Thursday, July 13, 2006

"We are monitoring your thoughts"

A "thought-monitoring form" sounds like something from the novel 1984, but it's actually a really helpful component of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, as explained in Change Your Thinking.

Often we are knocked around by thoughts and feelings that are buried deep within us. Because we don't recognise them, they control us. When we can bring them into the light, we're able to challenge these thoughts - or cognitions - because we see them for what they are.

The thought monitoring form is a simple form to use whenever you face anxiety, stress or any negative feeling. Here's the basic format, from page 38 of Change Your Thinking:





Thinking Errors (there's a whole list of common errors with a tickbox next to them)

Alternative, more balanced view?

What would I tell a friend who was in this situation?

Positive Actions:

The form is supposed to take you on a journey from helplessness to positive action, starting at the obvious (the situation and how you feel about it) through to what lies behind our reactions (thoughts, beliefs, thinking errors).

Asking questions like "what would I advise a friend to do?" helps us get beyond the double standard we often apply to ourselves - we see ourselves as worse or harder to deal with than other people.

This is also the stage where Socratic (or Sock-ratic) questioning comes in helpful too.

And finally, taking action - or at least identifying what action you can take - is incredibly liberating. It puts the ball back in your court; you can focus on the things you can change rather than those you can't.


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