Change Your Thinking, Change Your Feelings and Behavior
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a simple therapy, but hard to employ when done correctly. It is not my intention to teach this to you via this brief article, but to explain it and give you a strategy to help you begin the process. Basically, thoughts affect behavior and actions. Change the thoughts and the rest will follow. Some red flags to watch for are the automatic thoughts starting with or containing the words should, ought to, must have, why did I, I’m so.., what is wrong with… Most of these thoughts will be irrational and cause you misery, mostly depression, anger and anxiety. So the key is to be more mindful of how you talk to yourself. Self talk is the key to one’s well being. The more negative the thoughts, well the more negative you’ll feel and act. So stop abusing yourself and having unrealistic expectations of others and say nicer things to yourself. Think happy thoughts J
Common Automatic Thoughts
You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. It has to be this or that, no middle ground.
You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. It’s always…
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
4.DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE:
You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or another. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
5.JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS:
You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
Mind Reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. This must be balances with learning to trust your instincts, as you might be right sometimes, so be careful and fully analyze this one.
6.MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION:
You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement) or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” This again must be balanced with trusting your gut so to speak.
You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
9.LABELING AND MISLABELING:
This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a narcissist.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. This labeling is when you are wrong about the person or are overreacting to a person or situation. Some people may be narcissists, what is important is to catch yourself as that statement will lead to other thoughts that cause you distress if you don’t stop them.
You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.
You can use the Automatic Thought Record (ATR) for any negative, automatic or disturbing thought or feeling. Before illustrating the ATR, some common beliefs or schemas are listed for specific diagnoses or feelings. This list is far from exclusive and you may discover many more. This list is to help you tune into your thoughts.
- I’m worthless
- I have to be perfect to be worthy
- I’m unlovable because…
- I’ll screw it up anyway so why bother
- I mess up everything, because I’m useless
- If I don’t worry something bad will happen
- If I don’t control everyone and everything in my environment I’ll lose control
- I must stay busy to avoid boredom and uncomfortable feelings
- As long as everything is in order and in its proper place then I’m ok
- People should do what I want
- People should treat me with respect
- People shouldn’t be so stupid
- I’m most likely angry with myself, so I take it out on others
- I’m angry with X for Y so that anger comes out as irritability/agitation causing me to overreact to the smallest things
- I’m going to be in pain so I have to take pills
- I’m useless, because can no longer do…
- I’m never going to get better
- I’ll feel like crap forever
- I deserve to be in pain for what I did
- I’m in so much pain, because I can’t face…
There are also some common beliefs held by people with the personality disorders presented. There are more personality disorders, but these folks tend to be the most charismatic, often most likable and most toxic. Again, focus on the distressing thoughts and try not think you have every diagnosis. Should you determine that one of these syndromes does fit, then consider being evaluated by a professional.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
- I have to protect myself so others can’t hurt me
- If I hurt first, I can’t be hurt or rejected
- Everyone is out to get me
- Everyone is out for themselves, so I must get mine
- Societal rules don’t apply to me, so I ignore them and work around the system
- I don’t respect the system, because…
Borderline Personality Disorder
- I feel empty inside
- Everyone will leave me, so I’ll end up pushing them away (go away no wait come here)
- I feel numb and empty so I fill up via impulsive behavior (sexing, shopping, drugging, obsessing about a paramour)
- I might as well be dead
- I cut myself so I can feel or ignore the emotional pain or feel euphoric
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- People have to admire me, so I can feel worthy
- Being successful keeps me from feeling empty and inadequate
- People are only useful if they help me in some way
- People suck, and I’d save an animal before a person
- I deserve to only be around the best and have the best over others
Histrionic Personality Disorder
- I have to be the center of attention to feel worthy
- I feel empty inside when not getting attention
- I have physical symptoms to fill up on, because I feel empty
- Physical symptoms get me attention I need
Try not to focus on diagnosing yourself, but focus on symptoms or thoughts that resonate with you. The ATR can help you change your thoughts, the ones causing you distress or interfering with your work and/or relationships. To see changes, you must use the ATR consistently until you are able to go through the process automatically without writing it down. You will also need to use this process for the rest of your life. Once it becomes automatic, it is less noticeable. If you get complacent with it and symptoms resurface (and they will), don’t freak out, just use the ATR again. ATRs are used in session and given out, as you might not use it correctly. If you reside in the Tampa, FL area and want to engage in CBT contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813-385-7974.