Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy explains that our thoughts have a profound impact on the way we feel (our emotions). In addition, our thoughts affect the things we do (our behaviors). And this makes sense, right? Many of us have a constant stream of ongoing thoughts – making it difficult to find a sense of inner peace and calm.
Consider this: Many of our thoughts are inaccurate. Distorted truths. Plain old lies. Stories we've unconsciously made up through a lifetime of conditioning. Unfortunately, we tend to believe these thoughts. Regard them as the 'voice of truth.' And those who suffer from anxiety and depression experience this even more severely.
Cognitive Distortions are thinking errors – we all have them, and learning to recognize and challenge them is life-changing. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. Here are 3 most common thinking errors:
Seeing everything in boxes – good or bad, black or white, right or wrong. We, humans, love to put things in boxes. Example: Making a mistake at work turns into, "I always mess up, I can do nothing right!".
*Truth: There is a middle ground to be walked! We are both worthy and imperfect, which inevitably includes making mistakes throughout life. Tip – for this thinking error, notice when you use the words "always" or "never." Challenge yourself to see the grey.
Discounting the positive:
Many of us are conditioned to pay attention only to our flaws, failures, and errors. While completely dismissing any factual evidence of the things we do right. Because the things we do right – how can that fit into the narrative we've accepted over all these years of always falling short, not being good enough, etc.?!
*Truth: If you're willing to pay attention, you will likely find evidence of what you do well in life. Such as your positive qualities and the positive way you impact others. Challenge yourself to look for these things today. Notice your tendency to discount them. And just for the day, choose to believe they are true. Or choose to WANT to believe. Or decide to WANT to WANT to believe them. Pro Tip: Write them down!
The tendency to regard our feelings as facts. Example: I feel like I'm worthless, and therefore I am, and believe this as truth.
*Truth: Nope! Our feelings give us messages, little (or big) cues about how we are experiencing the world. Be curious about your feelings. "Where is this coming from?" "I wonder why I'm feeling this way?" "What is going on with me today?". Feelings are not facts. Repeat; feelings are not facts.
NOW WHAT? How do I start with CBT?
The first step is awareness. Through mindfulness – or the ability to notice our thoughts without attaching to them, we can start to recognize our cognitive distortions. This recognition, along with a lot of practice, can help us to challenge their validity and replace them with more balanced, accurate thoughts. Challenging your thoughts may feel very difficult and frustrating at first – don't give up. It will take time to unlearn automatic thought processes because they are based on years of conditioning. Ask a good friend or your therapist to be a sounding board as you work to rewrite the narrative. And lastly – practice self-compassion; be kind and gentle with yourself – none of this is easy!
Start Cognitive Therapy in Whitefish Bay WI
Our therapists at Shoreside Therapies know how hard it can be to search for ‘CBT therapy near me.’ It takes strength and vulnerability to consider getting help. Many people experience immediate relief after making that first appointment for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?
Kathleen Mack, MSW, LCSW
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