Tag Archives: CBT

The power of thought

thought photo

The power of thought

Photo by withbeautiful

Few people realise just how powerful their thinking is. The thoughts you choose to focus on and the beliefs you choose to hold on to as true for you, can create heaven or hell. The power of thought is closely looked at by cognitive behavioural therapists (CBT). It is widely accepted that thoughts lead to feelings and these feelings then influence our behaviour.

If we have negative automatic thoughts, they will lead to negative emotions and the ensuing behaviour will then be in line with those negative feelings.

Example:

THOUGHT: I am unattractive

FEELING: Sadness, anxiety

BEHAVIOUR: Avoidance of the opposite sex, avoid dating etc

If the thought was different but still valid, say for example: “I am not perfect but I have many qualities and characteristics”, the feelings would be more positive. This thought is more neutral and will lead to a happier feeling, say, a feeling of hope. The behaviour from this may be that the person ventures out to meet others.

Our thoughts are often habitual and we don’t even realise the repetitive negative dialogue that is occurring. We limit ourselves when we belittle ourselves and criticise ourselves. One of the cornerstones of CBT is to look at our thinking and get into the habit of questioning the validity of thoughts. Thoughts are nor facts – they are merely our perception of the world. They can be changed and they can be challenged.

CBT therapists challenge thinking by looking at the evidence for the thinking and then consider alternative ways of looking at a situation. Remove the negative automatic thoughts and aim for more neutral interpretations – that one simple trick can overhaul a life from misery to surviving and coping. It is a skill that can be learned. Being an effective ‘thought manager’ is one of the best skills you can ever learn if you care about your state of mind.

Be aware of your ‘mental diet’. What do you tell yourself about the world and about yourself?

Try completing these sentences, without thinking too much about it…

  1. I am…
  2. Others are…
  3. The world is…

The above exercise can sometimes help reveal your underlying thoughts about the world. If  you have answered negatively, you will probably find that you spend a lot of time feeling low. Negative thinking can be toxic – comparing ourselves to others, assuming what other’s might be thinking, over generalising, rigid thinking – all of these types of unhelpful  thinking (and others )are unhelpful and can lead to unnecessary anxiety and depression.

CBT is great because you can see results fairly quickly. The strategies and interventions need to be repeated for them to become part of your natural behaviour but it’s well worth it. Don’t just accept your thoughts without any challenge or evidence- they aren’t always accurate or necessarily based on what is really going on in reality.

Mandy X

 

Reframing – the power of perspective

perspective photo

Reframing – the power of perspective

There are many ways to look at a single experience/event. It’s important to remember that our perceptions create our reality. If we see something as negative, our brains will use this message and create a state that makes it our reality. We see things through a ‘mental filter’ coloured by our past experiences. If we change our frame of reference by looking for an alternative story, we automatically change the way we respond to life.

Thoughts  –   Feelings  – Behaviour

Thoughts create feelings and feeling then influence our behaviour. Take a neutral situation. You come into work in the morning, say “hello” to a colleague who ignores you. We could have various thoughts from this encounter:

  1. We have upset this person and they are ignoring us deliberately
  2. They are tired and didn’t register that we said “hello”

 

There are many possible thoughts we could have about this situation and the one we settle on will create a feeling (either anger or sadness or frustration etc) and then this will influence what we do. If we feel angry we may confront the colleague or ignore them in the future. If we consider they may just not have heard us, we may carry on being friendly as before.

Our past experiences regularly influence what we think in the present – be aware of this as past experience create trigger points for us where we are more likely to be hyper vigilant and react.

Reframing in its simplest form is changing a negative statement (thought) into a more neutral or positive one by changing our frame of reference. Reframing is all about changing the meaning you have assigned to something in order to lessen it’s negative emotional impact and it’s a great skill to learn.

The first basic principle is that events or situations do not have inherent meaning; rather, you assign them a meaning based on how you interpret the event.

The second principle is that every thought has a hidden “frame” behind it. The frame is your underlying beliefs and assumptions that are implied by your thought.

The final principle is that there is a positive intention behind every negative thought.

That inner voice of yours that expresses negativity is only doing so because it wants to help you in some way. That doesn’t make the thoughts right or acceptable of course, but it does mean that your inner voice is not an enemy to be resisted.

Tips for reframing

Keep a thought journal and learn to look for evidence of your thinking. If you have a thought, “No one will ever love me”, ask yourself where is the evidence? You can’t predict the future and the past doesn’t always equal the future. It’s an irrational thought.

