Thursday, February 27, 2014

Evaluation Accuracy

How we evaluate ourselves, others, and the events of life can prevent us from or assist us in resolving our conflicts and obtaining our desires.
Mother of 5 and Social Worker, LCSW
I asked Wendy Plewe, a social worker (LCSW) who has worked in adoptions as well as counseling for the past 15 years, to write an article on what she considers to be the most important things a woman needs to understand in order to resolve her conflicts and obtain her desires.  I've witnessed Wendy's sincere, calming, and level-headed persona in the classes she teaches so I knew what she had to share would be valuable to us Special Ops Moms.

Wendy begins her answer by cautioning us that we can be too general in evaluating our conflicts.  When we are too general we aren’t applying core principles to our specific situation.
Listen:  "He Said" by Group 1 Crew
She says, “Resolving conflict can be a challenge as each conflict is unique and requires thoughtful perspective as to what the problem really is.” 
Wendy also suggests that differentiating between minor and major conflicts is a key skill in evaluation.
“Conflicted feelings over choosing between two desirable activities is different than conflict over cherished relationships or life changing decisions.”
Listen:  "Need You Now (How Many Times)" by Plumb
In Wendy’s experience as a counselor she has come to realize that we often talk about our specific conflicts without recognizing the deeper issue at our core.  Focusing in on whether the painful feelings inside of us stem from a fear of future sorrow or an imbalanced evaluation of past sorrow enables us to separate out the variables.  In this way we have a better understanding of ourselves and how we tick. 
She writes, “Asking oneself, ‘What am I truly conflicted about?’ is often not what the conflict appears to be on the surface.  For example, you may feel as though life has dealt you an extraordinary amount of challenges and heart ache.  You may be anxious about what the next set back will be or will this ever end.   Is the conflict about the worry of the unknown or a deeper feeling of ‘can I handle one more thing?’ or ‘what am I really supposed to learn from this?  I thought I already learned that.’”

Wendy has noticed that imbalanced evaluation hinders our ability to resolve our conflicts and obtain our desires.
She says it like this, “A common denominator for conflict is the negative self-talk or thinking distortions that downplay our abilities and make us feel that we are not enough. 

Negative self-talk is what we say inside our minds like
‘I could never do that.’
‘I am not as disciplined/smart/creative as so-and-so’
‘what could I possible offer.’  

“Thinking distortions examples are all-or-nothing thinking, fortune telling, catastrophizing and personalization to name a few.” 

Thinking Distortions = Imbalanced Evaluation
What is All-or-Nothing Thinking?
All-or-nothing thinking is when we believe we have to be perfect or we’re a failure — there is no middle ground. We place ourselves, other people or situations in “either/or” categories, with no shades of gray or allowing for the complexity of most people and situations. If our performance falls short of perfect, we see ourselves as a total failure.
What is Negative Fortune Telling?
I found the following description of Negative Fortune Telling from an online site called Goalistics.
The Role of Thinking in Depression
How you think plays an important role in depression and in chronic pain management. One type of thinking that is often associated with depression is called “Negative Fortune Telling”. This kind of thinking involves making negative predictions about the future, often with little or no firm evidence. When you are depressed, the future can look terribly bleak. You may predict that things will not work out for you and that you will always feel bad. You may feel certain that your pain problem will never get resolved or that you will not be able to cope. You may assume the worst, and you may feel helpless. In a sense, pessimistic beliefs can give you a “hope phobia.” You may be afraid to hope for a good future, so you may give up. Here are some examples of Negative Fortune Telling.
  • “I'm going to turn down all of the holiday invitations. I won't be able to handle any of it.”
  • “I'll never find a doctor who can help me.”
  • “What’s the use? It’s hopeless anyway.”
  • “Trying to get back to work will be a disaster. I just know it.”
  • “My family doesn't understand my pain and never will. I give up trying to explain.”
  • “I'll never be able to be as athletic as I used to, so there's no use trying.”
  • “I am dreading going to physical therapy. It won't do any good.”
If my examples sounded like how you sometimes think, then you may have developed the habit of using Negative Fortune Telling. It is common for people who are depressed to think this way on a regular basis. But, Negative Fortune Telling can create a “self-fulfilling prophecy” – what you fear actually comes true, partly (and unwittingly) by your own doing.  It is a scientific fact that our expectations can influence what we do, which then can affect how things actually turn out. If you always expect the worst, you are stacking the deck against yourself, needlessly.
I am not saying you should be unrealistically hopeful.
I am saying that hope when combined with good problem-solving and planning  – is one of the best natural antidotes to depression. If you fear hope itself, you are robbing yourself of an important tool in keeping your spirits up, and in being motivated to make improvements in your life.
Listen:  "Hurricane" by Natalie Grant
What is Catastrophizing?
Catastrophizing is a lot like Negative Fortune Telling.  I found this definition in Psychology Today.
Catastrophizing has two parts: 
Part 1: Predicting a negative outcome.
Part 2: Jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe.


Part 1: Student worries they will fail an exam.

Part 2: Student jumps to the conclusion that failing an exam would be a catastrophe. They imagine that if they were to fail an exam, it would mean they would never be a success in their life.

Counter evidence is that many people who are eventually successful have failed an exam before. And, many types of important exams even offer multiple opportunities to sit them.

What is Personalization?
We can evaluate past events, whether they be successes or failures, by assigning too much responsibility to ourselves and not enough to other causes. We take too much credit for what goes right and wallow in toxic shame when things go wrong.  This is what psychologists call Personalization.

Imbalanced Judging
 Listen:  "Let It Go" by Demi Lovato
Our own imbalanced evaluation is one variable that prevents us from resolving conflicts and obtaining our desires.  When others evaluate us in imbalance, it adds another variable which complicates the situation.
Wendy says, “If we are in a relationship or conflict where the situation reinforces these negative held beliefs then we tend to be defensive. We tend to not be at peace to handle a situation sincerely and with clarity.  We may lash out or be impulsive.”

She goes on to identify what she has found to be the universal desires: peace and guidance.  “Peace and guidance is something, I believe, all universally seek and is what helps us to resolve conflict successfully.”

“Recognizing our UNIVERSAL NEEDS as identified by Gary and Joy Lundberg are key:
'I am of worth.'
'My feelings matter.'
'Someone really cares about me.'”
Listen:  "Slow Down" by Jenny Jordan Frogley

Wendy concludes , “If our thinking is realistic and balanced then we will feel greater peace and optimism and then we will act accordingly!  This Cognitive Behavioral approach to seeing life and handling conflict and obtaining our goals is profound and really works, but requires thoughtful perspective……which requires us to SLOW DOWN and just PAY ATTENTION to our thoughts and feelings and how they influence our behavior.”
2 Nephi 27:23
Over the past few weeks I’ve been hypothesizing that if I could balance my evaluation process (yesterday), it would directly affect my hope for the future (tomorrow) and the balance of my real-time process (today).  Wendy’s experience confirms that hypothesis. 

I write about the evaluation process in Day 6 in the Servant Program.