Dysfunctional thinking can be described as thought processes which do not line up with average life situations. It is described in Websters Dictionary as “Abnormal or impaired functioning, especially of a bodily system or social group.” This becomes a significant source of stress in a person’s life and many times it isn’t even noticed. One of the most important steps in changing a negative thought process is recognition. Sometimes people can come to this on their own , but other times it is important to seek the help of a professional.
Dysfunctional thinking almost always develops from extended exposure to negative situations. The reason it can become so well established is because it lines up nicely with that situation. It is not until some point in time when a person enters into healthy relationships or a positive situation, that the thought process begins to clash. Take an example of a person who is raised in an abusive household. Fear of relationships, lack of ability to show emotion, and difficulty with intimacy can become very common struggles. Now in the situation this individual grew up in, those are natural reactions, essentially they line up with the environment. In fact those reactions were probably necessary to emotional and maybe physical survival through that time in life. Now take that same thought process and implant it into a fairly healthy relationship and it clashes.
It is simplified as follows:
Dysfunctional thought works in dysfunctional situations
Functional thought works in functional situations
Functional thought does not work in functional situations
Dysfunctional thought does not work in functional situations
When this part of the puzzle is realized, then people can begin the process of letting go. It definitely falls into the class of “easier said than done” and takes a great amount of time. It is important to make a conscious effort to change thought patterns. That’s why recognizing something as an unhealthy thought is crucial. If a thought is recognized then someone can actively change the thought and the action that follows. For example, a married person in a healthy relationship may receive a compliment from their spouse. The natural reaction may be to reject that compliment, causing further distance in the relationship. If a person can recognize their spouse as a healthy relationship and catch that thought of rejection, they can consciously choose to respond positive. Thus fostering the relationship.
To do this does take a great deal of perceived emotional risk. There is possibility for periods of rejection when taking these steps. Healthy relationships are a wonderful part of life, and everyone should give themselves the opportunity to experience them. Not just marriage relationships, but friendships, and work relations as well.
Many times these steps are taken by a person on their own, but most of the time it is helpful to work with a professional. A Licensed Therapist or Psychologist can be a very useful asset in trying to make these changes and lead to a much better life.