There are 12 negative automatic thoughts I am going to show you how to challenge (there are almost definitely more but these are the ones we were taught in the group workshop). If you have one of these thoughts, you may have all of them or maybe just one type it doesn’t matter but write it down and pick it apart. Assess every word, explore all the alternative feelings, emotions and behaviors that are possible and ask why you are reacting in this way when there are other ways to feel that could result in a better general feeling in yourself. I am currently trying to do this too, but the lady who taught us is now able to fight these thoughts in an instant because of all the hard work she put in assessing them.
Here are the 12 negative automatic thoughts and what to do:
This is when you think of the worst possible thing that could have happened and worry about it.
Examples: My mum is late home from work, she must have been involved in a car accident. A bomb might hit my city tonight and I will never see my family and friends again.
Question: Is this a logical, likely thing to happen? I can’t live in fear of situations out of my control. Are there any alternatives to why I am thinking this? (e.g Mum stopped for petrol on the way home, I live in a quiet area of the city unlikely to be attacked)
Compare and Despair
This is comparing yourself to someone else and thinking they are better than you.
Examples: She is skinnier than me, I must be fat and ugly. He has a bigger house than I do, I am unworthy.
Question: Do I really want to be exactly the same as everyone else? Everyone is different and everyone is beautiful and that is what makes the world so interesting.
This is an internal bully, sometimes carried on from any previous bullies who have planted these ideas in your head or they can be made by yourself.
Examples: I was called fat so I am fat. I have really spotty skin.
Question: Would I bully someone else like I bully myself? No, so pretend you are talking to a friend when you talk to yourself as this will be more positive as you will focus on your good areas.
Black and White Thinking
This is where you think everything is either good or bad, you believe there are no grey areas.
Examples: I lost my job, this is the worst thing possible, it is really bad. I did not get a good mark on my work, this is really bad.
Question: Could it have been worse? (Most of the time yes) At least I still have my family/my home/people who care about me/my dog. This is not the worst situation it is simply in the middle ground between good and bad.
Should and Musts
By using words like ‘I should’ or ‘I must’ you are pressuring yourselves to do it.
Examples: I should lose weight. I must finish this piece of work by 8pm.
Question: Is this unrealistic and am I putting pressure on myself? Set smaller objectives rather than the end goal for anything you feel is imperative to achieve, this will help reduce your stress levels and uplift you when you complete the smaller tasks.
This is when something in the present triggers a stressful, upsetting memory from the past and makes you automatically think of that memory.
Example: Listening to a song that was popular during the time your mother passed away. Smelling a perfume worn by someone who bullied you. (This can be anything from colour, people, places, trees)
Question: This memory was in the past, I am living in the present. This memory is no longer happening right now so I do not need to be upset. There is no point dwelling on wat has been.
This is when you feel something so you believe it must be true because you are feeling it.
Example: I am feeling anxious today so I must be in some kind of danger. I am feeling sad so this must be a bad, upsetting day.
Question: This is my reaction to my thoughts, which are automatic brain reflexes. This does not actually mean I actually am sad.
Similar to looking at the world through rose tinted glasses but instead it is looking through the world through gloomy specs. We only notice the bad things.
Example: The world is such a bad place, there is nothing good.
Question: I am filtering out any positive things. Is there an alternative way of looking at this in a positive way? Can I notice the positives around me? (e.g The trees are so ancient and incredible, the sky is so wide and pretty)
This is evaluating others, ourselves and events instead of describing what is actually happening and what we actually see.
Example: My friend does not like this dress, that must mean she doesn’t like it on me and I must be too fat to look nice in this dress. My boss has not got back to me about the piece of work I did yet, it must have been rubbish and not worthy of discussion.
Question: Is there any other perspective on this or another way that this can be looked at? My evaluation of this situation might not be correct or helpful.
This is guessing what other people think of us.
Example: That person went out to a bar without me, they must hate me or not want me around.
Question: Why am I coming to this conclusion? Is there any other way I can look at this in a balanced way? Could I ask the person and discover that my initial thoughts were incorrect?
This involves us thinking we know what the future holds and imaging the worst possible situation.
Example: I bet I will fall over and embarrass myself if I go into town. My friend was rude about my hair last time we met, they will definitely be rude again.
Question: What is the probability of this coming true? Think of the opposite, positive thing that could happen instead.
Mountains and Molehills
This is exaggerating a small situation and making it seem worse than it actually is.
Example: My wife did not reply to my text, they must not want to talk to me and therefore they must not love me. I stalled my car I must be the worst driver, I should never drive again.
Question: Is there any way I could be exaggerating this situation? Is there another perspective? Try looking at the whole picture.
Whenever you have one of these thoughts (and they are hard to identify) write it downa and answer the green question to completely assess the thought and hopefully change it into a positive one instead!
I am currently working on critical self, mind reading, prediction, mental filter and emotional reasoning, mountains and molehills (so basically nearly every one!)