Therapist Aaron Beck was the grandfather of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – a system of therapy which in a nutshell, teaches people to recognise the patterns of thinking that aren’t serving them well and to question unhelpful thoughts and feelings rather than just going with them willy-nilly and spiralling into down moods. Many therapists, like myself, combine ideas from CBT with other forms of therapy according to the needs of their client and personal style. Pure CBT presents a tidy model of therapy: Questioning unhelpful thoughts, then replacing them with more self-supporting thoughts. Lovely in theory, but of course our habits of mind can be ingrained and hard to shake – that’s why they’re habits after all – so I typically combine a great deal of other work to understand and deal with habits of mind more broadly and deeply.
Without understanding, unhelpful habits of mind can get us in a pickle in relationships as well as in our own moods because self-defeating habits of thinking can seep into our view of ourselves, others and the world. Dr Beck named a number of very common unhelpful habits of mind that it’s great to know about so we can be aware how they might be creeping into our experience and creating sadness or stress.
The first is overgeneralising, where we categorise people or experiences according to inaccurate broad criteria that ignore the myriad possible variations in people and context. For example – ‘All men are into cars’ ‘All women want to have a baby’ or ‘I’m always the one who misses out’. While some of those things may be true for some people at some times, generalisations tend to steamroll the uniqueness of ourselves and others.
Black and white thinking. ‘It’s my way or the highway’ is just one of the popular but unhelpful attitudes that tend to shut down collaboration and conversation in relationships, and it’s an example of black and white thinking. Fact is, most things in life and particularly in our relationships, come in many shades of grey – that’s what keeps them interesting!
Jumping to conclusions. We may do this sometimes, then deeply regret it when we realise it wasn’t how we imagined. Question it when you start jumping ahead with a chain of assumptions that don’t feel good. Take a breath. You may not be on the right track so there’s no point continuing down that road until you’ve got some more reliable information.
Imagining the worst, which I like to call catastrophizing, can create anxiety and panic. It usually involves jumping to the worst conclusions without evidence. Decide to wait for the facts to emerge before habitually thinking the worst.
Taking everything personally. This means blaming yourself for everything that happens and tending to believe that other people notice your every mistake and you’re consistently the focus of their attention. The fact is that most people, including your partner are more aware and focussed on their own experience of any given situation, because that’s just how we’re made. It can feel liberating to remember it’s not all about you all the time – in a good way!
If you need help with this stuff I’m here. Drop me an email, or download my free eBook Hot Devotion at www.drdebracampbell.com
Just BE the love that you ARE x