Patterns of thinking that will cause you regret

There’s a concept in CBT that certain patterns of thinking, if you keep practicing them, will make you ill. I think there are other patterns of thinking that will make you an addict.

The patterns of thought that make you ill are all common types of irrational thinking that if left unchecked, lead to anxiety and phobias. That might sound hyperbolic. But it really does work that way.

Patterns of thought that make you ill

As teenagers we grow aware that other people might be thinking about us, similar to how we’re watching them. This new awareness leads to what some psychologists refer to as the invisible audience, where teenager act as if they are on stage all the time. Not realising that no one is actually giving them a second glance. So far so normal. Not a problem.

If you don’t stop thinking this way, if you keep believing everyone is watching, you might find yourself with paralysing social anxiety as a 20 year old. This is where CBT can help, giving you the tools to retrain automatic thoughts into something slightly closer to reality. And the anxiety shrinks until it hopefully disappears.

Patterns of thought that are addicting

Other emotions like fear, anger, worry, and hate will consume your time in a more insidious way. They all give you strong hormonal kicks, which you might start to rely on. Such a strong feeling must be important, right? Maybe you should just open the news again, to stay informed, to stay outraged.

Not only is the emotional rush stimulating. But it also gives you a reason for prioritising whatever it is over other things. Strong emotion, means important, right now! You might never end up doing any of the living you’re dreaming about, because you are busy worrying. Too busy being outraged about the state of things.

Media fans the flames, and you wont believe what happened next

Social media has made this worse. But it’s not new in itself. Media has been educating journalists to sell FUD for years, Fear Uncertainty and Doubt sell newspapers.

But with the advent of perfect behavior tracking, suddenly we could all see what engaged people the most. Who cares if they’re angry or laughing? As long as the daily active users number goes up? That’s what investors want to see.

Don’t get angry. There’s no bad guy here. The problem is partly misaligned incentives, that’s true. But this was a problem ealier than that, when marcus aurelius wrote his meditations to himself. He was already wishing he didn’t spend time on these emotions.

Humans are all addicts. And our thoughts are not spontaneous, or based on what happens in the external world. They are repeating patterns of whatever we practice. So stop praciticing fear. Stop praciticing getting enraged. And start practicing trying to be present with a loved one. Or experiencing a more complicated human interaction through a piece of art that speaks to you. Avoid the shallow media. It’s a slippery slope. And suddenly you will find yourself middle aged and angry. Having done very little living yourself.