to work extremely hard at behaving not only as if my negative assumptions weren`t true but also as if I did not have them. In the end however, it turned out that what I was thinking had indeed been true on this occasion. Someone was throwing me (albeit weak and non-committal) hints, and I behaved as if I did not understand them, carrying on causing drama because I refused to see the signs.
“So did your therapy not cover that?” asked my husband later. “how to recover from the disappointment of a real problem? How to deal with things when, by applying her techniques, you actually made it worse? For life isn`t always a bed of roses, and you cannot always influence other people!”
No, she never covered that. And I don`t think the problem was so much my own behaviour, but my (former) friend`s evasiveness. To most Brits, giving hints only seems kinder than being upfront (also to oneself, as you save yourself the discussion) about bad news, but you have to be clear that the hints are understood, or at least be clearer when asked.
Could I have influenced the situation? No. I`d have saved myself a lot of embarrassment (and maybe preserved a friendship that obviously wasn`t what I thought it was) if I had acted upon the hints, but I`d also forever have asked myself: And what if the assumption I was acting on was not true after all?