Sometimes we struggle to understand our partner, we feel like we can never understand them. Many times it is best to start by understanding how we function within ourselves. Do you want to know how to do it?
There is a fundamental fact in communication, which is perhaps the center of its operation: we eliminate the real possibility of communication when we want to be heard instead of listening to and understanding our partner, children, parents, etc. And even more: we fail in the attempt to communicate when we think that everything revolves around us; that is, by assuming that what our partner says or does is because of us. That is the origin of cognitive distortions, of how we misinterpret what our loved ones tell us.
The authors Ellis and Harper, in 1975, gave a list of the most common cognitive distortions. All of them have the same origin: the irrational thought that everything our partner does, is done for one, or happens around one. This generally happens in a three-step process:
1. Our partner does something.
2. Inside us we have an irrational monologue in which we assign certain intentions to those actions.
3. We experience an emotion towards our partner
based on that irrational monologue, not on his or her actions. In other words, almost all the things that irritate or annoy us about our partner are not in her, but in the way we understand her actions, gestures and words.
The two most common forms of irrational monologue are variants of two types:
1. Phrases that victimize you or make the other person a victimizer, such as “This is what my husband does just to annoy me.”
2. Absolute generalizations that imply an “always”, “never”, “never”, of the type: “From now on…”, “I will never again be able to…”, and these two take various forms. I mention below only the most common:
It has to do with perfectionism. It occurs when any mistake in your children or your partner makes you consider that everything in him is a total failure. Those who suffer from this forget that all human beings are made of lights and shadows. And this distortion leads us to the second:
We become so focused on one negative detail about our partner that we become completely blind to the rest of their positive qualities. I have known people who have the almost perfect partner, and for just one detail that they do not like they are unhappy, having everything for a full life.
It is the tendency to believe that we know what others think and their most hidden motivations, and to believe that the center of those actions is oneself. Those who suffer from it usually do not even bother to check whether these intuitions are correct. In this way, he creates self-fulfilling prophecies due to his own negative interaction with his partner, which generates the fulfillment of our expectations.
It occurs when we tend to draw general conclusions, starting from a single incident. The worst thing is that they are absolute and categorical conclusions: “I can never go back to …”, “All men are equal”, “No one will ever love me”, “I will always be a failure.” That kind of thinking denies us agency and the ability to change, both ourselves and our partner or children.
It arises when we position ourselves as the center of any problem. This can take two forms:
It is aroused by having certain expectations of our partner, and we want him or her to conform to ours, and, when they do not agree, our response is bitterness, frustration, cynicism, instead of being more flexible in our expectations.
It could be summarized in the phrase “the measure of a human being is the mistakes he makes.” We put a label on our partner, children, in-laws or brothers-in-law, and from then on we no longer see human beings as living, changing, but only the label; We objectify them and almost always pay attention to external and partial aspects.
Now, once again: what matters is not only knowing what our most important cognitive distortions are (although yes, of course, identifying them is a great advance in the process of improving our communication with our partner). However, it is essential to recognize that almost all communication problems that we have with our partner come from those internal dialogues, which distort the way we perceive things and damage our emotional system.
It is very important to realize that our feelings are modified by our thoughts and, therefore, it is good to be aware that emotions and the right factors are derived from two factors:
Realistic appreciation of various environmental circumstances, experiences, and stimuli.
Distinguish between preferences or real wants and needs, in order to maintain an adequate and proportionate perspective.
In 2001 a very beautiful film was released, which in Spanish was titled A brilliant mind. The film tells the life of John Forbes Nash, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics, who develops paranoid schizophrenia. The interesting thing about the life of this genius is that he became aware of his dementia and, since this disease is incurable, with much effort he was able to live a more or less normal, or controlled life. Now, how does this story tie in with our theme? Nash’s way of overcoming the critical state of his schizophrenia was not by denying or eliminating his delusional side; rather, he managed to cope with them, by stopping feeding them. He said, “ I still see things that are not there, but I choose not to see them. It’s like a diet for the mind, I decide not to indulge in certain appetites. ” That is, I think, the best way to avoid the cognitive distortions that we all have: become aware of them, and force ourselves not to see them, not to feed them.