Are you having trouble getting what you want? Is the world against you? Do you find that you have trouble staying positive about your life to allow the Law of Attraction (see previous post) to work? This blog post could help. One approach that works along with this one is having a growth mindset (see my post on this here)
What is CBT?
CBT stands for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. This is the idea that emotional problems come from faulty thinking and that this faulty thinking can be fixed.
“People are disturbed not by things but by their view of things”- Epictetus
CBT looks at first identifying the emotions that are being displayed. Finding the unhealthy belief that lead to this reaction and challenging it. Then finally replace these beliefs with healthier ones that will generate different emotional responses.
There are 3 basic parts
EVENT: present or past, real or imaginary, internal or external. (the event triggers the response)
BELIEF: healthy or unhealthy
Unhealthy beliefs are rigid – should…, have to…, must… and are usually illogical like self-damning or awfulising the event. Healthy beliefs are reality based and flexible like preferences or acceptance.
CONSEQUENCES: the emotional response generated by the event and the belief
These consequences vary, they could be physical – body reactions( heart rate, blush etc) what you do or just feel like doing. They could be cognitive or emotional.
CBT shows our thoughts, feelings and behaviours affecting each other. If these reactions (based on our beliefs) are negative we enter into a downward spiral, a funnel of negativity. The longer you remain in it, without positive action, the deeper you go and the harder it is to escape. I was shown one of these funnels as an explanation of how I was feeling while in councelling. I was shown this one…
It resonated with how I was feeling and with some of the symptoms I had been showing over the previous years, I still have my copy, now three years later to remind me of how bad things had become. There are more like this one. I was surprised at how innocent the first symptoms were (sleep problems, lack of energy and aches and pains). I see these symptoms in many of the people today and the remedies people take to fight them( sleeping pills or ones like proplus, energy drinks and pain killers). Are they fighting genuine illness or is is the start of something more?
CBT doesn’t say that we should ignore or repress our emotions but use them in a healthy way.
What are these healthy versions of what we perceive as negative?
- jealousy (not envy as this is about relationships between people not possessions)
- unhealthy envy – yep it is possible to have healthy envy
These sound like the seven deadly sins from the Christian beliefs. (wrath, lust, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth and pride) Some are the same. However they are not always borne from a single event eg you can be angry that someone pulled in front of you in traffic, this does not mean you are angry about driving in general. These emotions/consequences if continued can become problems both physical and cognitive. You need to change these to feel happier and healthier and allow yourself to be successful.
- concern for relationship
- healthy envy
These are not based on should, must or have to, they are based on preference, acceptance, tolerance and understanding. For example the person cutting in front of you in traffic. Yes it IS annoying. You could think “they shouldn’t do this”, “they did that on purpose”, “what are they… blind?” and be angry about it. OR aknowledge that it is just annoying and handle the situation by continuing to drive safely then think about why. They may have realised at the last second that their sat nav meant the road you are on and not theirs and panicked or forgot to check over their shoulder to check their blind spot. They could of course be crazy, angry drivers who hate traffic but that is their decision and not against you personally and you can do nothing about it so accept it and move on.
“Feelings are thoughts in motion in the body…and a thought can be changed” – Louise Hay
How can you tell if you are reacting with a healthy or unhealthy emotion?
You need to identify this before you move on, if it is a healthy reaction you don’t need to make any changes. If it is unhealthy then you need to change. As I said before, healthy beliefs are usually unrealistic and rigid so ask yourself “Is this reaction logical/realistic? and Why?” check your answers and then ask yourself ” Will it lead to a healthy or an unhealthy outcome? and Why?”
Now for the hard bit (what? you thought this was easy!)
There is a chance that you have reacted this way for a very long time and it has become an instant reaction. You don’t think about it at all, it’s not even a habit any more it has become subconscious. We all know that habits are hard to break, just look at all the quit smoking schemes and rehabilitation centres. Say you are a chronic smoker and automatically reach for cigarettes, I used to smoke and there is a point, usually when you are trying to find your lighter, where you are aware that you are going to smoke and can stop yourself. Emotional reactions are instant so you need to approach them in a different way. One step at a time.
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” – Socrates
- First – know that you are going to react first
- Second – now is the moment when you can assess what you are doing or have just done. Now you can ask yourself those questions. “is this reaction realistic/logical?” and “Will this lead to a healthy/unhealthy outcome?”
- Third – If it is unhealthy, what would be a healthy reaction? Look at the car cutting you up in traffic example again. There are a lot of good books out there that can give you examples of these. An excellent book for this is called “Visual CBT by Avy Joseph and Maggie Chapman”
- Fourth – remember this response and each time you have the same reaction practice the healthy response, even if you react the unhealthy way first.
- Fifth – practice, eventually you will start to stop your unhealthy reaction early or even act the healthy way first. Make these healthy reactions into habits and you will have won.
I hope this has been helpful
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Until next time remember, you’re awesome.