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Reality Bites Essay

1021 words - 5 pages

pizza bites

I'm back from vacation and despite being away from the blog for a while, a few folks posted some interesting comments that had nothing to do with the post they were commenting on.

One had a link to a website selling table saws.

Fascinating.

A significant part of CBT work involves challenging distorted thinking; patterns of thinking that can lead a person to unreasonable and usually negative conclusions about events, themselves and other people. I've written a good deal about negative thinking and how to use Socratic methods and evidence to challenge distortions that typically lead to unreasonable distress and maladaptive behaviors.

But what happens if the negative belief or thought is true and unchangeable? For example, "I got written up because I played computer games at work all week and missed an important deadline."

Contrary to the stereotype that therapists tend to push clients into endless positive affirmation mantras we actually have a few ways that can help clients think about and handle difficult situations that involve strategies other than repeatedly saying "I love myself and the world is in harmony". Because, really, the world is rarely in harmony and if you love yourself that much then therapy needs to have a bit of a different focus.

One strategy involves consciously using the distress related to the event as a catalyst for increased awareness and knowledge about the problem and increased desire to change that behavior that either led to the problem or may be making the problem worse. The Systems theory folks view crisis as something that can act as a catalyst for change in families and what's true for systems is true for individuals. Emotions are really neutral entities; "good" and "bad" emotions can both lead to negative outcomes; it's not so much the emotion that matters as much as how you use it. During times of distress, folks are typically more motivated to change just so that they can feel better. Changing our behaviors may not reverse a specific consequence that already occurred but it can help prevent the situation from getting worse while giving us a greater sense of control. Changing behaviors can also have reparative effects on relationships; people tend to forgive more easily when they have evidence that someone is trying to turn their behaviors around. However, acting without awareness can leave us vulnerable and may lead us to bigger problems than what we started with.

Before pushing a client to action, many CBT therapists engage their client in a simple yet comprehensive pros and cons exercise. Pros and cons can help us put a negative event or life circumstance in perspective. Using the example of being in job you do not like; there are reasons why a person may still show up - there are things about the job that have a payoff otherwise they wouldn't be going there every day. Going through the pro's and cons of staying at a job, leaving a job, changing...

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