Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Thinker Part 2


Taking a moment or two to reflect on self-talk and recognising some of the thought processes detailed in part 1, here comes the key question. Now what?

Strategies for changing thinking

All or nothing/black or white thinking

Nothing is clear cut. When thinking about a situation, it is necessary to recognise that most circumstances are usually neither wonderful nor disastrous but lie somewhere in between. Similarly, it's important to note that there isn't probably only one answer that's right and to be open to alternatives, any of which have the potential to offer favourable outcomes. It's also usual to ask how someone else might look at the same situation.


Overgeneralisation often occurs when in a situation that has been encountered in the past. Memories of that event colour thoughts about the current situation so that it is easy to predict that things will turn out the same way. It's important therefore to think in the "here and now" and to try to adopt a new approach.


Instead of taking sole responsibility for everything that happens, it can be helpful to take time to consider how much others may have contributed to the situation. A good way to do this is to draw a pie chart, to illustrate each individual's contribution. Usually, it is likely that such an exercise will prove that no one claim sole responsibility.

Where personalisation relates to incorrectly assuming to be the target of other peoples's responses, it is beneficial to recognise how another person's reaction can often reflect their specific worries and to make a firm choice not to take it personally.


Acknowledging filtering often means recognising a focus on a particular issue. This requires assessment of personal sensitivity, an over-reaction perhaps? Again, it can be useful to try and imagine what others would think in the same situation.


It can be argued that catastrophic thinking can be helpful if it helps to prepare for certain situations. However, more often than not, it leads to inactivity. Catastrophising often means worrying about things that are very unlikely to happen, particularly in situations where the level of control is low. The world is filled with uncertainty. The challenge is to accept that fact, to accept that bad things can happen but also to acknowledge that an ability to cope.


Rather than labelling a person, it is important to focus on the action or behaviour instead. So, rather than saying "I'm stupid", using a label, it's better to say "I made a big mistake this time."

Fortune Telling

Acting upon a prediction of what someone will do or say or something that will happen may inadvertently create the very circumstance that is not desired. Ask the person what their thoughts are, face the situation with a planned course of action.


'Should' implies duty and consequently the possibility of guilt. Replace the dreaded 'should' with 'could'. Could represents the fact that you have a choice in the matter.

Well, there's some basic strategies for starters.

How about you? How would you tackle these kinds of thoughts?


Alison said...

I used to be plagued by this type of negative thinking and the accompanying anxiety and I do still get the occasional slip back into it. I've found it takes practice and lots of it constantly, to change one's thinking.

Perverance and practice, yup that's how I've done it. It's also what I communicate to clients.

phd in yogurtry said...

Replace "should" with "want"

I should exercise more = I want to exercise more

I should stop blogging and get to bed = er, I'm drawing a blank here. help?

Awake In Rochester said...

I have an award for you. You can pick it up at my blog. ;o)

Deb said...

I do pretty well with most of these. When I struggle with any of them, self talk goes right into action. See, twenty years of therapy IS good ;)

chris said...

The worst part is having those types of thoughts in full cognizance of the irrationality of it all.

If only life was purely rational...

Health Psych said...

Hi Alison,
I think we all do this from time to time but you're right, it's all about practice, practice, practice.

Hi PhD in Yogurtry,
I think I prefer "want" to "could" although I'm not sure I could stretch that to exercise :)

Hi Awake in Rochester,
An award? Me??? I haven't even got an acceptance speech ready....

I'd like to thank....blah, blah, blah. Thank you. Very kind.

Hi Deb,
Couldn't agree more. Mind you, that's not to say that even though I know the right thing to do, I do it!

Hi Chris,
Exactly. So good to see you back.