Have you ever noticed yourself or your child experiencing vision issues and thinking or saying something like “I’m never going to make progress!” or “Everyone thinks I look weird with this eyepatch!”? These are just two examples of numerous unrealistic or irrational thoughts that can occupy our mind. We find ourselves believing them without even being aware of it. This common thought patterns, often referred to as “thinking bugs”, are recognized as mental or cognitive distortions in the realm of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
In this blog post, we will discover how we can empower positive mindsets when facing vision issues.
Unrealistic automatic thoughts
The thinking bugs typically arise suddenly and automatically, often triggered by vision issues. They are not conscious and can appear like internal dialogue. We usually do not doubt them and feel like we have no control over them which is why they are likely to reproduce.
You might think you are the only one experiencing unconstructive critics in form of mental distortions, but it happens to everyone. Furthermore, their content depends on our personal characteristics, previous experience, upbringing and other factors from our environment.
Although mental distortions immobilize us for constructive problem solving and are not beneficial for us today, they probably had a function in our past. They might have protected us from being surprised with disappointments or served some other psychological function. Even if they no longer serve us today, they became a part of our usual way of thinking.
Thinking bugs when experiencing vision issues
Let us check for a few examples of thinking bugs that might appear in connection with eyesight issues:
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Catastrophizing (imagining a worst case scenario)
“I can’t catch balls and I’ll never be able to play any sports. I’m destined to be left out and alone.”
All or nothing thinking (black and white thinking)
“If I can’t see perfectly, I’m completely useless.”
Overgeneralizing (broad negative conclusions based on limited experience)
“I’m just not good at anything because of my eyes. I’ll never be able to succeed in school.”
Personalization (blaming yourself for situations you cannot influence)
“I’m so bad at drawing. It’s all my fault.”
Mind reading (assuming you know what other people think)
“Everyone thinks I look weird with these glasses on. They probably make fun of me.”
Discounting positives (discounting any positive aspects and focusing only on the negative)
“They’re just being nice. My artwork is still terrible because of my eyes.”
Recognize and challenge your thinking bugs
By changing thinking patterns, you can experience a reduction in emotional distress and make healthier choices in your behavior. There are different strategies in depleting the power of our thinking bugs. First, we should pay attention to them and recognize them as non-valid statements. Furthermore, a part of that step is also understanding that they are just thoughts and we do not need to completely identify with them.
You can recognize them as thoughts, expressions, words and they can appear as something you say out loud or an image that appears in your mind. Often, they include phrases like “I have to”, “It’s urgent”, “always”, “never” and can make us see the world in black and white. The distorted thoughts are pessimistic, illogical, unreal and might guide us into catastrophizing. The more they appear, the more they are engrained in our brain.
Second, we can try to challenge them using different strategies: we can check their validity with someone we trust; we can imagine what we would tell our friend if they had the same thoughts; we can try to play with the extremes of that thought to see that e. g. not everybody thinks what you fear they would.
Third, search for alternative thoughts. Searching for them does not mean we have to deny our statements completely. Moreover, we can still recognize our unpleasant feelings and parts of truth that hide in our thinking bugs, but we can leave some space for hope as well.
Let’s see how we can transform the previous examples:
“Sports can be adapted to accommodate my eyesight. I can explore different activities and find ones that I enjoy and excel in.”
“Even if my eyesight isn’t perfect, I still have valuable skills, strengths, and worth. I can adapt and find ways to thrive in various aspects of my life.”
“My eyesight doesn’t define my abilities. There are many ways I can excel in school and achieve my goals.”
“Drawing can be challenging at times, but I’m improving and learning new techniques.”
“Wearing glasses is a normal and helpful thing. People appreciate me for who I am, not just how I look.”
“I receive genuine compliments for my artwork. My eyesight doesn’t hinder my creativity and passion for art.”
Be patient, it takes time
Keep in mind that the processes of changing thought patterns can take some time and practice, because rewiring our automatic brain connections is a gradual process. So be patient and kind to yourself.
Information in this blog cannot substitute the guidance and expertise of mental health professional. Consult them if you feel like you need support in this process.