Before I found tools that worked for me, Anxiety and Depression kept me in a state of continuous chaos. Here is a list of some of those chaotic feelings that I would experience on a regular basis: worry, exhaustion, terror, disinterest in activities, hypersensitivity, lack of emotion, anger, disappointment, an overwhelming feeling of impending doom, confusion, uselessness, and, all too often, physical pain, strain or constriction.
I’m sure there were more feelings, but that is just my short list. Do you identify with any of those feelings? Well, if you do, I have some good news. There are tools that can help you get your life back. These tools aren’t magical. You won’t experience an instant cure to your mental maladies. It will take time for you to integrate these tools into your life, allowing you to change your thought process to one that can better identify and eliminate self-destructive, illogical, thinking. This healing process is called Cognitive Therapy and it’s backed up by decades of clinical research.
When I was first introduced to cognitive therapy, it was hard to believe. The general idea is that mental illnesses, such as Anxiety and Depression, are often caused by the cumulative effects of years of distorted thinking. In other words, our unchallenged, self-destructive thoughts lead us in the direction of mental illness. And the only thing that is preventing us from living happier, more productive, lives is that we don’t know how to identify and challenge those negative thoughts. We have accepted our negativity as truth.
Cognitive Therapy was first developed in the 1960’s by a psychiatrist named Aaron T. Beck, but it was later popularized in the 1980’s by psychiatrist David D. Burns in his book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, where Burns gave us written exercises that we can use to identify and challenge our distorted thinking.
I would recommend reading that book and utilizing the writing tools that are recommend by Burns. Basically, Burns persuades us to combat our distorted thoughts in writing because, when we try to combat our thoughts in our mind only, our distorted mind edits and makes corrections that prevent us from challenging the distortions. But when we identify our distorted thoughts and write them down on paper, the thought is locked into whatever we wrote, and we can easily identify where there is a distortion and challenge it with a logical written response.
You will notice that the same distorted thoughts will come up each day. Keep writing them down and keep challenging them. At some point, you get so used to your logical response that the specific distorted thought loses its power. Because it is immediately refuted by the logical response that you have provided day after day.
Burns identifies 10 types of Distorted thinking that we need to challenge, on paper, every day, until we don’t believe them anymore.
Check out the complete list here to identify them: Click to view the 10 Cognitive Distortions
Pick up the book. Try it for 1 month. Challenge your distorted thoughts every day. You will be amazed by how well this tool works.
Sample Distorted thought:
“It doesn’t matter that I’m good at biology. I’m too stupid to learn math. I failed my last math test. I will never be able to be a scientist because I can’t do math.”
From the list of Cognitive Distortions, I provided above, how many distortion types can you identify?
Identify the Distortion Types:
(#1) All or nothing thinking
Your distorted logic is telling you that you need to be great at everything, right now, or you can’t be a scientist.
You think that because you failed a math test you will never pass a math test – ever.
(#5) Jumping to conclusions
You are “fortune telling” that this will lead to a future where you can’t be a scientist.
(#6) Magnification and Minimization
You minimize your strength in Biology and Magnify your weakness in Math.
You set yourself up to fail by labeling yourself as “Stupid.”
Let’s Challenge this Distorted thought:
“I’m really doing well in certain science fields like biology, but I need to get some help with my math. I failed my last test, but I can always ask my teacher if she can offer me some help or additional tutoring – I can only improve. 🙂 In life, sometimes it takes you extra time to learn something. But you are also fortunate that there are some things that you are naturally good at, like biology. You are allowed to struggle, that is the point of going to school to learn. If everything was easy to learn, we wouldn’t need teachers. Many scientists have had difficulties in school. They were able to get past their problems, so can I. ”
The first time I talked about Tools for Anxiety and Depression was on January 1, 2015
Here is a video that I shot on June 10, 2015 where I break down the 10 types of distorted thinking.