CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
Just as we often take our feelings for granted, so we often take for granted the thoughts that cause them. This is because most of the thoughts we have are not conclusions from reasoning about events; they are automatic thoughts, habits of thinking that come to us so effortlessly we don't even know we have them, or, if we do, we assume they are correct. They can become ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) which can cause us to be depressed, anxious, angry or awfully unpleasant.
Cognitive distortions, no matter how damaging they may be, are unconscious operations of the mind. People do not choose their cognitive distortions. Indeed, most people would disavow the kind of reasoning that is behind their automatic thoughts. We act on them without even being aware of them. The first step to changing them is to recognize that we are using them.
A person who is trained to track his thoughts. . . can observe repeatedly that his interpretation of a situation precedes his emotional response to it. For example, he sees a car heading toward him; then, he thinks, "It is going to hit me," and feels anxious. Furthermore, when a person changes his appraisal of a situation, his emotional reaction changes. A young woman believed that a friend passed by her without saying hello. She thought, "He's snubbing me," and felt sad. After a second glance, she realized that it wasn't her friend at all and her hurt feelings disappeared.
How to Modify Your Erroneous Thinking Patterns
When having an unpleasant emotion:
A. Rate the intensity of your emotion on a scale of 1 to 10.
B. If the emotion is intense and uncomfortable, identify the thoughts that generated it.
- Write down your thoughts.
- Choose one thought at the time to focus on.
C. Identify any cognitive bias in that thought. (Refer to the list of common cognitive distortions.)
D. Evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of the thought (refer to the questions listed below.)
- Write a list of all the items that contradict the thought.
E. Modify the thought to reflect a more accurate view in a positive direction.
a. - Write down the more accurate thought you have generated.
F. Summarize your new perspective: highlight the key points you discovered as a result of the work you have done.
G. Go back and rate your degree of belief in the newly generated thought. Re-Rate your emotion.
10. At this point, you may want to consider a new course of action.
1. This list of cognitive distortions in the previous tab was partially adapted from: The Feeling Good Handbook, by David Burns. Plume, 1999.2. The above list of questions was adapted from: Cognitive therapy: Basics & Beyond, by Judith Beck, who, in turn, adapted them from Aaron Beck, and Ellis.
For your FREE CONFIDENTIAL TELEPHONE CONSULTATION. call me at 972-596-1805 or