In the last couple of blogs, we have identified typical types of thinking errors or cognitive distortions. It is important to become more conscious of our patterns of thinking because our thinking “lens” affects how we see ourselves, other people, and the world. If we are free of most or all thinking errors, our thinking “lens” is pretty accurate and we can manage ourselves much more effectively in the world. However, if our thinking “lens” is distorted by our unknowing use of many thinking errors, then we are not using the full information available to us or are very biased in noticing only certain pieces of information and ignoring contradictory aspects. When our thinking “lens” is distorted, we can suffer from many difficulties such as low mood, anxiety, or problems functioning in relationships etc.Bhe
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps people to notice and challenge their thinking errors, assumptions, and biases, in order to improve their well-being and functioning. The following is a brief description of some useful CBT techniques, which will help you to become more conscious of problematic thinking and to begin to systematically challenge unhelpful thinking.
1) Become expert in your thinking
CBT encourages a person to be a detective with his or her thinking. The key is to notice the difference between helpful and unhelpful thoughts. Unhelpful thoughts are usually not based on much fact, full of errors, distortions, assumptions, and bias. Sometimes it can be useful to notice which thoughts come up in a variety of situations. Next, the connection between thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and actions should be understood. Our thinking “lens”, containing our thoughts, is our way of putting meaning on our experiences and therefore has direct impact on our feelings, body sensations, and influences our actions greatly. Sometimes, we will do things that will cause us further upset and distress in the long-term, as a direct result of our thinking “lens”. So the first step is noticing – what exactly we are thinking and how our thoughts influence us in our daily life. Keeping a diary of the pattern of thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and actions can be really useful.
2) Begin to question your belief in your unhelpful thoughts
It can be helpful to be somewhat dubious of strong and unquestioning belief in certain thoughts, especially the ones that are too rigid, or not based on fact or actual experience. Certain questions can assist to put your thoughts, assumptions, or beliefs in better perspective:
Are there times when you believe this thought with less conviction? And why?
How do you know your thought/assumption is actually correct? What if it was not?
Is there another way of looking at the situation? What would a friend or family member say? What would advice them if they had a similar thought in a similar situation?
How probable is it for this thought to actually come true?
What are the costs and benefits of believing this thought? How has choosing to believe this thought affected your life?
What is the evidence for and against supporting this thought?
Would other people think the evidence convincing? Could you convince a jury that this statement was true about the world or yourself?
If you were trying to act as your own barrister to defend yourself, what would you say in your defence?