Tag Archives: Cbt

Techniques (Evidence-Based) For Reducing Negative Thoughts.

stop_negative_thoughts

evidence based techniques to reduce negative thoughts

We have seen that if we suffered significant, recurring trauma as children, we are put at increased risk of developing depression as adults (see the DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY section of this site which contains many articles about the link between childhood trauma and depression). One of the hallmarks of depression is, of course, NEGATIVE THINKING.

Fortunately, however, much scientific research has been conducted into techniques those suffering from depression can employ in order to reduce their tendency constantly to think in negative ways ; I briefly describe several of the most effective of these techniques below :

1) LEARNED OPTIMISM :

The psychologist, Seligman, has developed a method by which people who are pessimistic and prone to negative thinking can train themselves mentally to respond to adverse events in ways that are less negative and more optimistic by challenging their initial pessimistic responses.

Seligman developed his idea of how optimism may be learned whilst he was studying a phenomenon known as LEARNED HELPLESSNESS (you can read my article Trauma, Depression And Learned Helplessness’  by clicking here); he reasoned that if people, through conditioning, can ‘learn’ to be helpless they may, too, be able to learn a more positive attitude to life and its vicissitudes.

There exists research to support Seligman’s theory. For example, the findings of a scientific study (Buchanan) conducted at the University of Pennsylvania strongly suggested that individuals with a tendency towards pessimism can be made significantly less vulnerable to depression and anxiety by being taught Seligman’s learned optimism techniques.

HOWEVER, there is a balance to be struck here as constantly striving to be positive and ‘upbeat’ at all times is likely to backfire – it is, I think we can all safely agree, axiomatic that one cannot go through life without encountering distress (some of us more than others, of course). Even so, we can make distress less painful to endure by learning techniques in DISTRESS TOLERANCE you can read my article about this by clicking here.

(Interestingly, trying to relax can backfire, too – you can read about why this is in my article : Does Trying To Relax  Paradoxically Increase Your Anxiety?  by clicking here).

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2) COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT) :

This can help us challenge our negative thoughts and correct irrational, faulty thinking styles associated with negative thinking (you can read two my articles relevant to this by clicking below):

 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy : Challenging Negative Thoughts

or

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Childhood Trauma

 

3) DEFENSIVE PESSIMISM : 

Despite the finding that learned optimism can be helpful in reducing depression it may, too, be paradoxically the case that a tendency towards pessimism, in certain situations, can sometimes be, as it were, strategically exploited.

This can be achieved by considering the worst possible outcome of an event in order to put things in perspective (the caveat being that it is necessary to put an action plan into operation to ensure the worst possible outcome does not come to fruition!).

 

MINDFULNESS :

This involves allowing negative thoughts to pass through the mind whilst NOT emotionally engaging with these thoughts or judging them – a simile that is sometimes used is that one should just observe, in a detached manner, these thoughts running through our heads with the same tranquility we would feel were we to be watching leaves on the surface of a river gently flow past us. You can read more about mindfulness in the HYPNOSIS AND MINDFULNESS section of this site.

 

THE ADVERSITY HYPOTHESIS :

It is important to remember that even very distressing experiences can improve us as a person (e.g. by providing us with a better perspective on life, making us realize what’s important in life, helping us to get our priorities straight, increasing the empathy we feel with others who have suffered in a similar way to ourselves, and toughening us up mentally.

An article of mine you may wish to read relating to this is :

 

RESOURCES :

10 Steps to Overcome Negativity Hypnosis Course | Self Hypnosis Downloads

 

Information about online therapy – click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Socrates and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

 CBT beck socrates

If we have suffered serious childhood trauma the research indicates that we are more likely than those who enjoyed a relatively stable childhood to develop clinical depression during our adulthood (all else being equal).

I have discussed the link between childhood trauma and depression in my book : Childhood Trauma and Its Link to Anxiety and Depression (click here to view) and I have also written several articles available on this site about one of the most effective treatments for depression, namely cognitive behavioural therapy (click here to read one of my articles on this).

