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Much of the work I do as a counsellor is based on one of the core premises of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy [CBT], that how we “talk” to ourselves has a significant impact on how we feel and how we behave. My experience, and the experience of many of the people I work with, is that while this concept “makes sense”, it can be challenging to actually apply it in the moment. This is a reflection about how running has provided me with the perfect platform to develop my ability to engage in adaptive or positive self-talk. It has also provided me with a good metaphor for understanding some of the subtleties of engaging in more adaptive self-talk which I hope will help you the reader better understand these subtleties as well.

BUT I AM ACTUALLY TIRED ?

At several points during any run, I am aware that I feel “tired” and feel a little tug to just stop. Of course, this makes total sense, given that I am demanding more energy from my body than I do during my other day-to-day activities. I am also likely feeling the tug to stop because I am depleting more energy and doing so rapidly. So, the feeling or sensation of fatigue is real. If I focus on only the ‘Truth’ of the statement, “I feel tired”, I may conclude that “Yes I am tired and therefore I should stop”. However, if I take a “True, but…” approach, I may be able to make an adaptive choice that allows me to meet “higher goals” like being healthier, rather than making a reactive choice that feels better in the moment but one that limits my growth, potentially leading to feelings of regret or shame. A few examples of the type of ‘True, but….’ statements I usually make include:

“Yes, I’m tired, but I always manage to break through that wall.

Maybe I’ll adjust my pace myself a bit and focus on the music in my headphones instead of my energy level right now.

I’m out here now so I might as well stick with it”.

When I engage in this type of self-talk, I am not only much more likely to follow through on my higher goals and finish the run, but I also ‘feel’ better because I have shifted my mental focus. This use of “True, but…” statements is an example of the type of adaptive self-talk that running has allowed me to develop.

MORE THAN ‘TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN’

I think this small example addresses one of the common misconceptions about Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, which is that it simply requires us to “think positive!!!”, using self-talk equivalent to “turn that frown upside down”. However, the CBT approach to challenging and changing self-talk is much more subtle than this. Rather than requiring people to ignore the event in their life which is causing them discomfort, CBT challenges us to talk to ourselves about that event in a way that acknowledges that we are uncomfortable, but places that discomfort in a context which makes us less likely to emotionally respond to it in a reactive way. Coming back to the example of running, I can acknowledge that I am a little tired in my self-talk – and indeed it may be important to do so in order to make a subtle adjustment like slowing my pace slightly. Trying to “turn that frown upside down” by ignoring the fact that I am tired might prevent me from making an important adjustment. More importantly, in focusing on how I don’t want to feel (“I’m not tired…I’m not tired…I’m not tired”), I am ironically keeping my attention on my “tiredness”, rather than shifting my focus to something else – my music in this example. Thus, I try to engage in self-talk that briefly acknowledges my discomfort, but also reminds me of reasons and strategies for not reacting to that discomfort.





















Photo credit: TheTaiChiClub from morguefile.com

ADAPTIVE SELF-TALK

An example of how to apply this in day to day life may be helpful at this point. Since CBT is commonly used for addressing anxiety, depression or anger – I will choose an example which could potentially trigger feelings of anxiety, depression or anger in many people. Imagine you apply for a job within your place of work and you do not get that job. How you talk to yourself about his event will have a significant effect on how you feel and then behave. For instance, if you say to yourself the following statements;

“It figures – I’m not really that smart or talented. I didn’t get that job and I probably won’t get any job I apply for…..”, you are of course likely to feel depressed/sad – and possibly even anxious about your future. If you say to yourself, “I can’t believe they hired ____ instead of me! I totally deserved that job and it is so unfair that ______ got it!”,

These types of self-talk, from a cognitive-behavioural perspective, are ‘maladaptive’ because they fuel negative emotions and they really limit strategies for moving forward.

