This is part 4.1 of twelve articles for Assertive Communication Series.
Intrusive thoughts are inseparably joined with stress, anxiety, relationships problems, conflicts, dissatisfaction, and all sorts of negative consequences. These thoughts are the ones that appear in our minds automatically when we find ourselves in stressful circumstances, and can trigger a sequence of emotional and behavioral reactions that may be disproportionate with the situation itself.
Cognitive reframing (or restructuring) is a technique derived from cognitive therapy, but can be used by everyone in order to regain control over their reactions and emotions. It can help you identify, call into question and rework thought patterns and viewpoints that cause stress and negative feelings. Cognitive reframing also teaches us how to substitute these maladaptive patterns with more truthful, more realistic, and less rigid cognitive approach to whatever happens to us. As any skill, cognitive restructuring takes time, effort and practice. Why would you go through all that trouble, you might ask? Investing effort into learning new, healthier ways of thinking repays in the regained ability to control our lives.
The best way to keep those thoughts in check is to keep an automatic thoughts diary. This is a valuable tool for everyone who sometimes feels weighed down by the pressure. In order for it to bear results, you should record and analyze the thoughts on regular bases. The most important thing is to catch the distorted thoughts as soon as they appear, before they can do any damage. But in the beginning, just observe what the way of thinking you’re accustomed to does to you. How do you see a situation? How does that make you feel? Is there an alternative way of seeing it? Ask your friends, family and partners to help you with this project. Remember our article Cognitive Distortions – A Fancy Term for Thinking Incorrectly, and try to apply your knowledge about erroneous thinking on your own mind. When we understand what we were mistaken about, we can reshape our thoughts in a more truthful and less distorted manner, and live a more rewarding and free life.
Download the Cognitive Restructuring Worksheet in pdf.