In this article, however, I want to look at what CBT has in common with the teachings of Socrates (469-399 BC) who is probably the most famous of the Ancient Greek philosophers. In many ways, Socrates’ beliefs anticipated CBT in the way I describe below.

CBT informs us that our emotional disturbances lie more in the way we interpret events and the meaning we subjectively attribute to those events than the events per se. Indeed, the psychologist, Ellis, developed a model that illustrates this idea, namely the ABC model which I summarise below:

A – the event occurs

B – we attribute our own idiosyncratic meaning to this event

C – the meaning we attribute to the event in stage B, above, determines how we feel about evevt A.

Implications of the ABC model:

From this model, Ellis explains, it follows that we can often alter for the better how we feel about the events in life that we experience by altering how we view and interpret them.

How this fits in with the views of Socrates:

Socrates and the Stoic philosophers took a similar view to that of Ellis, ie. that it is the meaning that we give to events rather than the events themselves that determines how we feel.

Socrates_cbt

To give an everyday example : some people may feel depressed if they fail an important examination as they interpret their failure as meaning that they must be ‘stupid’.

Another person, however, may fail the same exam and yet NOT be dispirited by the failure as they do NOT interpret the failure as meaning they are stupid or unintelligent as intelligence is made up of many, many diverse factors which are in no way associated with the exam.

Toxic Beliefs :

The individual who interpreted his/her exam failure as meaning s/he ‘must be stupid’ could be said to have been holding a toxic belief and that it was this toxic belief that led to his/her unhappy response to the failed exam.

Implications :

It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to try to change our toxic beliefs by replacing them with more rational, reasonable and less self – destructive ones (according to both Socrates and modern day CBT theorists).

Changing our Toxic Beliefs : The Socratic Method :

In order to change our toxic beliefs, one of the founders of CBT, Beck,  said that it was necessary for us to make use of what he called THE SOCRATIC METHOD : Rather than ‘sleep-walk’ through life, like an automaton, as many do, we need to CRITICALLY EXAMINE what we are doing, how we are acting and behaving, and how we our feeling and coming to the decisions we make (there is a well-known quote, I forget by whom, that ‘ the unexamined life is not worth living’). Gaining more insight into ourselves gives us more choices and increases our general efficacy in life.

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In order to decide what, in the lives we find ourselves living, it is in our own best interests to change we need to try to think more independently, rather than merely think (and, consequently , act) according to the beliefs and values that have been inculcated into us by parents, friends, associates, teachers, politicians, the press, television, society and the culture within which we exist.

To help us to achieve this, we need, too, to try to bring our core beliefs, which are likely to reside, for much of the time, below the level of consciousness and have an enormous effect on how we think, feel and behave, into our conscious mind and critically examine and evaluate them. In this way, we give ourselves the chance to discover which of these beliefs are toxic (ie. spoiling our lives and holding us back from achieving fulfilment).

Once we have identified our toxic thoughts we are in a position to be able to replace them with more rational and helpful ones that allow us to change, positively, how we interpret the world around us. If we can achieve this, our emotional and even physical health are likely to improve significantly.

To read one of my articles on CBT, click here.

emotional_abuse

Above eBook now available from Amazon. Instant download. Other titles available. Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

‘Fighting’ Anxiety can Worsen It: Why Acceptance Works Better.

 

What Happens When We Try To ‘Fight’ Anxiety?

Trying to fight anxiety, research suggests (and, certainly, my own experience of anxiety would tend to confirm this) can actually AGGRAVATE the problem and lead to greater feelings of distress. Stating the shatteringly obvious, none of us wants to experience the feelings an anxiety condition brings; however, difficult as it may sound at first, DEVELOPING AN ATTITUDE OF ACCEPTANCE TOWARDS IT, rather than entering an exhausting mental battle with it, has been reported by many to be a superior strategy for coping with anxiety.

