Currently indulging my inner child and watching Cinderella, the original Disney movie! So good! haha.
Today has been a good day 🙂 Here is a smiley me for you …
Anyway, on with the show! CBT, session 4. Stepping back from Cognitions: thought records and unhelpful thinking styles.
How or what we are thinking has a big effect on how we feel. Certain types of thinking pattern may give a distorted picture of what is going on in our lives and may result in us feeling anxious, depressed or even angry. People with depression tend to think more negatively about themselves, and the world around them. These thoughts can be self-fulfilling and worsen your mood even further.
It is often our thoughts that cause our unhappy feelings, not external things like people, situations or events. The benefit of this idea, is that you can learn to change the way you think, feel and react, even when faced with difficult events and situations. The way we feel and behave to certain events is not just due to the events themselves. It also depends on what we think those events mean.
Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATS) are fleeting thoughts that pop into our head, sometimes in the form of a running commentary. They are automatic in that you can’t control them and they just happen. Some are neutral or even positive, but we’re looking at identifying and addressing the negative ones.
It can be difficult to catch the thoughts that race through your mind, especially when they are associated with a strong emotional reaction. By learning to identify how you view the world, you can then decide to change it, if it is not really helping you. In CBT, thought records/diaries are used, to learn how to identify and monitor thoughts. It can help to practise using a situation in the last few days that led you to feeling particularly upset or unhappy, then note down the situation, what you were thinking and how you were feeling.
When you notice a change in your mood, ask yourself – “What went through my mind just then?”
Ask yourself – “What is the worst that I might imagine could happen in this situation?” “What am I afraid of happening?”
Note if you have a clear mental picture or a memory in mind that may account for your mood.
As thoughts come in cascades, as yourself the question – “If this were true, what would that mean to me?”
Thought cascades tend to go from a specific situation, towards a general conclusion. It is the wider, sweeping conclusions that can be so difficult to refute and can have an overwhelming impact on how we feel.
Here is an example of how thoughts cascade:
Situation: Sitting at home watching TV alone
Feeling: Hopeless and depressed
Behaviour: Sit for hours, staring but not watching the TV screen
What was going through my mind? – My life is so dull. I don’t have anyone I can call or do something with
If this were true, what does that mean to me? – I am alone and will be forever
If this is true, what does that mean to me? – My future is hopeless; I am unlikeable.
We tend to treat our thoughts as if they’re true, and respond as if they are facts. Our bodies respond to the thoughts as if they’re true, and they feed into the maintenance cycle in such a powerful way, because they feel like reality. When we identify and get hold of our thoughts, we start to notice they do not represent reality, and then they lose their power. As we stand back from thoughts, we can see they are only thoughts, and NOT true facts.
In a thought diary, it is helpful to record the following things: Situation/Trigger; Thought and/or image; Emotions and physical sensations; Behaviours; and the Outcome.
It really helped me to process a lot of negative thoughts and really turn them around into positive thoughts. I hope it helps you too!
Here are some examples of unhelpful thinking styles –
Filtering: Only looking at the bed, never the good. You may single out a negative detail and dwell on it, ignoring any good things you have done. You may see only your weaknesses and mistakes, and disregard your strengths and accomplishments.
Overgeneralisation: One negative event is the beginning of a never-ending pattern. E.g If you fail the first time, you think you will fail every time or if you have difficulty with one friend, you think nobody will like you.
All or nothing thinking: You see things as black and white, and nothing in between. You are either fat or thin, smart or stupid, depressed or happy, and so on. There is no in-between. Gradual progress is never enough – only a complete change will do.
Catastrophising: A small disappointment is a huge disaster.
Labelling: You talk to yourself in a harsh way, calling yourself names like stupid, idiot, failure or whatever is the worst insult for you. You feel like these labels sum you up.
Mind-reading: You think you know what others are thinking of you, and it’s always bad. As a result, you react to what you imagine they are thinking without bothering to ask.
Fortune-telling: You think you know what the future will bring, and it’s usually negative. Nothing will work out, so why bother trying? The result of this is you bring about the future you fear.
Disqualifying the positive: Anything positive about you, or anything positive that happens is discounted.
Personalisation: If something bad happens, you automatically think it must have been your fault. Other, more likely, causes are ignored.
Perfectionism: It’s only good enough it is perfect. And because it is never perfect, you are never satisfied and can never take pride in anything.
Shoulds: You know how you should be and how the world should be – but you are not, and neither is the world. The result of this is you are constantly disappointed and angry with yourself and everyone around you.
I hope this has helped! As I said before, really focusing on my thoughts allowed me to turn them around, and now it’s a lot easier to do. It does take some practice to start with, and it will be hard. But, trust me, it is worth it. Good luck!
Until next time…..