Comments on
Forget Positive Thinking – Try This to Curb Teen Anxiety


“I didn’t get invited to Julie’s party… I’m such a loser.”

“I missed the bus… nothing ever goes my way.”

“My science teacher wants to see me… I must be in trouble.”

These are the thoughts of a high school student named James. You wouldn’t know it from his thoughts, but James is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades. Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, James makes a common error; he falls into what I like to call “thought holes.” Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For James, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.

Here’s the thing, all kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous. Studies show self-defeating thoughts (i.e., “I’m a loser”) can trigger self-defeating emotions (i.e., pain, anxiety, malaise) that, in turn, cause self-defeating actions (i.e., acting out, skipping school). Left unchecked, this tendency can also lead to more severe conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, in a few steps, we can teach teens how to fill in their thought holes. It’s time to ditch the idea of positive thinking and introduce the tool of accurate thinking. The lesson begins with an understanding of what causes inaccurate thinking in the first place.

14 thoughts on “Forget Positive Thinking – Try This to Curb Teen Anxiety

  • November 14, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Thank you for this helpful article.

    To curb anxiety and stimulate positive attitude and positive thinking it helps to create a positive energy environment in one’s home. To start consider hanging positive energy wall art- Feng Shui inspired paintings and photographs.

    Reply
  • November 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    When you say “in fact” the human brain processes x amount of information per second I would like to see references as to where you got it from. In addition I believe all that info can be accessed at a later date through hypnosis. Which would actually mean that our brains do in fact store an unbelievable amount of information.

    Reply
    • November 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      Hi UrpaDurpa, great question. The references on conscious thought processing are as follows:

      Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow. S.l.: HarperCollins, 1991.

      Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.

      Nørretranders, Tor. The user illusion: cutting consciousness down to size. New York: Viking, 1998.

      The specific numbers cited in the article are from the last reference.

      Also, I don’t disagree with your assessment that we probably retain all of the information in various parts of our brain. Thanks for the question.

      Reply
  • November 15, 2014 at 7:54 am

    The most common thought distortion I see I my office for both teens and adults is #5. Personalizing: assuming the blame for problems even when you are not primarily responsible.

    Reply
  • November 17, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Great article and I love that the solution is also spelled out, as opposed to simply trying to sell some product or advertise for your practice. My only issue is that I cannot directly share this article on Facebook.

    Reply
    • November 20, 2014 at 12:40 am

      You can copy and paste the url link into your facebook status to share like any link.

      Reply
  • November 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    On what basis do you attribute the brain’s ability to filter incoming information to “intelligent design”? Do you use that term as contrast to evolution?

    Reply
    • November 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Hi MidCentJeff,

      Your question: “Do you use that term as contrast to evolution?”

      No, not in the least. In fact, I’ve edited the post and removed the words “intelligent design” as I do not want to detract from the message of the article. Thanks for helping me make the piece more clear.

      Renee

      Reply
      • November 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm

        Renee,
        Thanks for the reply. Yeah, that term seemed a little out of place in your piece, and it’s so laden with controversy these days, I was just curious.
        Jeff

        Reply
  • December 21, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I have to say that this is one of the best written blogs I have read on this topic. I love the conept of accurate thinking as opposed to positive thinking. I appreciated the clarity of your writing and constructive suggestions. I just wrote a blog post that used the term accurate thinking and added the link to this article. Thank you for sharing your work. I think it will help many people to clarify their own thinking and begin to rework their mental pathways.
    sincerely, D.G.
    pennypinched.wordpress.com

    Reply
  • June 17, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Awesome article Renee!!! Can’t wait to read more of your stuff – if you have a newsletter please sign me up. I’d love to share your story and more of your blogs on my media pages Team Women Austrakia. It’s invaluable and just what we need to curb all this “pretend to be nice shit”. I’ve got 3 young kids. This is awesome coaching !

    Reply
  • June 18, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    These are helpful, though I’d like to comment that, After working with individuals, families, and couples for 34 years, I sometimes bemoan these more superficial approaches in the application of CBT.

    I DO recognize their helpfulness for people that have a fairly good internalized sense of self, and parents that knew/know how to Create safe connections with Their children.

    The fact is, that the deeper source of these types of thinking can follow roughly into a few major categories:

    – kids stuck With an externally validated sense of self (common with parents that, often through no fault of their own, are too tired or never learned how to be present with their children, set limits w/o a lot of anger, etc) We used to call this a co-dependent self. I consider that normal when very young, but things can go wrong In authoritarian and laissez-faire parenting situations!) Even when well intended, And love Is there!

    – Kids that have been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused – especially IF one includes authoritarian parenting styles As a form of emotional abuse. These Environmental conditions demand that kids pay attention to the external self, Often create an expectation And beliefs that trust does not work and connections are not safe.They also Create and reinforce Many of the common beliefs that are Listed here.

    An alternative would be authoritative parenting – where kids are taught to notice the goodness that exists within them, and are given a lot of positive time and attention – as opposed to a focus on the negative and acting like mistakes are terrible instead of Part of a normal learning process. Discipline And boundaries are included, but based on how bad behavior contradicts the good part of themselves – leading to more positive assumptions about life, trust in relationships, and trust in themselves versus The common external validation – even through materialistic possessions – that is so common today in our culture!

    Admittedly, and externalized validation of the self is normal developmentally, and set up In Our early attachment process, but IF that attachment process is not a safe one, these types of negative thinking Patterns naturally emerge from that lack of Safety in their attachment relationships. (Whether enmeshed and over-involved, or under involved and/or punishing)

    This is the true source of most negative thinking, anxiety disorders, and depression.

    NOTE: this is not to blame parents, as there are strong cultural influences That exist out of most people’s awareness – especially when economically Stressed, parents are forced to carry an amount of tasks that are inherently stressful And overwhelming, and Often, additionally [consciously or unconsciously] modeling on Cultures that engage in, And normalize aggression and world dominance!
    Just my $.02 in order to hopefully, create more depth full analysis regarding where these negative patterns come from, and the forces that might– Even unintentionally – keep them in place.

    Reply
  • July 20, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    I have a very anxious, but outgoing 19 year old who manifests his anxiety in extreme anger and mis-trust. I would appreciate being able to sign post support/self help networks in UK/London. Do any exist?

    Reply
  • January 25, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Excellent article! Sometimes we think that all it takes is positive thinking, but theres so much more to it!

    Reply
 

Join the Conversation!

We invite you to share your thoughts and tell us what you think in this public forum. Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. A first name or pseudonym is required and will be displayed with your comment. Your email address is also required, but will be kept private. (Please note that we use gravatars here, which are tied to your email address.) A website/blog/twitter address is optional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *