Monday, February 11, 2013

Cognitive restructuring: Self-talk for a better “You”

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The way people perceive life events greatly affects whether they find them stressful or not. Thus, cognitive distortions, or patterns of faulty thinking, can impact attitudes and behaviors.

Self-talk, the internal dialogue in the head that interprets, explains, and judges the situations one gets into, can make things seem better or worse. Some tend to see things in a positive light, others may view things more negatively. The pessimist would often employ overgeneralization, magnification, or all-or-nothing thinking. These cognitive distortions and self-talk begin at childhood, but it does not mean that people cannot break free from them as they grow into adulthood.  

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 Constructive restructuring

Also called constructive reframing, this is a process of recognizing and changing cognitive distortions so that people can alter their thoughts and thereby their feelings. This is not simply about “thinking positive,” but about evaluating the evidence of one’s thoughts and challenging their truthfulness.

The first step is self-monitoring. People need to become more aware of the messages they give themselves . This can be difficult as negative messages tend to run automatically and routinely in the head. Stopping to identify and examine negative thoughts should be done. Writing them can also give clarity to this irrational thinking.

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The second step is disputing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, overgeneralized thinking such as: “Person A was mean to me so nobody likes me” can be disputed by more accurate thought such as “Person A was mean to me but there are many people who like me.”

Learning to dispute faulty thoughts can be difficult especially for those who have been breeding and owning negativities, but constructive restructuring can help reframe those to become building blocks of better thinking.

Psychotherapist Gary Zomalt can offer enlightenment on cognitive restructuring through this blog.