We continue today on questioning unhelpful thoughts, which have a negative impact on our lives. If you have missed any of the previous parts of this series of blogs, they can be found here in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Returning to our list of techniques which can be applied:
1) Question the origin of the unhelpful thoughts
Ask yourself where has this thought come from? Does this thought say something about you? Similarly, what would it mean for you if this thought were actually fully true? Some thoughts are remnants or products of our childhood or past trauma. It can be useful to locate the origin of beginning to think this way. If you know the trigger of believing thoughts, you can then question the relevance and helpfulness of your belief in these thoughts at the present time.
2) Re-rate your belief in this thought and continue to question the thought
Now check in with how much belief you put in this unhelpful thought. How has this change in belief influenced how you feel and your actions? How might your life improve if you were not so influenced by this thought or feeling?
3) Remind yourself again of the influence of our feelings and actions on our thoughts
Further questioning of thoughts can be achieved by attempting to change your feelings through helpful action or building necessary skills. Here are some useful questions to illustrate this point:
If I weren’t feeling this way would I still believe this thought about yourself or the world?
What are the situations, when you most/least believe this thought? What exactly about certain situations makes the thought less powerful? How can you question this further and help yourself?
If the thought were partly or fully true – what could you do to make things better or change the situation?
Have you behaved as if your thoughts were true and therefore not had the opportunity to find out that you are wrong? (Self-fulfilling prophesy)
4) Form an alternative, balanced, and more reasoned way of looking at same situation
Given the first five points, perhaps you have been able to question your belief in an unhelpful thought. It is not easy and takes lot of practice – especially since such thoughts have been part of your life for years! It is important to hold onto and perhaps write down a more helpful way of viewing a situation or yourself, which is more accurate, is not so influenced by your feelings or actions of that particular time, and is based on fact.
5) Act as if you fully believed this new alternative view
As with all changes in our routine, you must train yourself into fully adopting the new mode of being over time– so monitor your increasing belief in the new balanced and helpful thought closely (and decreasing belief in the negative unhelpful thought) and act as if you fully believe the thought. Do things that help increase your belief in positive thoughts about yourself and the world. Notice how your feelings will naturally improve as a result and will in turn influence your belief in these thoughts.
At Spectrum Health, a consultation with a Clinical Psychologist can help you to begin the journey of being less dominated by stress, self-critical thoughts, worry, judgements of others, or other thinking errors.