Negative thinking versus positive thinking; should we always focus on positive thinking? Many studies have demonstrated that optimists are generally happier, live longer and are more content than pessimists. Learning to filter out harmful negative self image helps us achieve a clearer picture of the change we want to make. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore the negative thoughts, only that we should understand how important and/or inconsequential they really are without over exaggerating them. This week and next we'll look at the benefits of apparently more negative visualisation techniques.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a rigorously researched methodology for dealing with anxiety and depression. It is usually completed with the help of a trained therapist and encapsulates many exercises designed to allow people to change perspective, reduce negative thoughts and increase coping skills. We are going to look at one small exercise used in CBT, called Imagery Based Exposure.
Imagery based exposure considers the worst case and encourages each person to play this full scenario through in his or her head. Unlike NLP visualisation techniques where the best representation is played out and enriched, the theory is that by imagining every aspect of a failure it is possible to lessen the fear that this may happen while also understanding the true effects of such a failure. This method allows us to better describe the fears we have surrounding our desire to change. In cases where a person may want to make change but assumes it will be more difficult than it truly is, this imagery technique provides valuable information about the task ahead. As a result, it may be possible to note potential coping strategies for the expected and desired change.
For example, if our smoker was feeling anxious about her inability to stop, she might consider using CBT techniques. By examining the self induced pressure of her desire to quit plus the physical craving for a cigarette, she would be better prepared to manage her feelings. She may come to realise that her strong desire to quit is increasing her feelings of anxiety alongside the physical cravings. By taking time to consider the sources of each form of tension she may be able to make the healthier choice and is less likely to overburden herself with guilt if she does give in.
CBT is effective at managing change because it gives users the opportunity to reward themselves for good health habits and pay less attention to the perceived rewards of the poor health habit. It also helps people understand the extent to which change is manageable for them by examining with great honesty their emotions surrounding any failure or success. Failures can be met with equanimity rather than self loathing and this in turn reduces the pressure to succeed and increases the self belief that change is possible.
You can buy many books about CBT or work with CBT practitioners to help make change.