“The only thing that truly matters
Is how often you say
On your journey,
“This, all of this,
is for me.”
— Nikita Gill in her book of poems, Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire, and Beauty
As Nikita Gill points out in her book of poems that center on mental health and young people, positive affirmations are extremely important in building confidence in your teen and their future.
Using the latest research on negative thinking patterns (also called cognitive distortions), this article will delve into fortune-telling, a type of negative thought pattern. This article will explain why this thought pattern is harmful and ways to overcome these thoughts.
That being said, while this article will provide some strategies to help your teen with this negative thought pattern, it should not be used as a substitute for professional and clinically-licensed help.
Negative Affirmations: Fortune Telling in Your Troubled Teen
You can think of fortune telling as a type of negative affirmation. Fortune telling is basically when your teen assumes that bad things will happen in their future. For example, your teen might tell you, “I failed that test so I know that I’m going to fail the major exam.” With fortune telling,your teen might use examples of when things haven’t worked out to assume that things will continue to not work out in the future.
But you might be thinking, “Well, I’ve personally have had fortune telling thoughts before.” But before you assume that you’re fleeting thought is similar to a hardwired thought pattern, here are two points to consider:
1. Attempting to Predict The Future vs. The Fortune Telling Cognitive Distortion
Due to biological and psychological evolution, predicting the future is one way of humans attempting to guarantee their survival. For example, in historical times, predicting that an animal might attack you during the gathering of food was one way of trying to guarantee one’s survival since you would then take the precautions needed if an attack occurred. In our current times, we still do this to some extent by doing this like saving up money in case we lose our jobs. Hence, predicting the future is something we all do.
But not everyone predicts a negative outcome for their future. Your teen’s brain is on fight-or-flight mode, i.e, struggling with being only in survival mode. When the brain is only in survival mode, it sees other things and people as a threat, thereby leaving little room for positive and healthy relationships and experiences.
Fortune Telling is a Maladaptive Thought Pattern and Can Lead to Extreme Behaviors
As you can tell, if a teen’s struggling to see the possibility of a good future, then their relationships and experiences can become very difficult. This is why then, fortune-telling is a maladaptive thought. It’s a type of thought that is unhelpful and even disturbing for the teen who’s struggling with it.
Additionally, because this thought is maladaptive and not a good way to deal with things like fear of uncertainty (a hidden root of fortune-telling), it can lead to extreme thought processes and behaviors such as:
Being unable to cope with and rejecting change.
- Teens with this negative thought pattern might always want things to be the same since changes will shake up some of the control and certainty that they have.
Being very hostile.
- If your teen thinks that things will always be unfavorable, their behavior may become very difficult to deal with. That is because, as was said before, their brain is in a fight-or-flight mode.
It’s also important to remember, that as with other negative thought patterns, fortune telling can cause and maybe a sign of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. This is where you might need schools for troubled teens.
3 Strategies To Help Your Teen
To help your teen with this cognitive distortion, here are 3 helpful strategies.
#1. Remind Your Teen That They See the World Through a Filter
Talk to your teen about negative thought patterns, and specifically, the fortune-telling thought pattern. Identify with them times when you’ve heard or they themselves can remember examples of fortune-telling thought patterns in their lives. After identifying these examples, talk to them about how the lens that we see the world can reinforce our experiences. For example, if we believe that everyone hates us, then our minds will look for examples of when this was true. It will ignore or gloss over times when people did like us.
#2. Encourage Your Teen to Ask Questions
Rather than jumping to conclusions about their future, have your teen ask questions about their future. For example, if they think that they shouldn’t go to college because they’ll fail, have them ask questions such as:
- When are times in my life where I’ve done well in school?
- What was I doing at that time to be successful?
- How can I be successful now using that information?
Doing this will get your teen to move past the obstacles presented by fortune-telling.
#3. Affirmations: Speaking Things Into Existence with Your Teen
Although the helpfulness of affirmations are debated in psychology, it’s important to remember that affirmations are an example of positive self-talk.
Let’s delve into a brief debate about affirmations. Some psychologists argue that affirmations are useless for individuals who doubt what they’re affirming. So for example, repeating “I am strong” might not be helpful if you’re struggling with the nagging thought that “I’m weak.” They argue that the nagging thought will, in fact, become louder.
Other psychologists are for affirmations because affirmations acknowledge the strengths that we already do have. So, they argue that instead of repeating “I am strong,” when you really believe that you’re weak, you might find examples of when you were strong and then use that as a jumping board. So, stating affirmations such as “I am strong because I was able to manage depression and bullying in junior high.” This approach acknowledges the nagging thought of being weak but also challenges it by having your teen scan their past for examples that prove otherwise.
Overall, using these strategies is a way of dipping your feet into understanding your troubled teen. For more information on how to help your teen, check schools for troubled teens.