Changing the way we think
- Changing the way we think
As thoughts play such an important role in our distressing emotions, it can be very effective to notice these thoughts, and learn to think differently, or to think about thoughts in a different way. When you start to feel upset
SELF CONTROL – monitor thinking and stay in the moment
When thoughts are distressing you, try not to give them attention or assign emotion/interpretation to them. Dismiss them.
Questions to ask yourself when you feel distressed
STOPP! Pause, take a breath, don’t react automatically
- What am I reacting to?
- What is it that’s really pushing my buttons here?
- What is it that I think is going to happen here?
- What’s the worst (and best) that could happen? What’s most likely to happen?
- Am I getting things out of proportion?
- How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 months time?
- What harm has actually been done?
- Am I expecting something from this person or situation that is unrealistic?
- Am I overestimating the danger?
- Am I underestimating my ability to cope?
- Am I using that negative filter? Those gloomy specs? Is there another way of looking at it?
- What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?
- Am I spending time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future? What could I do right now that would help me feel better?
- Am I putting more pressure on myself, setting up expectations of myself that are almost impossible? What would be more realistic?
- Am I mind-reading what others might be thinking?
- Am I believing I can predict the future?
- Is there another way of looking at this?
- What advice would I give someone else in this situation?
- Am I putting more pressure on myself?
- Just because I feel bad, doesn’t mean things really are
- Am I jumping to conclusions about what this person meant? Am I mis-reading between the lines? Is it possible that they didn’t mean that?
- Am I exaggerating the good aspects of others, and putting myself down? Or am I exaggerating the negative and minimising the positives? How would someone else see it? What’s the bigger picture?
- Things aren’t either totally white or totally black – there are shades of grey. Where is this on the spectrum?
- This is just a reminder of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though this memory makes me feelupset, it’s not actually happening again right now.
- What do I want or need from this person or situation? What do they want or need from me? Is there a compromise?
- What would be the consequences of responding the way I usually do?
- Is there another way of dealing with this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to take? (for me, for the situation, for the other person)
Ways to make our thoughts less intrusive
- Use metaphors try to see things differently. Metaphors can help us understand thoughts in a different way. For example:
Passengers on the Bus
- You can be in the driving seat, whilst all passengers (thoughts) are noisily chattering, being critical or shouting out directions. You can allow them to shout, but you can keep your attention focused on the road ahead.
- The playground is fenced in and the children have to learn to live with the bully. This bully uses threats, mocking and abusive words to upset his victims. We can’t stop our thoughts, but perhaps we can react to them in a different way, as these victims show us.
- Victim 1 – believes the bully (the thoughts), becomes distressed, and reacts automatically. The bully sees this as great entertainment and will carry on targeting this victim. This is how we normally respond to our thoughts.
- Victim 2 – challenges the bully, and bully eventually gives up on this victim.
- Victim 3 – acknowledges then ignores the bully, changing focus of attention, and the bully soon gives up.
- Items floating down the river – perhaps leaves or bits of mucky debris (thoughts, feelings, images) – instead of struggling to stay afloat, we can stand on the bank watching our thoughts, images and sensations go by
The Beach Ball
- We can try to stop our thoughts, like trying to hold a beach ball under water, but it keeps popping up in front of our face (intrusive distressing thoughts). We can allow the ball (our thoughts) to float around us, not intruding, just letting it be.