Friday, August 31, 2012

Fighting back against the C.D.s

Once you are familiar with cognitive distortions and recognize them in your own thought patterns, there are a couple of different ways to work on helping your brain move from cognitive distortion patterns to cognitive accuracy patterns.  One of these is talking back to them.  This involves three things:
1) Training yourself to recognize them, which you're well on the way to have done just by reading about them.
2) Learn why those thoughts are distorted.  You've already done this too, probably.
3) Talk back to them.

So, let's say you suddenly realize you are late for a rendezvous with friends with whom you are making a two hour trip.  Your heart sinks and you are gripped with panic.  First, ask yourself "what thoughts are going through my head right now?  What am I saying to myself?  Why is this upsetting me?"  

You may find that you've been saying to yourself "I never do anything right", or "I'm always late", or "they'll leave without me think I and everything I stand for is irresponsible and stupid", or "I'm such a failure" or "I really should have my act together better.".  Can you tell which C.D.s those are?

(all-or-nothing, overgeneralization, fortune-telling, mind-reading, labeling, should statement)

Just as fast as these thoughts run through your mind your emotions plummet.  They, not the situation, are the reason for your misery.

So, you consciously replace them, one by one with cognitive accuracies.  I actually find it helpful to do this part out loud.

"No, actually, sometimes I do do things right.  Everyone is a mix, including me."
"No, sometimes I'm on time. It's just this time that I'm late."
"Actually, they might be kind and wait.  They might be late too.  They might choose to denigrate me or they might choose to treat this with charity.  I don't know what's in their minds or how they will respond.  But I do now that my responsibility is to apologize and be gracious and I can do that.
"One mistake does not equal total failure.  I am good at some things and not so good at others, but I am working at doing better and can continue to do so."
"'Should' will only make me beat myself up.  'I plan to do better next time' is a better way of approaching this and I do plan to watch the clock more carefully and I can tell them so and do so next time.

As you scurry out the door.

Some people who find their cognitive distortions extremely discouraging find it helpful to actually write down the cognitive distortions and their talk-back cognitive accuracies either in the moment or later in the day.  There's something about writing it down and reading and seeing it clearly that makes it harder for your brain to believe "this talk-back stuff will never work for me".   (jumping to conclusions)

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