Overcoming Self Destruction: Dealing With Destructive Thoughts

This Article Was Published On 08-11-2019

Now that mindfulness is taking more of a stage in the public mindset, we’re becoming more aware of the role self destruction plays in our everyday mental health. From destructive thoughts to negative thinking, when we find ourselves or our service users getting stuck in a pattern of catastrophising it can seem impossible to think clearly and move forwards. 


What are thoughts of self destruction? 


Overcoming self destruction: dealing with destructive thoughtsWe all know our minds have the power to change the things we come up against every day into more unhelpful feelings. These confidence-knocking thoughts can quickly spiral into more serious patterns of self destruction. There are times when we all feel a little overwhelmed and we overthink, and get wrapped up in our unhelpful thoughts. We see this in our service users all the time: day in day out we witness catastrophising, making mountains out of molehills, resulting in people getting wrapped up in their own self destruction. Recognising that your negative thoughts aren’t prophecy and observing them as an outsider helps you overcome the damage that patterns of self destruction can inflict. 


So how can mindfulness help? 


Mindfulness is defined as the human ability to be fully present in everything you do, being aware of your surroundings without becoming overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. When it comes to managing feelings of self destruction, this steady awareness of the world turning around you can help you acknowledge your negative thoughts in a less harmful way. Observing your thoughts makes you more aware of the negative distortions and self destruction they could be placing you under. Your thoughts are not facts. Recognising this simple fact can be very empowering, putting a stop to the chain of events that lead to catastrophising, self destruction and poor mental health. 


Recognising self destruction: ACT in therapy


As practitioners, helping our service users to recognise the impact of self destruction can be carried out through ACT. As a kid, I remember a cartoon called the Numskulls. The story of the Numskulls was that we are all controlled by little people who work together to make us humans operate. By pressing levers and pushing buttons, we would blink walk and do whatever was necessary to operate. 


As an adult, I have come to the conclusion that this idea of being controlled by another being is wrong – well, mainly wrong. There is something like The Numskulls at work in all of us; only our brains have become even more advanced. This  advanced brain is a very useful asset to employ in recovery work, especially when it comes to moving away from ideas of self destruction, and ACT can help us to help our service users to make simple changes to maximise their ability to manage their thoughts and feelings.


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, makes use of a really simple approach to deal with self destruction inducing thought processes. ACT helps service users to connect with their Observing Self, which is that part of our self that is the observer, not the judger, not the part that lives in the moment, but that which just sits, observes, accepts and learns.


By connecting with the Observing Self, you immediately get distance from the event that is overwhelming you; helping you to gain clarity. You can challenge perceptual narrowing, you can self-soothe to regain perspective and seek out solutions that will prevent distress, leading to patterns of self destruction.


This form of treatment can be seen in the technique of Urge Surfing, but there are some quick steps you can offer to your service users to reconnect with the world around them. Share the technique of the Observing Self, so that whenever they are having unhelpful thoughts of self destruction, they will rapidly regain clarity and control. 


Overcoming self destruction: dealing with destructive thoughts

Using mindfulness to connect with the Observing Self


1: Whenever they are experiencing thoughts of self destruction, service users can get distance by recognising that they are having a thought: ‘I am telling myself that no one likes me.’ 


2: To feel calmer still, people can then get more distance by noticing themselves noticing the thought: ‘I am noticing myself saying that no one likes me.’ 


3: To really slow things down so people can take back control and make sound decisions, observe the thought in the third person by saying: ‘Isn’t it interesting that that person’s brain is telling him that no one likes him?’


From now on, instead of letting your clients be overwhelmed, teach them to take back control, engaging that supportive army of numskulls at their disposal. Self destruction doesn’t have to be your constant state of mind.Here at Betterminds, we have a range of courses, tools and techniques available to help you beat the voice at the back of your head for good. Get in touch to find out more.