One of the main therapies which Counsellors in Perth use to help clients who suffer from depression and anxiety is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of psychotherapy that combines cognitive and behavioural therapies. The cognitive part focuses on how our negative/distorted thinking creates our depressed and anxious moods. The behavioural therapy part focuses on how our thoughts affect our behaviours.
Below is a list of the ten most common negative styles of thinking that people with depression and anxiety regularly use, as well as more empowering alternatives to them. See if you can recognize which forms of disempowering thinking you use the most often.
Guaranteed to Make You Feel Depressed or Anxious
All Or Nothing Thinking
People who use All or Nothing Thinking tend to see things in black and white. People and things are either good or bad for them. There is no middle ground. For instance, if their performance falls short of perfect, they tend to see themselves as a total failure. They may see also see themselves as either Intelligent or Stupid.
A more balanced and empowering way of thinking would be to think:
“I did pretty good and that’s not bad considering it’s the first time I did it”
“That was my personal best and I can be proud of that”
“If I keep practising, I’m bound to do better next time”.
“What can I learn from this experience?”
“What can I to differently next time to give me a better result?”
“I may not be the best parent, but I am a good enough one”.
People who overgeneralize see a single negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat. Someone gets angry at them because of what they are doing and they think “He doesn’t love me”. Or they have been on a diet and they eat a piece of chocolate and they tell themselves “I wrecked my diet”. Or their partner is late, and they say “You’re always late”.
A more balanced and empowering way of thinking would be to be specific about what just happened.
“I wonder why they got so angry at me today? Did they have a bad day?”
“Woops, I was tempted by that piece of chocolate today. I’ll make sure to eat healthy food tomorrow”
“My partner was late tonight. I wonder why he has difficulty being on time some times?”
Resist using the following words which I call Child Speak: “I Always, You Always, I Never, You Never, Nobody, Everybody, I Can’t”.
People who use mental filtering pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively. Their vision of reality and their mood then becomes very dark. This is similar to putting a drop of ink in a glass of water. The ink will discolour the entire glass of water.
Examples: I can’t because I’m too fat, too dumb, too shy. You give a speech and one person says they didn’t like it, so you now feel bad about the whole speech.
More Empowering Thoughts:
“Wow, only one person complained about my speech, that means 99% of the people must have liked it”.
“I wonder if he is the type of person who goes around complaining a lot?”
“What a great learning, now I know what doesn’t work! So I’ll do it differently next time”. “I wonder which part I did do well?”
“I may be overweight, but they’re not coming to focus on my weight, they’re coming to get new information”.
Remember, what you focus on grows, and determines your mood.
Disqualifying The Positive
You reject positive experiences by insisting that they don’t count. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your every day experiences.
Someone may tell you “You look really nice today” or “You did that really well”. You negate it by saying, “Not Really” or “That was nothing” or “Yes, but I didn’t do ……..
You may also be thinking to yourself, “That was easy so it doesn’t count” or “They’re just saying that to be nice”.
If you think these kind of things, it’s time for you to stop minimizing your positive traits. They are God given, so be proud of them and then just reply by saying:
“Thank you. I really like this dress too”.
“That’s nice of you to notice”.
“I feel very fortunate to have that talent”.
“Even though I don’t fully believe it, it’s nice that they see something nice in me.”
Jumping to Conclusions
You make a negative interpretation about someone or an event even though there are no facts that support your conclusion. Two forms of this are:
You conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, but you don’t check it out with them. You might tell yourself “They don’t like me” or “They think I’m stupid”. A good question to ask yourself here is:
Do I know that to be 100% true, or am I just assuming it to be so?
If not, how can I check it out? I could just ask them.
Remember, Assume stands for “Making an Ass out of U and Me”.
You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. You might have gone out on a new date and after one day when the person hasn’t contacted you, you tell yourself “S/He wasn’t interested in me, that’s why s/he hasn’t called and I’ll never hear from them again”. Or, if someone is five minutes late in meeting you, you automatically think “They must have had an accident”.
Instead of thinking about an outcome which you don’t enjoy, turn it around, and focus on the outcome you would like to happen instead by asking yourself:
“If I didn’t have that thought, what would be left?” (Normally, it’s peace).
Then ask, “What would I prefer to happen?” and then start imagining that happening instead.
You could also ask yourself, “What if things were different this time?”
Catastrophising or Magnifying
You exaggerate the importance of things (such as a small mistake you made) and end up making a mountain out of a molehill. If you grew up in a critical family or had an anxious parent, you may have learnt to catastrophise about the events in your life. If so, here are some questions you can ask yourself to get out of the habit:
“Looking at the big picture, how important is this really?”
