By Jennifer Martin, LPC, NCC
Did you know that much of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has to do with thoughts and what is considered, unproductive or problematic, thinking? These types of thoughts typically yield unpleasant results such as emotional distress, further unproductive thought patterns, or even unwanted behaviors such as unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a highly researched and effective therapy. Therapists at Ammirati Counseling are trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and are consistently listening for the common ways that clients distort truths.
Therapists are aware that these thoughts patterns often make clients feel worse or more negatively about situations, themselves, and others. Therapists are ready to assist clients in processing how these thoughts are impacting clients and providing useful alternatives.
Filtering the Negative
One common mistake that we can make is called Filtering. When we filter our thoughts, we focus solely on the negative aspects of a situation or person.
For example, if I go to a new grocery store and for the most part my experience is great: The store has an excellent selection, the layout of the store is great, the staff are helpful, but the register breaks during checkout.
What am I most likely to tell my best friend when I get home?
The answer, of course, is that I tell my friend about the register breaking. In fact, research has shown that people are twice as likely to tell friends about a negative experience than they are a positive one. This research says a lot about how negative experiences impact us emotionally. Focusing on the negative only, while leaving out the positive, often makes people feel worse overall.
Re-frame What You Tell Yourself
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy involves an honest evaluation of the patterns of our thinking. Therapists teach clients and guide them to a more holistic way of thinking.
Here are five steps to prevent Filtering: s
- Be willing to do an honest appraisal of your thoughts.
- If you find that you tend to emphasize the negative, be intentional about acknowledging the negative, but also painting a complete picture by adding all of the positive aspects as well.
- If you catch yourself sharing your negative experiences more than your positive ones, make a point to share the things you have enjoyed and are grateful for.
- Pay close attention to your feelings while you are “replaying” your story. If you notice that you are feeling more down, sad, angry, etc., ask yourself if spending so much time thinking about it is helping or hurting your mood. If thinking about the situation isn’t likely to produce any productive change, then move your focus to something that is productive.
- Remember that we are often more emotionally impacted by what we tell ourselves about a story than the actual story itself. Be mindful of what you tell yourself and focus only on the facts of the situation. It can be tempting to embellish stories with added details, but often those details are only speculative and don’t help us in the end.