Cognitive behavioural therapy has taught me a lot. There are life situations that CBT can’t help with but the one thing that CBT has helped me with is the realisation that I have the power to choose my thoughts. My biggest revelation since becoming a CBT therapist is that I am not a passive victim of external events and situations. I still have a choice over what I think about what happens to me and how I wish to react.
The power to choose my thoughts has shaped my life and my decisions massively. I learned to go inward rather than being a passive receptacle of the world around me. Life is tough, I can’t deny that but I still have choice over how I allow it to affect me. Instead of crumbling completely, I have an inner resilience that I never had before.
I can interpret reality the way I want to and in this way buffer myself from the harshness around me. I try as much as possible to choose to be happy, choose to find another way to look at things. Thinking in this was has greatly improved my quality of life. My partner teases me saying that I am too light hearted at times but it works for me. He gets stressed over minor things whereas I divert my focus when my thoughts are working against me. I am still a work in progress but I am much calmer than before.
When I was younger, saw myself as a victim, others had put me in the state I was in. It was their fault. When I accepted it was actually up to me, something shifted. They had less power over me. I accepted personal responsibility for my happiness and experience of life and felt hugely empowered. Yeah, maybe this all sounds a bit “Pollyanna-ish” but I am definitely happier now than I was before I learned to be more mindful of my thinking. I avoid catastrophising, making assumptions, predicting the future and comapring myself to others. These types of thinking often have no evidence to support them but they will bring you right down.
Other opinions are no more valid than your own – start believing in yourself more and reject the pressure of caring what others think. You and you alone have sole control over your thoughts and perceptions, make them work for you not against you.
This also means -no self criticism – how is that helpful? Self criticism is a waste of energy and lowers your mood. Learn to like yourself. Talk to yourself regularly telling yourself you are good company, kind, caring etc- any positive traits you feel you possess. Remind yourself of your goodness!
When something awful happens, try not to catastrophise and predict the future. There will usually be no evidence for this type of emotional reasoning- look for ‘softer’ option. Ask yourself – what can I tell myself that will make me feel less upset about this?
Its not about suppressing anger and unhappiness. Acknowledge that – it is a part of life unfortunately just as uncertainty is something we need to learn to accept and live with. But don’t allow the sadness of the world to defeat you, you can re-interpret in your mind and find a way to cope with things through your thoughts.
Instead of whipping yourself mentally over and over, learn to let stuff go. Learn to soften the blow by altering and adapting your thoughts. Thoughts are closely linked to feelings and behaviour. When the thinking is negative, you are bound to have negative feelings and unhealthy behaviour that follows. If we nip an awful issue in the bud at the thinking level, we spare ourselves a lot of unnecessary self inflicted misery …example:
event: partner criticises you
thought: he doesnt love
Being criticised isnt great but instead of tripling the negative effect by going over and over it in your head and agreeing with their criticism, realise when you jump to a conclusion mentally and remind yourself that in most cases, you have no concrete evidence to think that way. I try to immediately notice an error in thinking (the one above is called – mind reading, when we assume we know what the other person is thinking…- we don’t unless they categorically tell us) and ask myself if there is another rational way to look at this. Yes – he is grumpy, he is taking his shit out on me… that makes me feel better. It’s not about me it’s about the other person.
Thoughts are powerful – think of them as your ‘mental diet’. What do you ‘feed’ yourself with?