The psychologist Beck, to whom I have made several references already in this blog (he was one of the founders of the very helpful therapy called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT, for people suffering from conditions such as depression and anxiety – see my posts on CBT) devised the acronym A.W.A.R.E for ease of remembering the key strategies for coping. Let’s take a look at what the acronym A.W.A.R.E stands for:

A Accept the anxiety (it sounds hard, I know, but so is constantly struggling to fight it):

The benefits of adopting this approach are that it may help to reduce the PHYSIOLOGICAL symptoms commonly associated with anxiety (eg accelerated heart rate, increased muscle tension, hyperventilation, sweating -or ‘cold sweats’- trembling, dry mouth etc). It may, too, help with PSYCHOLOGICAL symptoms (people report that an attitude of acceptance towards their anxiety makes them feel less distressed). A kind of motto which has come to attach itself to the acceptance approach to anxiety is: ‘if you are not WILLING to have it, you WILL’ (see what they’ve done there!)

W Watch your anxiety:

It is suggested that rather than get too ‘caught up’ in anxiety, together with all the distressing negative thoughts and fears it produces, to, instead, just observe it in a DETACHED and NON-JUDGMENTAL manner; this involves trying to adopt a kind of NEUTRAL MENTAL ATTITUDE towards it – in other words, neither liking it nor seeing the experience of anxiety as a terrible, unsolvable catastrophy (again, I realize, of course, that intense anxiety is very painful, so this, too, may sound difficult at first). People report that when they adopt this DETACHED, NEUTRAL view of their feelings of anxiety they starts to lose their, hitherto, tenacious grip on their lives.

A Act with your anxiety:

Severe anxiety can leave us feeling as if we are incapable of functioning on even a basic level. It is important to remember, however, as I have repeated at, no doubt, tedious length througout this blog, that just because we believe something it does not logically follow that the belief must be true. Indeed, when my anxiety was at its worst, I did not feel able, or even believe I could,shave or brush my teeth etc…etc… Many people report, however, that if they take the first (often, extremely challenging) step to try to carry on with normal activities, despite the feeling of anxiety which may accompany this, they can, after all, accomplish that which they originally believed they couldn’t. Success then tends to build upon success: completion of the first activity increases the self-belief and the confidence to go on to the second activity, the completion of which provides further self-belief and confidence…and so on…and so on…

In order to make this easier, it may be necessary to slow down the pace at which, in different circumstances, we would otherwise carry out the particular tasks that we set ourselves.

R Repeat the steps:

This just means that by repeating the ACCEPTING ANXIETY, WATCHING OUR ANXIETY (in a detached and neutral manner) and ACTING (despite the feelings of anxiety which may accompany such action) CYCLE, the anxiety may be slowly eroded away.

E Expect the best (even if it does not come naturally)

When we are depressed and anxious we, almost invariably, expect the worst. This is overwhelmingly likely to perpetuate the condition. However, just as expecting the worst can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so, too, can expecting the best. If, like me, you are not a natural optimist, the concept of expecting the best may go against the grain. However, research shows that optimistic people are more likely to achieve their goals than those of us who do not appear to have been blessed with quite such a sunny disposition. It is worth adapting the strategy on, at least, an experimental basis. It is also useful to keep in mind that even if the best does not occur, we will still have the inner-strength necessary to cope.

eBook :

 

childhood trauma and depression

 

Above eBook now available for immediate download on Amazon.  CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Combining Hypnosis with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Hypnosis And CBT :

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is, essentially, a therapy which seeks to alter the way we think and behave in order to improve how we feel. CBT can be COMBINED with hypnotherapy in order to make it more effective. it is thought to make it more effective as it causes the individual being treated to become more receptive to the therapist’s suggestions, and, also, it enhances his/her ability to utilize imagery. Hypnosis can also help the individual being treated become more insightful into the causes of his/her psychological symptoms.

hypnosis and CBT

Above : Combining CBT with hypnosis lets us tap into both conscious and unconscious processing to help us find solutions to our problems.

Below, I provide some examples of areas of CBT in which hypnosis can help it become more effective in treating the patient:

1) THE USE OF POST HYPNOTIC SUGGESTION: For example, the individual being treated may be given the post-hypnotic suggestion (this is a suggestion made by the therapist to the effect that the individual will behave in a particular way once the hypnosis is over. An example of a post-hypnotic suggestion is: ‘whenever you have a negative thought you will challenge it and try to replace it with a more positive one.’

