Should anyone ask, reading about ABCs

Imagine some blind people describing an elephant. One might suggest that it feels like a tree. Another holding the tail would suggest it’s like rope. Each has a different perspective. And although they are all touching the elephant they end up arguing over whose perspective of the situation is correct.

This week I’m thinking about other ways of viewing thoughts. Too often I am not taking the time to be curious about the other person’s perspective or putting myself in other peoples’ shoes and getting their picture is a valuable exercise.

In cognitive therapy there’s the idea of ABCs: an Activating event, a Belief, and negative emotional Consequences. 

This ends up distorting our thinking and I know that I’m guilty of slotting events into categories based on beliefs that don’t serve me well. Some that I could think of as

  1. Black-and-White - Thinking or either / or thinking.
  2. Making Unfair Comparisons – usually in the negative
  3. Filtering – honing in on the negative, forgetting the positive.
  4. Personalizing - The Self-Blame Game
  5. Mind-Reading – thinking we know what others think (negatively)
  6. Catastrophising – imagining the worst case scenario
  7. Overgeneralising – “I always mess up…”
  8. Confusing Fact with Feeling – “If I think or feel this way then my thoughts/feelings must be correct’.
  9. Labelling – I’m  a loser vs. I made a mistake.
  10. “Can’t Standitis” – being unnecessarily intolerant

My theory on solving this is to change my inner voice. I heard someone describe it as “If we talked to our friends the way we talk to ourselves we wouldn’t have any good friends.”

Some of the through grooves in our brains are deeply worn. Noticing that some thoughts that aren’t so helpful for me, I’d like to work on developing more cognitive flexibility, more diversity in how I think and being more aware of when I’m falling into old thought patterns.

I think this should be possible by reducing the rushing, being more consequent and dare I say it, mindful (seems like it’s the phrase of the year).

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