For the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on the relationship between your thoughts, behaviours, and feelings. These are the main aspects behind cognitive-behavioural therapy (or CBT).
The power of your beliefs
The cognitive model, which is at the foundation of CBT, says that what you believe about yourself has a tremendous impact on your life. It influences how you interact with others, how you see the world, and how you view your future. Your beliefs shape your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Here’s an example of the power of your beliefs. Let’s say you have the belief, “I am incompetent.” Now, let’s imagine that you are at work and you just completed an assignment for your boss. This is how your belief (I am incompetent) will influence your thinking:
- Perception – What you see and what you sense. For example, your boss gives you some criticism on the task you just completed. Since you believe that you are incompetent, you might sense that she is unhappy with your work and you think to yourself, “I can’t do anything right.”
- Attention – What you choose to focus on. Since you believe that you are incompetent, you will only focus on the current criticism she gave you, while ignoring the praises she gave you on things you’ve accomplished in the past.
- Memory – What you remember and what you learn. Since you have the belief that you are incompetent, you will have an easier time remembering occasions when people in positions of authority criticized your work. Because of your belief, you will also have a harder time remembering moments when you felt competent.
Thoughts affect us in deep ways
As you can see from the above example, what you believe about yourself influences three aspects of how you deal with a stressful situation:
- How you interpret the situation (perception),
- What you choose to focus on regarding the situation (attention),
- What you will take away and remember about the situation (memory), and what you remember about all the other situations you’ve experienced that are similar to it in some way.
What cognitive therapy tries to do is to chip away at these unhelpful and dysfunctional beliefs by teaching you ways to challenge your thoughts so that you see things in a more balanced and rational way. When you start doing this, you begin to have a healthier and more balanced view of yourself, your future, and others.
Remember: you can change the way you think, the way you act, and how you feel. My goal is to offer some suggestions in the next few posts on how you can do this.
Hoping this tip helps with change, healing, and growth.