Saturday, March 14, 2009

Treat yourself to a little CBT

For a few weeks now, two of my classes have been covering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) at the same time. Since my memory is the size of a small pea, repetition does wonders for me. Honestly, not everything I hear at school is really worth writing about (I know, shocking), but this one I found intriguing...

The basic premise of Cognitive Behavior Therapy is that our thoughts (cognitions) directly influence our emotions and behaviors. A central aspect of CBT is learning how to identify "automatic thoughts" - in other words, those immediate mental assessments which come right before our mood switches - which are sometimes accurate, and sometimes, well, totally off-base.

Cognitive distortions are common for us humans, and are manifest in things like all-or-nothing thinking ("if I can't do it perfectly, I'm just not going to try at all"), catastrophizing ("everything is going to go horribly"), overgeneralizing ("I suck at math so I must be stupid"), jumping to conclusions ("he shut me down with that look, so he must hate me"), disqualifying the positive ("when I succeed it's because I'm lucky, and when I fail it's because I'm not good enough"), as well as many other messages that our internal tape players tell us about ourselves and the world. As you can imagine, these types of thoughts lead to anxiety and unhappiness if we don't have the tools to question their validity.

So, as students are prone to do when studying psychological concepts, I have been trying to catch my automatic thoughts, and it is MUCH easier said than done. When my mood changes, I have been trying to ask myself, "Okay, what just went through my head?", so that I can monitor if I was blowing things out of proportion. I can't always put my finger on the thought or image I had just prior to feeling stressed, but the times that I can catch myself seem to go better. When I get the chance to walk with myself through the thought and say, "Now really? Is that totally accurate?" I can often feel the tension leave my body as my brain kicks out the garbage...

No comments: