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Negative Association with Gender

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hello, I have an issue with something a therapist calls ‘negative association’. When a negative event, for example-someone calls me ‘ugly’, I’ll feel bad about it. Then, I’ll think about the person who called me ‘ugly’ and associate their gender, with the event. I also do this when I’m at a place. If something bad happens at a certain place, if it’s a school or a store, I’ll avoid that place to not remember the event.

I’ve been diagnosed with OCD in the past. Would this be a part of OCD? I talked to a therapist about it, though had no luck solving the problem. The thing that continues to irritate me, is the fact that some girls/women, have said negative things to me in the past. I’ve had girls call me- hideous, disgusting, ‘you look like a man’. I even had one time that my mom said ‘why don’t you just shoot yourself?’ when I asked the point of living was all about. I know my mom was under stress, though that saying continues to bother me.

As you can see, the sayings that hurt me, I associate them with the gender of the person who said them. This starts to make me feel bad about being the same gender. I don’t want to continue to feel this way. I don’t constantly think about this. I remind myself that I’m a better person then them, and that I never did those things. How do I overcome this negative association?

You can overcome the “negative association” or any type of illogical thinking by realizing that you should only believe what is real and true. You are not entitled to misinterpret a situation. If someone makes a negative statement about you, it does not mean that individual is representative of their particular gender. You are making the assumption that, for instance, if a woman says something negative about you then all women are capable of the same level of negativity and are to blame. It is not logical to believe that statement. Generalizing is a type of cognitive distortion. It is an incorrect way of thinking. It is not fair to lump all women into the same group. Each individual is very unique. It would be logical to be upset with the woman who made the negative statement but not with all women.

Racism and stereotyping are based on the same type of generalized feeling or belief. Having a negative interaction with an individual of a particular race or ethnicity, for instance, should not lead one to the conclusion that all individuals of a race or ethnicity would behave in a similar manner. It would simply be an incorrect assumption. False assumptions often lead to erroneous conclusions.

The first step in correcting cognitive distortions is to be aware that they are part of your thinking pattern. Not everyone can do this but it seems you can. I believe you are keenly aware of possible cognitive distortions. Next, always examine your thoughts and search for possible cognitive errors. It is not enough to be aware of cognitive distortions. To find them, you must analyze your thinking, in an active, not reactive way. Thoroughly think through each situation. If you have a negative interaction with an individual, analyze what happened and force yourself to find the reality of the situation. Do not allow yourself to make assumptions, jump to conclusions, or prejudge a situation or an individual. Finally, you should enlist the help of your therapist in this process. He or she can help to sharpen your thinking abilities and to work with you to clarify your thoughts. Changing the way you think will take time but with continued focus, dedication and practice, you can likely succeed. Good luck and please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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