Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – a ‘helpful’ example.

Helpful and unhelpful ways of thinking – how CBT can help…

There are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to most situations, depending on how you think about it. The way you think can be helpful – or unhelpful.

Here is an example:
The situation: You’ve had a bad day, feel fed up, and so go out shopping. As you walk down the road, someone you know walks by and, apparently, ignores you. This starts a cascade of:

Unhelpful: “He/she ignored me – they don’t like me!”
Helpful: “He/she looked a bit wrapped up in themselves – I wonder if there’s something wrong?”

Emotional feelings:
Unhelpful: Low, sad and rejected
Helpful: Concerned for the other person, positive

Unhelpful: Stomach cramps, low energy, feel sick
Helpful: None – feel comfortable

Unhelpful: Go home and avoid them
Helpful: Get in touch to make sure they’re ok

The same situation has led to two very different results, depending on how you thought about the situation.

How you think has affected how you felt and what you did. In the ‘unhelpful’ example, you’ve jumped to a conclusion without very much evidence for it – and this matters, because its led to:

  • Having a number of uncomfortable feelings
  • Behaving in a way that makes you feel worse

If you go home feeling depressed, you’ll probably brood on what has happened and feel worse. If you get in touch with the other person, there’s a good chance you’ll feel better about yourself.

If you avoid the other person, you won’t be able to correct any misunderstandings about what they think of you – and you will probably feel worse.

This ‘vicious circle’ can make you feel worse. It can even create new situations that make you feel worse. You can start to believe quite unrealistic (and unpleasant) things about yourself. This happens because, when we are distressed, we are more likely to jump to conclusions and interpret things in extreme and unhelpful ways.

CBT can help you to break this vicious circle of altered thinking, feelings and behaviour. When you see the parts of the sequence clearly, you can change them – and so change the way you feel. CBT aims to get you to a point where you can ‘do it yourself’, and work out your own ways of tackling these problems.

To find out more about the CBT services we offer contact us.

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