“Am I exaggerating this to make it bigger than it really is?”
“Will that really make a huge difference in the long run?”
“Even if I did that, or forgot to do something, how can this still work out?”
“Even though it didn’t turn out exactly how I planned, maybe there is a better way that I didn’t even consider and if I am patient, it will all end up perfectly.”
You shrink the importance of things such as your own positive qualities, or you may even shrink someone else’s negative qualities.
Empowering questions to ask yourself if you minimize things in your life are:
“Even though I don’t believe it to be a big thing, I still did it well”.
“I’m so lucky to have been born with that ability”.
“Even though I may not be the prettiest, strongest etc. I am still pretty good”.
“Am I really comfortable with the way she or he is behaving?
If not, “What can I do or say to them to feel at ease?”
You assume that your negative feelings reflect the way things really are. You think “I feel it, therefore it must be true”. More empowering questions to ask yourself to get out of this emotional rut are:
“What other explanations might there be?”
“I wonder what else they may have meant by that?”
“Let me ask them, to check if how I am feeling is right”?
You beat yourself up by criticizing and judging yourself by telling yourself, “You should have done this or known that, or shouldn’t have done that.“ This always leads to feelings of guilt and inferiority as you compare yourself to what you believe others can do better than you.
More empowering statements are:
“Who voice does that remind me of?” “Don’t listen to her/him, I know you did your best and I’m proud of you”.
“I don’t care what anyone else does, I did it my way and that’s good enough”.
“Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but it’s my choice”.
“Everyone makes mistakes, it’s my turn today”.
“So I forgot to do something, it’s not the end of the world. No one died, did they? I’ll remember next time.”
Placing over realistic demands upon yourself. Such as telling yourself “I must complete this today”, or “I must do it perfect the first time”. Instead of asking yourself:
“Let’s see how long this takes?”
“This is harder than I thought it would be, whose help can I get?”
“Was I being realistic to start with, or were my expectations too high?”
Labelling and Mislabelling
This is an extreme form of overgeneralizing. Instead of describing the problem or the error you made, you attach a negative label to yourself such as “I’m so stupid or I’m a loser”. Or you may attach a negative label to someone else when they don’t do something you want them to do in a certain way or in a certain timeframe. Then you label them as being “lazy, stupid or a fool”.
Mislabelling involves describing an event with language that is emotionally loaded.
More Empowering ways to Communicate are to:
Stop personally attacking yourself, and start talking to yourself as you would to someone you cared about or a special friend.
With regards to other people, stop the name calling (character assassination), and talk about the person’s behavior instead. And always remain curious.
You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which you were not primarily responsible for. “I must have done something wrong because they are so angry”.
More empowering questions to ask yourself are:
“What other possible explanation can there be that doesn’t involve me?”
“Am I being self centred and making this all about me, when it may not be about me at all?”
“Was it really all my fault, or could others have contributed to this as well?”
“Could they be feeling this way because of a totally different reason?”
Can I really know that for certain? What if I ask them to check it out?
“I’m not responsible for how someone else feels. They made that choice themselves”.
“What someone else thinks about me, is none of my business”.
The Blame Game
This is the opposite to Personalisation. You Blame external factors or other people for things that go wrong in your life. This makes it easier to avoid taking responsibility of your own choices. For example, you may blame the bad weather for not exercising, or the government for not having any savings.
People who constantly blame others for their misfortunes in life, are often living in a state called “Learned Helplessness”. It’s important for them to realize that Every choice we make or don’t make has a consequence.
One way to help people move out of the Blame game into the Empowering game is to remind themselves that they are making a choice every moment.
I recommend saying all the below statements five times in a row. By the 5th time, you may be surprised to hear a little voice inside of you just say, then why don’t you just do it instead!
“I am choosing to eat this ice cream which will increase my weight and my cholesterol, instead of choosing to stay slim and healthy”.
“I am choosing not to exercise today” x 5
“I am choosing not to vaccum the floor instead of having a clean room” x 5
“I am choosing to spend money today, not knowing what bills may come into tomorrow”.
“I am choosing to be angry instead of finding out what their point of view is”.
Other Therapies for Depression & Anxiety
Whilst Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is one proven way to assist people overcome their depression and anxiety, it doesn’t suit everyone. That is why I combine it with other forms of therapy such as Inner Child Work, NLP, Energy Therapies and Life Coaching to attain the best results possible for my clients at The Emotional Healing Centre.
Please feel free to download this article and refer to it on a regular basis.
Sandy Therry (M. Couns)