One extreme style of thinking is to virtually “skip over” thoughts entirely (think too little). As a result, emotions are expressed in uncontrolled and sometimes frightening ways. If this is so for you, you may react to situations immediately, emotionally, and impulsively, rather than by thinking logically and acting based on consideration of the needs of the situation and selecting from available options. Another extreme is to intellectualize situations (think too much). Ideas are king, and thinking is respected and even revered, while emotions are considered messy or unsafe, and their expression is suppressed, discouraged, minimized, or swept aside. You approach all situations intellectually and seek logical solutions, often to the neglect of appropriate emotional considerations. In extreme intellectualized thinking, excessive emphasis on thoughts and obsessive thinking about every possible option effectively paralyze decision making and prevent necessary action from taking place. In the case of either of these extremes, you are “underthinking”—unaware of your thoughts—or “overthinking”—consumed by your thoughts. Still another extreme of thought is to believe that everything will be fine no matter what. This can be mislabeled as positive thinking, but it’s really a potentially dangerous way of thinking that flies in the face of reality—commonly referred to as denial. In this case, the pendulum swings to the extreme of not seeing reality as it truly is. This can lead to consequences such as underestimating potential problems, ignoring negative realities, not taking care of yourself, and placing yourself in risky situations. For example, you truly don’t see the nature of the drug problem that has developed. On the other side of this spectrum is thinking that everything is lousy and always will be, regardless of what happens. Chronic negative thinking actually makes “bad” situations worse. You may ruminate (go over and over a situation in your mind, replaying it unproductively) or magnify the negative, exaggerating the significance of something that occurred and turning what was really only a small problem into a major disaster in your mind. By focusing on the negative aspects of your experience—for example, the initial injury that caused your chronic pain—you actually make your life more negative. Your thoughts have the capacity to make you miserable. Negative thinking can be especially insidious, feeding on itself, with the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because the effects of chronic pain are generally so unpleasant, it is relatively easy for you to become trapped in a web of negativity from which it can be difficult to escape. Your thinking may or may not take you to these extremes, but having chronic pain or addiction or both typically includes experiencing various degrees of distorted, out-of-balance thinking. Imbalance in thinking can cause imbalances in emotional, physical, and spiritual functioning. This blog post is an excerpt from Pain Recovery – How to Find Balance and Reduce Suffering from Chronic Pain by Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM, Frank Szabo, LADC, Daniel Shiode, PhD, Robert Hunter, PhD; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).