We have all heard that we should rid ourselves of toxic relationships, think positively, eliminate negativity, be self-confident and believe in ourselves in order to be happy and successful. And don’t forget the biggie, “stop being afraid”.

This is all true and sounds great, but in fact can be very difficult to achieve if you don’t know where to start or how this is accomplished.

In fact, all this great advice and wisdom can make you feel overwhelmed and even more depressed when you just cant seem to shake the ongoing problems. You feel like you will never be happy or feel normal. You believe you are somehow “disordered”, “chemically imbalanced” and/or will require medication for the rest of your life.

All the cheery advice makes you feel worse than you did before.

If you are finding yourself depressed, anxious, angry or surrounded by toxic individuals it is likely that you have some deep seated dysfunctional thought patterns, beliefs and habits in place that you may not be aware of.

These patterns and thoughts are what keep you stuck in unhappiness. No medication can fix these, these are things you need to relearn or unlearn. You most likely picked them up in your family or from early experiences with other people. Maybe you were just not taught other ways of thinking that create emotional success. It happens and it is not necessarily anyone’s fault or overlooked maliciously. Parents sometimes just don’t know these things themselves.

Your first step in overcoming any of these emotional difficulties is to understand their roots. Using depression as an example you need to ask yourself, where did it come from? When did you first become depressed? What kicked this whole mental health thing off for me? How am I processing it? Until you have the answers to these questions you may not be able to heed well meaning advice.

I believe somewhere lurking in your past is your answer. Low self-esteem starting in childhood is the biggest culprit in keeping you miserable as an adult. It affects your ability to achieve or make good choices for yourself and therefore brings about depression.

If you don’t trust yourself, decision-making becomes impossible as well as making the tough choices that affect your whole life. You let others choose for you or choose what seems the easiest, afraid you can’t handle more or better.

If you have been cheated on, betrayed or abandoned you develop trust issues or date people you may consider beneath you as you may believe you won’t care as much if they repeat these painful experiences. You may have developed unhealthy ways of behaving in a relationship that jeopardize current or healthy ones.

You may believe you don’t deserve better or more. Or that only lucky people are successful or happy.

There are many forms these thoughts can take but that is all they are, thoughts. Just because you think it or believe it right now does not make it a fact. You learned these thoughts somewhere, you can unlearn them and you owe it to yourself to do this.

Just as you may learn to drive in the USA where we drive on the right hand side of the road, that information doesn’t help you in countries where they drive on the left. You have to learn new information and put it to use. Not many of us have a hard time grasping that concept of having to learn this new way of driving in order to survive. However, when it comes to emotional well being, many of us bristle at the thought that we should learn something new or that we somehow lack vital information. Or that emotional ills can be corrected with just new information. Shouldn’t it take years of therapy and medications? Aren’t we that way for life due to a genetic disorder or brain imbalance?

The answer is no, not many emotional ills stem from genetics or permanent imbalances. There is no research that determines this for sure and in fact there is the opposite, research that shows that Cognitive Therapy provides relief faster and with less chance of relapse. Once you learn these tools you are inoculated for life.

In my career seeing clients in private practice and in doing workshops I have seen much needless emotional suffering due to a lack of correct information.

By eliminating dysfunctional thought patterns and beliefs and adding the proper tools for emotional success, you can expect to reap the following benefits:

  1. Improved mood and sense of well being
  2. Excitement about your life.
  3. Lessening of symptoms or outright relief of depression and anxiety.
  4. Resolved chronic anger issues.
  5. Improvement in your current relationships.
  6. The ability to attract, choose and maintain healthy love relationships.
  7. More success at whatever you choose to do.
  8. Living the life you were meant to live before the dysfunctional patterns took over.
  9. Raising children free of dysfunctional patterns that will interfere with their success and happiness.

Aren’t these things we all would like for ourselves? You can have them.

All you need to get started is an understanding of where your problems started, what misinformation you might be using and the corrected information to use from here on out. Add to that the tools that emotionally successful and resilient people use and you have your own recipe for emotional success!

We were not designed to be miserable, things just happen along the way that interfere with our happiness, mental health and success.

What I would like you to takeaway from this post is a belief that you may be able to feel better even though you may think you have tried everything.

Don’t give up hope that your problems can be managed or resolved and that you can lead a functional and satisfactory life of your own design.

If any of this article sounds like you please send an email to asherman@psychskills.com, I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.

To get started on your path to feeling good, go to psychskills.com and download the freebie on Dysfunctional Thinking Patterns with the weekly tracking sheet. It is very helpful and you will enjoy seeing which thought pattern might be yours!

This article by Dr. Sherman originally appeared on PsychCentral.com

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