Use a pie chart – draw a pie chart and include as many alternatives to explain a possible issue. For example – as above, the colleague that ‘ignored’ you. What other reasons could there be for them not responding apart from the possibility that they don’t like you? Are you mind reading?

Be aware of unhelpful thinking errors – these always need reframing. Overgeneralising, personalising, all or nothing thinking, catastrophising, mind reading etc – these are all irrational, there is no evidence and they will create unhappy feelings.

Reframing is a great mental skill, you create your quality of life through your thoughts and perceptions – get into the habit of reframing and challenging your thinking regularly. Improve your ‘mental diet’ and you will lead a more contented life.

Mandy X

 

Why life is full of surprises

surprised photo

Why life is full of surprises

Photo by Tetsumo

Why is it that we fear uncertainty? Life is inherently uncertain yet we do our best to resist this fact on so many levels. We insure ourselves up to the hilt in order to stay safe. We risk assess and procrastinate, fearing we will make the wrong decision. Life seems to be a series of attempts to keep ourselves safe. We seem to forget that despite this, many of these attempts may only bring us psychological comfort. The reality is that life is full of surprises.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should dislike this. Uncertainty has value too. Being aware of every upcoming event would certainly bring its own challenges. Imagine knowing the day you will die or when someone you love will be injured and being unable to stop it from happening. No thanks. We fight uncertainty because we like to feel in control. When we learn to accept that we never fully have control and work with the flow of things, life becomes easier and less stressful. This may seem paradoxical but this is the exact intervention I use with my clients who come see me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

You can learn to tolerate uncertainty by introducing more of it into your life. Try a new restaurant, shop at a different supermarket or speak to strangers more often. Whenever we try something where the outcome is unknown, we are exercising our tolerance of uncertainty.

Perhaps life is full of surprises in order to teach us to live more in the moment. We often focus on what might happen and bombard ourselves with “what if..?” statements constantly. If we knew the date of an impending event, whether good or bad, we would find it even more difficult to stay focused in the present.

Accept uncertainty and embrace it as if you have chosen it. Only then will you feel free to live with the unfamiliar and the unknown.

Mandy X

10 Signs of good therapy

 

psychotherapy photo

10 Signs of good therapy

Good rapport

A good therapist will make you feel at ease. They will not judge you nor will they tell you what to do. When you feel safe and accepted and feel you could tell your therapist anything, you have found a good therapist.

Open minded

Another sign of good therapy is a therapist who is open minded. A good therapist will put aside their own personal values and work for the benefit of their client. They will withhold judgement in order to treat the client effectively.

Empathy

A good therapist finds it easy to empathise with a client and see the world through their client’s eyes. This is a real skill and a talent. University qualifications can only teach a therapist certain skills..empathy is another area altogether. A good therapist will be good with people.

Ethical issues

Good therapy involves a skilled therapist who knows the issues of confidentiality and when confidentiality cannot be adhered to and will inform the client before therapy starts. Sensitivity to cultural, ethnicity and religious issues is also important.

Progress and goals for therapy

A skilled therapist will be person-centered in that they will ‘carve’ the therapy sessions into a formula that suits the client’s specific needs and issues. They will set up an initial structure that they can loosely follow with the client in order to achieve the client’s goals for therapy

Qualifications

This is goes without saying. Good therapy involves skill and academic qualifications.

Collaboration

A good therapist works with their client as a team member, not as a leader telling their client what to do. A therapist ideally, should teach their client to become their own therapist so that they may go back out into the world and be self reliant with their new ‘tools’ to deal with life.

Personal responsibility

Good therapy involves the client taking responsibility for their own emotional well being. A client that expects the therapist to do all the work will be disappointed and won’t get the most out of therapy.

Practice what they preach

Therapists are human beings and aren’t immune to the hardships of life. In fact, a therapist who has been through their own turmoil is often a far better therapist as they have personal experience and can relate more to a client’s woes in this way. I use CBT in my daily life and it helps me tremendously but there are times when life gets on top of me and no amount of positive self talk makes any difference. This is normal – we all have ups and downs.

Providing insight

Therapy is wonderful for providing insight. Clients understand themselves better and begin to deal with their problems in a much more effective manner. Their relationships are more rewarding and their levels of happiness increase. Clients also tend to be less stressed and worry less.

Therapy can be the best thing you ever do. Try a few therapists if need be, find one that you feel comfortable with and you will be amazed at the transformation!

Mandy X