- Mental Health
You Must Be Exaggerating!
How often do you exaggerate?
"This is the worst storm we have had in decades!"
"I have no time whatsoever!"
"She really blew it this time!"
We exaggerate to make a point, unfortunately, exaggeration often turns small matters into big ones. and we end up with negative emotions to boot.
When distorted thought patterns are a problem, exaggeration is the seed that sprouts the biggest weeds. It frequently turns into anger, embarrassment, disappointment, worry, and stress. Before we know what is happening, we are drowning in a typhoon of negativity.
Where does exaggeration come from? Why is it such a problem? How can we recognize it? What can we do once we realize that we are using it? The following paragraphs give us some clues.
“Exaggeration is the kissing cousin of both truth and lie.”— Khang Kijarro Nguyen
- The Connection Between Anger and Fear
Anger and fear appear to be two very different emotions, but when we look at the thought patterns that are at their roots, the distortions are very similar.
Where does exaggeration come from?
We use exaggeration in both literature and speech to accentuate a point. Used sparingly, it has its place, and gives others a better understanding of the meaning we are trying to convey.
We use words when we exaggerate that make things seem bigger than they really are. For example, if we caught a large fish, we might say, "The fish I caught was as big as a shark!" even though it really wasn't. We want people to get the idea that the fish we caught was a big one.
The problem occurs when we take our exaggeration to the extreme and use words such as never or always. These polarize our minds, and used frequently enough, convince us that they really are true. The following statements are examples of exaggerations that easily trigger negative emotions:
"I always do everything wrong!"
"He never calls when he says he will."
"I don't have any friends."
The words listed in bold are the red flags. Technically these absolutes are simply not true. We are taking a single negative experience and making a blanket statement based upon it. These types of exaggerations undermine our feelings of self-worth and set off a domino effect inside our brains. They become the assumptions that are the basis of our core beliefs, coloring our entire world with shades of negativity.
- How Excitement Can Easily Turn Into Worry and Anxiety
Excitement is an anticipatory emotion. Left unchecked, it can evolve into worry, and eventually to anxiety. Setting limits on anticipation keeps this from occurring.
Why is exaggeration a problem?
The quote by Nguyen gives us the key. Exaggerated statements are half-truths. Initially, they are based on truth, but exaggeration stretches the truth to the point that it is unrecognizable. Therefore, it ends up being a lie.
When we base our decision making processes on exaggerations, we are building our house on an unsure foundation. Truth is a solid rock. It does not change, no matter what happens. Lies shift and move. Just like sand that is displace by the wind and the waves, they do not stay in one place.We cannot depend upon them.
Allowing ourselves to get caught up in the whirlwind of exaggeration leaves us exposed to the elements of emotional change. There is nothing to hang on to, and we find ourselves being whipped around, our core feelings of self-worth stripped and beaten in the process.
Exaggeration in and of itself is not an issue, it is what we do with it that is problematic. Difficult experiences plus exaggeration equal disaster. We are allowing ourselves to board an emotional roller coaster with no end in sight, and no one at the controls to stop the ride!
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.— Matthew 7:16-17 (KJV)
- Looking Up - The Key to Emotional Survival
Looking up will save us from disaster, not just when we are on the road, but when life is at its darkest.
How can we recognize exaggeration?
We quote the above scripture often when speaking about our deeds.This principle also applies to our thoughts. Thinking upon truth and avoiding falsehood purifies our desires, emotions, and beliefs.
Our emotions are the direct result of how we think about our current circumstances. Thoughts feed our core beliefs, desires, and actions. When emotions well up within us, rewinding our thought processes allows us to see where the red flags are, and how we can change them.
Difficult experiences often take us down the path of thought distortion. We are quick to find fault, complain, have doubts, and exaggerate to protect our delicate feelings of self-worth. We don't realize that these are the very things that escalate our emotional state as well as destroying our worth at its very core. The table below illustrates this principle:
Exaggerated Thought Examples
I always do everything wrong.
I am such a failure.
He never calls when he says he will.
He must really hate me.
I don't have any friends.
No one likes me.
When our thoughts are exaggerated, our self-esteem takes a hit as we assume the worst rather than hoping for the best. In the table below, the exaggerations have been removed. With realistic thought processes, our self-esteem remains strong, and we are able to resolve the issue with little difficulty.
Realistic Thought Examples
I made a mistake.
I will correct it.
He didn't call.
I will go and see what happened.
I feel a bit lonely today.
I will find someone to hang out with.
Once we recognize the red flags in our thought patterns, we can do something about them. It is necessary to replace them with words that keep our emotions on an even keel. Rather than the river of our thoughts being dammed up with negativity spilling all over our lives, the river continues to run, feeding all the land around it with the life giving nutrients needed for daily living.
- Setting Boundaries for Ourselves and Our Loved Ones
Setting boundaries is not a cut and dried activity. Every person is unique and requires different techniques to help them make wise choices. Use these guidelines to facilitate the process.
What can we do once we realize that we are using exaggeration?
The brain automatically brings forward memories of the way things were in our past experience. It takes extra effort to change our thought process from these automatic defaults. The following steps are key:
- Awareness - recognizing that we have distorted thought processes is the first step in getting rid of them. We do this by writing down our thoughts and how we feel as we think them.
- Identify the Key Phrases - Once we write down what we are thinking, we can pin point the key phrases that indicate we are exaggerating. Just like in the examples shown above, we see the fallacy in the extreme nature of the thoughts.
- Remove the exaggeration - re-write the thoughts without the exaggeration using a more realistic view of the situation. Determine a course of action that preserves feelings of self-worth reflecting faith and hope that things will work out for the best.
- Experience the feelings of peace and calm - when we change our thought processes to a more elevated plane, we feel better about ourselves, and we are able to be happy in our relationships with others.
Exaggeration doesn't have to bury us alive. When we recognize that we are using it, and take the necessary steps to change our thought processes, we live a more productive, happy, healthy life. Choose today to keep exaggeration at a minimum, for your emotional health!
©2016 by Denise W. Anderson. All rights reserved. For more information on emotional health and emotional survival, see www.denisewa.com.