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Stress Management for Health Course

Miscellaneous CBT

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Miscellaneous File - Stress and Cognitive Distortions



Man is what he believes

(Anton Chekov)



     Egocentric Thinking


Others have added egocentric thinking as a cognitive distortion, People must think the way I do.


  Telepathy Error


People should know how I feel without me having to tell them.


There is also an evolutionary aspect such that under stress it is common for us to start imagining the worst, become highly attentive to threats, and distorted in our thinking (Gilbert 1998B) such styles of thinking actually may have had adaptive functions.  However, it can also become highly maladaptive.


(Paul Gilbert (2000) Counselling for Depression, second edition, Sage Books)


Stress and CBT


Each of us views the world through our own unique lens, the characteristics and scope of that lens governs what we are able to see and know about the world.  Paradigms are not born; they are made.  They are handed down first and foremost by the culture in which we live, globally and locally.  They represent the collective attitudes and beliefs of what Carolyn Myss PhD calls our tribe.  What you believe about how the world works is very different from what your great grandfather believed.  And it is different from what someone living in the rain forests of Borneo believes.  You, your great-grandfather, and the Borneo tribesman have very different explanations for, say, an airplane, or a computer, or a fertility fetish.  A kid who grows up in a deeply religious churchgoing family interprets experiences differently than do children of the atheists next door.  Quakers and Hindus have a different understanding of the world, literally a different perspective.

The way you see the world around you is profoundly influenced by what your family believes and how it acts.  If your parents were always worried about what might befall them or you, you may have come to believe that the world is unsafe or unpredictable; you may live in a state of constant fear and anxiety.  If family conflicts were resolved with screaming and yelling, its reasonable to believe that anger is the only tactic that works.  You may respond by spending your life avoiding intimate relationships entirely.  If, on the other hand, your childhood was smooth and serene, you are likely to trust that the world is an OK place.


Of course, not everyone responds in the same way to education, neighbourhood, or the class bully.  Your personal paradigm reflects not only your culture, family, and life experiences but the ways that you, because of your unique temperament, have interpreted and responded to your environment.  Our openness to whats new affects our view of the world.  Research has shown that some people are inherently more adventurous and less conservative than others, hence more open to trying new things.


(Lambrou P, Pratt G. (2000) Instant Emotional Healing, Rider Books)



Cognitive therapy is especially useful in restructuring how we perceive and react to stressful situations.

(p35 Visions: BCs Mental Health Journal No11 Fall 2000)



With a bit of practice, Its the end of the world can be altered to Lets find a solution.



Cognitive Restructuring Work Sheet


A.     Activating Event:




B.    Rational Ideas:




Irrational Ideas:




C.    Consequences of the irrational ideas:




D.    Disputing and challenging the irrational ideas:


1.           Select the irrational idea:




2.           Is there any rational support for this idea?




3.           What evidence exists for the falseness of the idea?




4.           Does any evidence exist for the truth of the idea?




5.           What is the worst thing that could happen to me?




6.           What good things might occur?




E.     Alternative thoughts:




Alternative emotions:


(Davis M., Robbins Eshelman E., McKay M. (2000) The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, New Harbinger inc.)



How To Think More Positively


1.      Dont ignore the ordinary or good things that happen each day, as if they dont count for some reason.  Take account of the bad side, but dont dwell on it.


2.      Take your mind off your problems as much as you can they grow bigger the more you concentrate on them but shrink into proportion when you think about something else.


3.      Remember that when things go wrong its not always your fault other people or just the situation are just as likely to be to blame.


4.      Get into the habit of thinking a positive thought frequently throughout the day what a lovely blue sky, or thank goodness I dont need to go out in that rain your thoughts are up to you, but keep them coming! May sound silly, but it really works . . . .


5.      You probably find some thoughts often slip into your mind like, I cant cope, Im no good at this.  When this happens, challenge these thought.  What evidence is there to support these thoughts and what about the evidence against them?  How would others view the situation?  What would you say to a friend who felt that way?


6.      Grow to like yourself.  There will never be anyone else quite like you.


7.      Remember that many people, despite how they appear, are often as unsure of themselves as you are.


8.      Dont take part in negative conversation.  Change the subject to something more positive.


9.      Encourage friendships with people with positive thinking habits.


10. Dont carry the world around on your shoulders.  Give everybody else a share!


11. Practise liking people.


12. Count your blessings old-fashioned, but true!


(Ref: Hambly K. Muir A., Stress Advice: Take Home 3 Healthy Thinking)


Questions to Ask Yourself about Stressful Thoughts


Q1.         Is this really true?



Q2.         Am I jumping to conclusions?



Q3.         What is the evidence?



Q4.         Am I exaggerating or over-emphasising a negative aspect of the situation?



Q5.         Am I catastrophising? (Am I making it seem worse than it really is?)




Q6.         How do I know it will happen?  Am I a mind reader?




Q7.         So what if it happens? (Will the world end?)




Q8.         Is it really as bad as it seems?




Q9.         Is it to my advantage to maintain this appraisal? (Do I benefit from continuing to think the way Im thinking?




Q10.    Is there another way of looking at the situation?





Stressful Thinking Errors

Your Example


Am I All or Nothing Thinking?



Am I Labelling?



Am I Focusing on the Negative?



Am I Discounting the Positive?



Am I Mind Reading?



Am I Fortune Telling?



Am I Magnifying or Awfulising?



Am I Minimising?



Am I Emotional Reasoning?



Am I Blaming?



Am I Personalising?



Am I Demandingness?



Am I Phoney-ism?



Am I Cant Stand it ist?


(Ref Cooper and Palmer Conquer Your Stress)

Cognitive Restructuring



A (Activating Event)







B (Beliefs about the Activating Event)







C (Consequences of Event)







D (Dispute)







E (             )








Cognitive Restructuring


Disputing means taking our beliefs, attitude, thoughts, self talk etc. and putting them on trial in a psychological court of law.  Here we look at fact.  Disputing involves testing the facts


1st Step in Cognitive Restructuring


The first step is to detect and identify the specific form of stressful thinking, for example:

You are feeling anxious or having panicky feelings look for Awfulising and what ifs


If you are feeling angry look for (The absolutistic attitudes, or demandingness, the musts, oughts, and shoulds).


Feeling depressed and guilty look global self-rating and self-directed shoulds.


Feeling Frustrated Look for the I cant stand its


Start searching for any irrational beliefs after applying the disputation technique, we accept the experience might be bad, but is it really the worst thing that could happen?  We might still think it, but we keep disputing by pointing out that no matter what happened, it could in fact be much worse.  Gradually distress is reduced as realistic, honest beliefs replace the irrational beliefs.


Successful disputing clears the path for the rest of the REBT alphabet: E, F, G.  Disputing the irrational beliefs and proving that the belief creating the distress is unhealthy, defeating leads to (E ) the development of rational effective beliefs.  Effective beliefs include, preferring, desiring, wanting attitudes instead of absolustic demands (desiring versus requiring), the attitudes of I can stand it even if I dont like it, instead of the I cant stand it, it is.


Distress management Es lead to new Fs desirable, appropriate feelings such as concern, annoyance, sadness, regret, mild frustration and disappointment. 


REBT  is a simple notion but its not easy.  Habits take time to develop, and it takes time to change habits.

(Coping with Stress: a Thinking Straight Approach to Stress Management. Ed Nottingham Phd (PDF)

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