I am starting to enjoy my CBT sessions. During the last session we started looking at unhelpful thinking habits, and this was again an eye-opener. It is obvious that if you keep thinking these negative thoughts, nothing good will happen. It is a learnt behaviour, so in order to get out of it you need to re-train your thinking habits.
The forgotten tool belt
Part of last weeks homework was to look at diary for challenging negative thinking, and to complete a few of these. I managed to come up with a great example as I unfortunately made a bit of a mistake at work. To me it was not anything really bad: I had forgotten my tool belt at a customer’s house so needed to go back and collect it.
I fully understand from the company’s view that it was time wasted. I had to pick something up that I should have remembered in the first place. There would be a knock on affect for the rest of the day. On the other hand, we all make mistakes and I do not have a habit of leaving things.
As soon as I realised I had forgotten it and that I needed to speak to my manager, my brain went into overdrive. The thing that worried me about all of this was how my manager would react. In my head I thought that he would shout at me, tell me off, put me on an action plan, have me fired, complain that I was not of any use, say bad things to me and be very disappointed in me. This would lead on to me feeling down and bad for the rest of the day.
So this was my mindset when I called him. Of course, he reacted in several of the above anticipated ways. Not bad enough to have me fired, but certainly very disappointed in me which I could hear in his voice, telling me to learn from this which annoyed me as it’s the first time in a year I’ve done this, saying it’s just not good enough and so on. I was left feeling very down and bad about this, much like I had done before calling him. This then impacted the rest of my day in a negative way. I was also stuck in this negative way of thinking, and could not shift my thoughts.
Better way of thinking
The idea with CBT here is that you try to challenge your negative thinking in a particular situation and come up with an alternative and much more helpful thought. Using this example, a better thought would be: he is entitled to be annoyed, and how he puts that across is just his way of communicating. Do not take it personally.
My rational brain tells me this is obviously a good way of thinking. As I am typing this, I am no longer anxious about it and it is pretty obvious that this thought is a much better one. I understand it and agree with it. Of course he was annoyed, I would be too. I would not speak that way, which says more about him than me. I also do not take it personally. After all, it was only a forgotten tool belt and the impact of this meant an hour of my day was spent retrieving it. In the big scheme of things, it could be a lot worse.
Change your way of thinking
My way of thinking in the above example is a classic example of catastrophising, which is one of the unhelpful thinking habits. To think that I would get fired over this is just that: believing that the worst possible thing would happen. By becoming aware of your thinking habits, you can then start to challenge your way of thinking and look at the situation in another way. As with any habits, this requires work and consistency. It can be done.
When you notice the unhelpful thinking, take a few seconds to analyse the situation and identify the negative thought.
There are always better and more helpful thoughts, find them and replace the negative thought with the helpful ones. Then let it go. In order to get better, you need to change your way of thinking. Simple, yet so hard. But it can be done.
For a great source of CBT, head to https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/