So, a self-talk along the lines of, “I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get the job. Whether I like it or not, I didn’t get it and I can’t change that, but I might be able to learn something from it I wonder if I can contact somebody to see if there’s anything I could have done differently to get the job? ”. This, ‘True, but…” approach acknowledges the discomfort of not getting the job, yet does not get “stuck” in the discomfort and instead moves on to strategies for moving forward. This thinking style can greatly improve employment opportunities.

To summarize, it is important to acknowledge that changing our self-talk is just one strategy among many which we can use to change how we feel and behave. Certainly, CBT is about more than self-talk and CBT is not the magic cure to all of our problems. Coming back to running, engaging in adaptive self-talk will not make up for lack of training, poor diet and health choices nor will it allow me to suddenly run a marathon tomorrow when I have never run further than 10 kilometers. However, learning how to engage in adaptive self-talk can be a very powerful tool to combine with other strategies in the worthwhile pursuit of feeling and behaving healthier.

To further explore CBT strategies for feeling and behaving better, contact one of our registered therapists for your confidential consultation today.

CBT-  Breakthrough to Reduce Anxiety

Anne’s presenting problem was preoccupation and fear that she had breast cancer. Five days a week, she would spend up to 80 per cent of her day thinking about the possibility that she might have cancer or that she had the symptoms of cancer in her breasts. On the other two days, she would have fleeting ideas that she might have cancer, but was able to dismiss them and continue with her normal activities. She sought reassurance from her husband at least ten times a day and visited her general practitioner, again for reassurance at least once a fortnight. She was unable to look at herself in the mirror as these evoked images of herself with cancer (Grant, Townend, Mills, & Cockx, 2008, p. 182).

Although Anne’s assessment and evaluations do not detect cancer-related symptoms (Grant, et al., 2008), the worry of possibly one day being diagnosed is all she seems to need to live with fear. The anticipation of a diagnosis of a life-threatening health concern can be overwhelming and consume much of our daily thoughts, feelings and routines.

Like Anne, we can have reoccurring thoughts that foster feelings of anxiety, anger, worry, fear, doubt, sadness, and depression. Experiencing these feelings each day may also create excessive and harmful behaviours. In Anne’s case, she avoided all forms of appropriate self-examinations for months at a time, however every three to four months, she would become so overwhelmed with her thoughts of having cancer that she would spend several hours examining her breasts (Grant, et al.). As a result, she would experience tenderness which she interpreted as a sign of cancer.

The cycle of stinkin’ thinkin’, where our overwhelming thoughts create excessive feelings that lead to harmful behaviours can be exhausting. It may have us feeling hopeless, living a life we do not want or enjoy and disrupting relationships with others.

Professional help can help you find the solutions to break this cycle so it will not continue to be debilitating. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy provides tools like cognitive or thought shifting, behavioural strategies and a safe professional place to identify the factors contributing to concerning behaviours. It has been proven to be helpful for re-balancing emotions.

If you are finding thinking cycles and the emotional upheaval unmanageable, call us today!

Gettin Rid of “Stinkin Thinkin”

Imagine your brain like a massive hard drive, super storage space, maybe a gazillion terabytes (that’s a lot of stuff on our minds). What do you think is on it at birth?  How much information is on the brain of a newly born baby? The philosopher and teacher David Hume called the mind at birth a “blank slate”. I’ve simply upgraded this to be the “virtually blank harddrive”, virtually because of some in vetro experiential loading in the womb.

Every input from the second we’re born… through our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and every nerve loads onto our brain. This super fast processor receives data from parents, family, extended family, media like TV, books and the internet, pets, nature, on and on. Brain or neuroscience experts suggest we don’t really forget as much as we have storage and retrieval challenges. Tough to keep all that data in the front of our hard drive.

Amazing to think about. Everything we see, taste, smell, touch, feel and hear stored in the “background” with very little on the desktop so to speak.

