The Snowball Effect
(Does a Negative thought-feeling need to cause another one, and do these need to become a vicious cycle?)
Whenever emotional events happen, it always has the potential to trigger another emotional event in its wake.
This can be positive, negative, or neutral, but for someone who is already having difficulty with mental health in
some form, these take on a special importance because the direction can have a snowball effect, positive or negative.
What I mean by this is: someone who is experiencing emotional discomfort
in some way on a regular basis, by definition, already has negative
thought patterns that are causing them to have these negative feelings
that are causing them to feel stress or other negative emotions. So when
one of these thought-feeling combinations pops up, what happens next is
of tremendous importance. Does the follow-up thought-feeling combination
bring the person to a healthier State of Mind and allow the person to
get back to their ideal baseline state, whatever that means for them at
the moment? Or does the next thought-feeling combination exacerbate and
worsen the negativity brought on by the previous one, which can
potentially move the person farther from their healthy mental health
The answer to this question of which direction their thoughts will take
will be decided by a number of factors, some of which are within the
persons control and some which may not yet be. For someone who is
utilizing the principles of STEP therapy for example, there is always
the three areas of therapeutic skill: the areas of skills mastered
already; which can be used today, skills that are not yet feasible to
master, and the ones in the middle; the ones being worked on and focused
on by the person in their STEP training at this particular time.
Particularly because of the STEP program’s emphasis of improving Mental
Health, it places great emphasis on Thought Cycles. The reason for this
is because everything we do, think, say, and everything
that happens to us in these three areas as an effect of the thoughts,
speech, and actions of other people, will always have the effect of
moving us in a certain direction. If someone, for example, has high
anxiety, this anxiety seems to sometimes be triggered by specific
events, and sometimes just happens “seemingly out of nowhere” – of
course it is not really “out of nowhere,” there are automatic thoughts
that are causing it to happen. But if this concept is beyond the scope
of this particular person, then he/she will TRULY BELIEVE that the
anxiety has NO CAUSE. When that person believes that they have a
situation where the anxiety just popped up for no good reason, it
tends to cause guilt. This is especially true with people who are of
high intelligence and self-analytical (which tends to also go along with
being highly critical of themselves and having high expectations in
general of themselves). So when this “pointless anxiety” comes out, this
makes the person feel guilt for having anxiety for “no good reason.
This, of course, just makes the anxiety worse.
For these reasons, two critical components of STEP therapy are
* Understanding that there is no such thing as anxiety or any feeling that
comes out of nowhere, all feelings are caused by Automatic, Subconscious
thoughts. That facet of the thought/feeling connection is a cornerstone
of every aspect of STEP therapy.
* Learning to identify what the triggers to anxiety are so that the
anxiety doesn’t seem so random and pointless anymore.
Using that knowledge to break the cycle of feeling like the person is
being controlled by forces outside of their ability to influence, which
is another way of saying – learning to decrease the anxiety.
So, going back to the original question of does a thought-feeling
combination lead towards strengthening/healing/improvement? Or does it go in the other
direction – a vicious cycle of pain? The answer is that it depends. It
depends specifically on what the person’s natural skills/inclinations
are when it comes to their thoughts, and, if the person is engaged in a
course of STEP training, on where exactly the person is exactly in their
customized STEP process . If they have achieved the skills necessary to
bring them from a negative State of Mind to a potentially less negative
and even possibly a positive one, the next steps can be very good and
move the person’s mental health in the right direction. For someone who
does not have the skills necessary however, the next thought-feeling
combination that follows the current one, and the one after that, can
lead to person in a direction of a vicious cycle of worsening depression
that is truly unnecessary and simply a case of needless pain..
To further elaborate, let’s look at one particular problem – Depression.
Sometimes depression is triggered by something. A loss, A difficult life
event Etc. But for people with severe depression, it doesn’t have to be.
Depression can come out of nowhere, and for that person the feelings of
guilt can bring on are strong and painful – why am I getting depressed
for no reason? And those feelings of guilt can worsen the depression. So
it’s a vicious cycle that can be initiated and perpetuated if not
handled correctly. STEP training, for example, would include a thorough
mind-training of the depressed person in truly knowing and internalizing
that if their depression does not need to be triggered by anything
specific, then that’s something that’s out of the person’s control.
Meditating on this fact can significantly lower the guilt and break the
So, will a negative thought trigger a negative cycle? It depends what
tools the person has in their Mental Health Tool Box……something
anyone who has received any training from me is sure to already have as
part of their regular stream-of-consciousness vocabulary…….