If you change “the way you think,” the following scenario will have a different outcome. Have you ever been in a situation where you immediately felt very defeated, negative, and frustrated and proceeded to shut down? When something “bad” happens, do you often tell yourself, “Yup, of course, this would happen to me!”? Do you ever wonder where these thoughts and feelings are coming from and how you can start to keep them in check? At OC Mind Wellness we can help you through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), below is a crash course in how CBT can help.
Irrational Beliefs or Cognitive Distortions
What operates behind these scenarios are Automatic Thoughts, also known as, Irrational Beliefs or Cognitive Distortions. Somehow along the way, we may have picked this up through someone we were modeling. Perhaps a primary caregiver would often shout out loud self-defeating statements when they became upset, or maybe this person would shut down and isolate themselves. The child watching this is free to interpret as well as adopt these actions.
There is no doubt that we mostly learn to cope with what we’ve observed in our environment. This process is called Social Learning, and it is a function within us that plays a role in our survival, but it can sometimes work against us because that intrinsic function within our DNA does not efficiently discriminate what is adaptive or not (especially, not when we are children). Now, fast-forward to present day. You learned this method of coping; and, it is significantly affecting you and is no longer working for you and your environment. Therefore you need to change the way you think.
How To Change The Way You Think
So how do you check these thoughts? What you are experiencing is quite common, and it takes a lot of practice and awareness of your thoughts to begin REPLACING them. Just as you learned these initial thoughts and incorporated them into your cognitive vocabulary, then replace the old thoughts with new thoughts.
Become Aware of These Thoughts. The first step is to start paying attention to these thoughts. They are said to be automatic because they seem to be immediately associated with anyone emotionally triggering event. However, scientific research shows these thoughts do happen sequentially, meaning something does happen immediately before and after they occur (thus influencing how we feel and behave).
Determine the Triggers. Think about what triggers you to think these automatic thoughts. Start tracking situations in which you think and then feel/behave in a certain way. Writing these down is very helpful. This strategy will help you not only have a better awareness of the triggers. Additionally, the next time you experience a trigger, you are more likely to pick up on the thought that’s potentially coming next.
Replacement Thoughts. This step is where you can plug in a replacement thought, i.e., something that will help you feel better and thus influence how you will behave in your environment and vice versa.
Here’s how this happens:
A (Activating event) – B (irrational Belief) – C (Consequence: emotional/behavioral)
Below is a tool called a Thought Record. It can help you track your automatic thoughts (irrational beliefs). You can create a thought record on your own, or you can take it from here for free.
Change the way you think using our CBT Thought Record: Click to Download PDF