“Thought records don’t work on me.”
Wanna know who said that? Me.
So why did I write an entire post on how to complete a thought record last week?
A thought record is not a magic pill that will always make you feel better instantly.
Here’s what a lot of therapists won’t tell you:
Completing a thought record is only part one of the process.
But what about the CONTEXT? The context being your anxious brain. Your depressed brain. Your socially phobic brain. The same brain you’ve been living with your entire life?
So I say: think of thought records as a “two-punch” process. The first punch is challenging the content, the second punch is acknowledging the context.
If arguing against the CONTENT of a distorted thought helps you feel better right away (and to be fair, sometimes it does), that’s great.
But if a distorted thought is still feeling true, real, scary, urgent, sticky – as is the case for MANY of us – after completing a thought record…
Then it’s time for part two: to acknowledge the CONTEXT of these thoughts.
You may want to say something like this to yourself:
“Remember, (insert your name here), I have a brain that tends to run anxious/depressed/(insert your description here). Because of this, my brain is of course going to loop this thought and tell me it’s really important/valid/urgent. This doesn’t mean, however, that I have to ACT as thought these thoughts are true or meaningful. I can choose my behaviors, and choose to see these thoughts within the context of how my brain is happens to be engineered. I will not try to run from these thoughts or the feelings they create. Instead, I will sit with them using mindfulness until they pass. They will pass eventually.”
Learning how to directly challenge automatic, distorted thoughts is a powerful tool, and one that takes practice. But people often get stuck at this point because they find it hard to simply believe another thought, even if logically, it makes sense to do so. Then, they feel like they are failing at challenging their thoughts, on top of experiencing all the feelings caused by the distorted thoughts themselves!
It’s understandable to have trouble immediately believing and emotionally buying into an alternative thought. So cut yourself some slack and acknowledge the context, while committing to sitting with the thoughts and feelings that arise WITHOUT acting on them.
By doing this, you are building a new muscle that says I can have these thoughts and feelings, but they don’t have the power to control my behaviors. This is extremely powerful, because if you engage in behaviors influenced by distorted thoughts and feelings, you will reinforce said thoughts and feelings.
What I just said is a really important concept, so I’m going to repeat it: If you engage in behaviors influenced by distorted thoughts and feelings, you will reinforce said thoughts and feelings.
I’m going to talk more about this concept in the coming weeks, and you won’t want to miss the chance to learn how you can use this knowledge to improve your life. To be first in line to know when I post, click HERE.
To be the first to know when I post, AND get my free Automatic Thought Record Template, click HERE.
And if you’re looking for a free, guided mindfulness meditation for coping with anxious thoughts, I have one for you HERE.
This site is for informational purposes only. It isn’t intended to diagnose or treat any mental health problems and is not intended as psychological advice.
© 2021 Gina Davis, PsyD. All rights reserved.