Friday, November 12, 2010

Challenging Unhelpful Thinking

Our last post we talked about Unhelpful thinking patterns and how they effect our feelings and our behavior. So now we need to pick out the unhelpful thinking styles that we most often go to. Now we want to challenge or get a different perspective on that thinking style so the following is what that looks like. The best way to do this is to chart it on a sheet of paper, with 5 categories:
  • Situation When did the situation occur? Who was involved? What happened?
  • Feelings Describe you feelings during the situation and it’s intensity
    ( 0 = no intensity, 10=great intensity )
  • Automatic Thoughts What were you thinking before you noticed the unpleasant feeling or emotional experience.
    Unhelpful Thinking Style
    Identify the mind trap you fell into: filtering overgeneralizing etc.
    Alternative thinking or response Challenge your unhelpful thinking style using an alternative thought or response

    Now you begin at least one time a day to record any unhelpful thinking styles and challenge them with healthier alternative thoughts. The purpose of this is to learn to think in a healthier more flexible way. Do this for about 4 weeks to create new habits in your thinking.
    If you would like the worksheet that goes to this exercise just email me at and ask for the "challenge your unhelpful thinking style" worksheet.

    The following is a list of alternative responses:

    • Instead of All or nothing thinking: (see things in black and white) use Seeing in Shades of Gray (ask yourself "Am I being fair?: Is anything except God 100% good or bad. What possibilities am a missing when I choose to see only black and white.)
    • Instead of Overgeneralizing:(focusing on the negative outcomes of events and use those outcomes as a general rule for everything in your life) use Being Specific (Ask yourself "What are the facts about this situation? Is it really as bad as I think? Avoid using the words always, all, none, never, everybody and nobody)
    • Instead of Jumping to Conclusions: (Making a negative conclusion even though there is no evidence to support it) use Sticking to the Facts (Ask yourself "What facts do I have that my conclusion is accurate?" What facts do I have that my conclusion in not accurate?
    • Instead of Magnification or minimization: (When thinking about yourself or others, or a specific situation you magnify the negative qualities or minimize the positive qualities.) use Keeping things in Perspective (Ask yourself "Is my opinion 100% accurate? What are some aspects of this situation that I'm not seeing?)
    • Instead of Emotional thinking (believing that your feelings are true judgments about who you are or the situation you are in) use Rational thinking (Ask yourself "What is the evidence that my judgments are 100% true? Is there another explanation for the way I'm feeling?)
    • Instead of Labeling: (The worse version of overgeneralizing. Instead of just being negative about yourself you label yourself or others or situations without looking at all the facts) use Remaining Non judgemental (Ask yourself "Am I being fair to myself, other and the situation? What possibilities am I cutting myself off from?)
    • Instead of Personalization: (You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which in fact you were not primarily responsible. Taking blame for things that you had no control over.) use Balancing Responsibility (Ask yourself "Am I really 100 percent responsible for this? if not, who should share the responsibility? Who else is at least partly responsible)
    • Instead of Should statements: ( having a fixed idea of how things "should" be and get angry when your expectations aren't met.) use Being Flexible (Ask yourself, " How can I be flexible in this situation so that everyone can be somewhat happy or satisfied? How can I make a fair compromise?)

    As you do this for at least 4 weeks you will see patterns in your thinking. Most people don't have all these unhealthy thinking styles just 1 or 2 that are dominate so once you see the pattern you can really zero in on it and correct it. It really does usually take 30 day to begin to break a habit so if you are serious about changing your thinking you need to do this for at least a month.

    Next post How to overcome 'Fearful Thinking"

    Watch your thoughts, for they become words,
    Watch your words, for they become actions,
    Watch your actions, for they become habits,
    Watch your habits, for they become character,
    Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

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