Change the Tape
This would be called ‘Recognising and Changing Extreme and Unhlepful Thinking’ in the course, but I think that the idea of changing the tape is a helpful one (although a CD may be more appropriate these days!) Anyway, here is the general idea:
Common Thinking Errors
Overgeneralising – whereby everything is black or white, bad or good. This can lead to people (including yourself), being negatively judged or condemned on the basis of a single statement or incident e.g. this always happens to me, I will never be happy etc. Try to develop a balanced view instead, taking all factors into account.
Mind reading – assuming we know what others are thinking without checking it out with them. Making negative interpretations and assumptions even if there are no definite facts e.g. because a friend doesn’t return your call, it means they are avoiding you. Try to think of other reasons for their actions that may have no bearing on their opinion of you.
Catastrophising – we’re all doooooooooomed!!! (i.e. taking an isolated event and blowing it up out of all proportion) Ask yourself what is the evidence ? How many times, if ever, has the worst outcome happened before? Are you ignoring all the times things have gone well?
Negative focus – Ignoring the positive aspects of a situation and only focusing on the negative parts. Try to focus on the positive too!
Living by fixed/inflexible rules: having unrealistic expectations and regularly using the words “must”, “should”, “ought” and “can’t” very often causes unnecessary disappointment and guilt. You can try and live according to your principles/rules, but don’t punish or be too hard on yourself if you can’t always keep to them.
Personalising: taking responsibility and blame for everything that goes wrong. Again, look for an alternative – ask yourself is it really completely your fault? Are there no other factors or people contributing to what went wrong? Would you blame a friend in the same situation as you?
Challenge those thoughts – Change the tape!
1) Identify the unhelpful thought .
2) Find evidence for the thought – this must be factual and supportable, not just feelings based
3) Find evidence against the thought – this will probably take more work than part 2, but stick at it!
4) Form a balanced thought – this will result from a considered assessment of the evidence both for and against the original unhelpful thought.
I, personally, have found the best source of balanced thoughts to be the Bible. The principle itself of ‘taking each thought captive and presenting it to Christ’ as well as ‘being transformed by the renewal of my mind’ is reflected in this whole process. It may be called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and be thought of as a new form of counselling, but the principle is as old as God himself!