How We Benefit by Recognizing Truth Vs. Fiction

“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Mark Twain

Have you ever found yourself dwelling on a mistake or ruminating on a stressful situation at work? Our brains seem to disproportionately focus on the negative. Psychologists call this inherent characteristic the “negativity bias.” The good news is it does not have to dominate our mental wellbeing.

Practices that help us overcome our fears

Because the tendency towards troublesome thoughts, such as fear and anxiety, are deeply scripted into our DNA and entrenched by our subsequent conditioning, they often become the default “stories” running in our minds. Fortunately, most of our fears are just an illusion; seldom do they actually happen – ask Mark Twain! It’s natural to have these fears and anxieties, but we can learn skills and practices to better deal with them. Practices that can help:

  • Becoming aware of our thoughts and thought patterns is the first step in helping us identify errors in our thinking. Recognizing it’s a natural part of being human, we can learn to accept that our stressful thinking patterns are bound to happen.
  • Once we’ve carefully examined our thinking, we can be intentional about not attaching meaning to our thoughts, and instead choose alternative thoughts with less fearsome outcomes.

A practical tool

One tool for examining our stories so we can separate truth from fabrication is “RAIN”. Here’s how it works:

R-A-I-NAn example of a story and how RAIN can be applied
R – Recognize the feeling / thoughtI’m worried about an important meeting that I have to chair this week. The stakes are high. I’m concerned that I won’t sleep well the night before, and I’ll not be at my best
A – Acknowledge it (vs. trying to drive it away)Okay, the sensations I’m feeling (recurring stressful thoughts and faster heartbeat) are because of the meeting and it’s OK to feel this way – it’s pretty natural
I – Investigate the thinkingAm I catastrophising? (Probably, as I’ve chaired other meetings well.) Are my thoughts factual? (I don’t need much sleep to do well, so I don’t have facts to support the thinking.) Am I personalising things too much? (The meeting is not about me and who cares if “I’m not at my best”?)
N – Non-attachment by not assigning importance to the thought and inserting alternative thoughtsNo one is expecting me to be perfect during the meeting. I tend to do well, even when I’ve not slept well. I don’t have to be perfect  

Are the things you find stressful based on truth or fiction?  Kwela’s Stress Management course provides increased awareness of how to adjust our thinking about our reactions and more.

Nic Tsangarakis, Principal