2) REFRAMING : Another area where it can be useful to combine hypnotherapy with CBT is by improving the ability of the individual being treated develop the skill of REFRAMING. Reframing refers to the skill, taught in CBT, of looking at a negative experience or situation and to try, with conscious effort, to interpret it in a more positive way.

3) INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS : Furthermore, it can help the individual under treatment identify INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS and more effectively control their emotional responses to such thoughts.

These are just some of the ways that hypnosis can be combined with CBT to both accelerate and augment its effectiveness. It is thought to do this by helping the individual under treatment FOCUS on the experience of therapy. It may, too, improve the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the individual being treated, because, for example, the hypnotic experience tends to be comforting, and, also,to promote trust between the therapist and patient. Additionally, it can give the individual being treated a greater sense of security which often leads to greater compliance with the therapist’s suggestions.

RETURN HOME TO ABOUT CHILDHOOD TRAUMA RECOVERY

.David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Challenging Our Negative Thoughts.

Challenging Negative Thoughts :

This article examines how we can use cognitive behavioral therapy to challenge our negative thoughts.

When we have negative thoughts, it is important to ask ourselves:

‘What is the evidence to support this negative thought/belief?’ OFTEN, WILL WILL FIND THERE IS VERY LITTLE OR AT LEAST NOT THE COMPELLING EVIDENCE WE’D ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED.

It is important for us to get into the habit of challenging negative thoughts in this way because very often the negative thoughts come to us automatically (due to entrenched negative thinking patterns caused in large part by our traumatic childhoods) without us analyzing them and examining them to see if they are actually valid.

So, to repeat, we need to try to get into the habit of CHALLENGING OUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS AND ASKING OURSELVES IF THERE REALLY IS PROPER EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THEM.

A SUGGESTED EXERCISE FOR CHALLENGING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS :

1) Think of two or three negative thoughts that you have experienced lately.

2) Ask yourself what evidence you have to support them.

3) Ask yourself how strong this evidence actually is.

4) Now think of evidence AGAINST THE NEGATIVE THOUGHT.

Step 4 above is very important.This is because when we are depressed and have negative thoughts we tend to focus on the (often flimsy) evidence which supports them BUT IGNORE ALL THE EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM (in other words, we give ourselves an ‘unfair hearing’ and , in effect, are prejudiced against ourselves). This is sometimes referred to as CONFIRMATION BIAS.

Challenging our negative thoughts and FINDING EVIDENCE TO REFUTE THEM is a very important part of CBT. It is, therefore, worth us putting in effort to search hard for evidence which weakens or invalidates our automatic negative thoughts/beliefs.

ALTERNATIVE THOUGHTS:

When we have successfully challenged our negative thoughts, and found, by reviewing the evidence, reason not to hold them anymore, it is useful to replace them by MORE REALISTIC APPROPRIATE THOUGHTS.

One way to get into the habit of this is to spend a little time occasionally writing down our automatic negative thoughts. Then, for each thought, we can write beside it:

1) Evidence in support of the negative thought.

2) Evidence against the negative thought.

3) In the light of the analysis carried out above in steps 1 and 2, replace it with a more realistic, valid and positive thought. Here is an example:

Negative Thought: I failed my exam which means I’m stupid and will never get the job I wanted or any other.

1) Evidence in support of negative thought:

‘after a lot of revision, I still didn’t pass.

2) Evidence against negative thought:

I only failed by a couple of per cent and was affected by my nerves – failing one exam does not make me stupid’.

3) Alternative, more valid, realistic and positive thought:

‘I can retake the exam and still get the job. Even if I don’t get my first choice of job, that does not mean there won’t be other jobs I can get, and they may turn out to be better.’

Getting into the habit of occasionally writing down negative thoughts, challenging them, and coming up with more positive alternative thoughts will help to ‘reprogram’ the brain not to just passively accept the automatic negative thoughts which come to us without subjecting them to scrutiny and challenging their validity.

 

Self-Help Link :

Ten Steps To Overcoming Negative Thinking. Click here for further information.

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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