by SHELLEY BRUCAR
Remember the 3-Legged Stool?
There it is again. We’ve talked alot about the first leg, Relaxation – and we’ll come back to that repeatedly. Today, I want to introduce the 2nd leg, COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING or REFRAMING. And this is truly just an introduction; it will take many posts to explore Negative Thinking and many more to give you the tools to learn how to REFRAME. So stay with me.
Here’s the basic information you need, borrowed from Rational-Emotive Theory. Being a visual person, I like to use a diagram to show how this works:
EVENT –> BELIEFS, FEELINGS & THOUGHTS –> CONSEQUENCES
EVENT: Something happens; maybe your boss wants to meet with you.
BELIEFS, FEELINGS, THOUGHTS: You have an immediate reaction based on your beliefs of what that means. This automatic reaction is usually negative because, for reasons unknown, most of us focus more on negative than positive (the first problem!). So maybe you’re thinking your boss didn’t like your last report and wants to tell you why. And the negative/distorted thinking may include thoughts about how unfair it is, how worthless, stupid or incompetent you are, and self-pity about why all the bad things happen to you.
Very often, our negative thoughts escalate way out of control. So by the time the meeting occurs, you may already be thinking you’re going to be fired, and you and your family will be homeless and hungry – all because of your unworthiness. Okay, may it’s not that bad, but chances are, you’re not walking into the meeting thinking, “This must be about that raise I asked for and so richly deserve!”
CONSEQUENCES: All the negative thinking has emotional consequences. You may walk into the meeting feeling depressed, angry, or even hostile. The adrenaline is flowing freely, and you are STRESSED – before you even know what it’s all about.
So – you may have no control over the “event” that results in all this distorted and irrational thinking. However, you do have control over your reaction; this is where you can intervene. All the negative thinking can be REFRAMED into positive thinking.
In the example used here, instead of telling yourself that your boss must be unhappy with your last report, you could be telling yourself that s/he really liked the report and wants to tell you why. Or maybe there were problems with the report that just need to be fixed – no big deal. And surely no cause for intense angst.
Or maybe you are getting a raise!
Photographic example of Reframing – In the first photo, the focus is on the water. In the second photo, the focus is on the branch, leaving the water slightly out-of-focus. In the same way the photographer chooses his/her focus, we can choose to focus on the negative or on the positive.
For now, think about some instances where negative/irrational thinking affects you emotionally. We all do this every day.
In future posts, we will continue to explore the phenomenon of negative thought patterns and talk about tools for changing the negative to positive.