Wow! So much data. How we organize it from early on in our lives, whether consciously or not, begins to shape our thought patterns, schemata, constructs which then shape our emotions and moods. Together thoughts and feelings then drive our behaviour, this is simply going on in the background of our mind.

Computer Head

To think almost all the information loaded on our hard drive comes from elsewhere. Why do we quite often believe all the thoughts in our head are our own? Why do we quite often believe all the thoughts in our head are our own? This is perhaps my favourite question! That’s why I asked you twice.

If this analogy holds true then consider that we may also call the negative thoughts a virus, thoughts that spread, overshadow positive thinking, disrupt and infect healthier thoughts and files. Suppose it is possible to have a cognitive virus made up of all those negative, defeating words and phrases? I call this “Stinkin Thinkin”.

Through counselling that combines cognitive-behavioural therapy, we can effectively catch and “quarantine” out negativity.  At the same time, drawing upon narrative theory and re-writing of your story, our professional counsellors help people bring out their more positive thoughts and self which improves mood, emotional expressions and behaviour.

This counselling is a very effective therapy and can best be considered the first line of defence for those struggling with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, chronic health issues, addictions and most relationship issues. 

To find out how get rid of “stinkin thinkin” easier…  Contact us today

 

 

 

One courageous young lady reports her insights below on the negative thoughts underlying her bulimia behaviours. We sometimes call these negative thoughts collectively It or may simply refer to these automatic negative thoughts as ANTS.  In counselling others, I find it helps to take a more light-hearted approach and refer to that negative inner voice as, “Stinkin Thinkin“.

The blog post below was submitted anonymously from a person struggling with bulimia.

She wanted to share her story so others who struggle can feel validated and supported.          (Caution not for those with a weak stomach)

“The way ‘It’ sees eating”

“Every time you bring a mouthful of food to your mouth imagine hearing the following echoing with every chomp, swish and swallow. Even after it goes down the constant ringing of the voice always saying…”

 

  • “you pig, why would you do that”
  • “oh look who messed up again, shock”
  • “have another, it won’t do any more damage than you’ve already done, you’re going to throw it up anyways”
  • “Oh really another candy bar, well you’re already fat… go ahead eat it fatty”
  • “wait where are you going to throw up so no one knows/will hear”
  • “do you have perfume/gum nearby so no one can smell the vomit on you after”
  • “I’m so proud of you for figuring out which finger works best”
  • “don’t you dare get it on your clothing, people would be disgusted with you and your gross throwing up”
  • “ahh see there you go, now you don’t have to feel guilty for eating now that it’s all out of your system… but aren’t you a little hungry again, maybe go have some more to eat, just do it again… it was easy the first time”
  • “okay so you’ve already done it twice today… just do it once more, then that’ll be the last one”
  • “if they keep asking why you go to the washroom after every meal just blame it on PMS”
  • “okay so if I go do it on my lunch break that’ll leave me 5 minutes after eating, and I’ll go to the far washroom that no one ever goes to that way no one will hear me”
  • “you better hurry and do it quick, you know the longer it stays in you the more you’ll absorb, god forbid you need any more layers of fat on you”
  • “my favorite thing to throw up after anything I eat is ice cream, it comes up nice and smooth”
  • “think, if you do this for just a few more weeks you’ll be able to fit in and actually look normal”
  • “who cares if people want you to stop, it’s your body not theirs, you’re doing no harm to them, why are they being so selfish, let me make my own decisions”
  • “never give up on doing this, or you’ll never be worth anything”

pretty serious things to be hearing It constantly tell you. Most people eat three meals a day and barely think about what they consume. To someone with bulimia, it comes down to the moment the food touches your lips you start calculating how fast, where and how can you go unnoticed when getting it out. Crazy how It makes it seem like without the bulimia you’d be nothing.”

You can hear the contradictory and insulting messages.  These contribute to poorer emotional states and, of course poorer behaviour.

If you or someone you know struggles with disordered eating contact us today for information, support and counselling solutions.