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Last weeks blog post gave you an example of what I would like to discuss today – re-framing crooked thinking and limiting beliefs. Recently at Bridges we took a workshop called “Changing Limiting Belief Systems.” It was a highly valuable class where I learned a lot and received reminders of what I’ve been working on. I would like to share some of of the workshop with you, my lovely readers. Perhaps you will find the knowledge and technique as helpful as I did.

This approach is called cognitive restructuring from my understanding of cognitive therapy. Though a very left-brain approach this technique seems very useful and follows how most people naturally think. Many of us in class discovered we were already doing this work to various degrees. Now we were just getting the vocabulary and a greater understanding of what exactly we were doing. This workshop, and article will, focus on re-framing our thoughts and creating choices for how we respond to situations and people in our lives.

Re-framing is the art of turning something around, in this case a negative thought to a postive thought. This requires acknowledging the feelings surrounding the thought and making a choice on how to proceed. Let’s talk about core beliefs for a moment.

Core beliefs are thoughts that are so strong they seem to be a apart of us and govern us. For many people, but not all, these thoughts are subconscious. They can be brought to conscious awareness and changed with awareness and mindfulness.

Negative core beliefs can cause distorted thinking/crooked thinking which doesn’t serve our Highest Good. For example, having the core belief that I am flawed in some way might lead to me having avoidance behaviours, perfectionism, or being inauthentic.

Positive core beliefs help us a long our path and serve our Highest good. They bring about healthy boundaries, and positive behaviors that protect us as well as authenticity and true unshakeable confidence that comes from inside ourselves.

Reframing involves four steps.

  1. Recognize. Notice the thought and ask yourself, “Is this serving me? Is it positive or negative?” If it is negative, “Do I want to work with this thought right now and reframe it? Where does this thought come from? When did it start? Why am I thinking this?” And my favorite: “What is my motive?”
  2. Acknowledge. Notice and say hi to the feelings that are coming up with the thought. You can’t deny them; they are there and real, and will come back to haunt you if you try denial. Seriously. They will. What are your feelings telling you?
  3. Stop or Disrupt the thought. The beautiful thing about our minds is that we can only think one thought at a time. I know that sometimes it feels like we are thinking a millions things at once: our brain is going so fast, a thousand miles a second, that we must be thinking a million things at once. Not true.
  4. Replace the thought with a new thought. If you don’t do this last and final step you will have a hole left where the old thought was inside your thinking patterns. That means the old thought can easily come back, so simply replace it with a positive thought and a positive way of thinking.

One of the most useful things I received in the workshop is a list of ten common patterns of distorted or crooked thinking.

All-or-Nothing (Black & White Thinking) – Switching from one extreme to another. Eg. “One mistake ruined the whole thing.”

Overgenerallization – Assuming that because something happened once it will always happen. Eg. “I always blow it at the last minute.” or “You always forget to do the things I ask.”

Mental Filter (Dwelling on the Negative) – Dwell on the negatives and ignore the postives. Eg. “I got it right this time but I had to try three times before I finally got it right.”

Discounting the Postivies – Insisting that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count. Eg. “I was just lucky.”

Jumping to Conclusions – Part A is Mind Reading. Belieivng that you know what other people are thinking. Eg. “They all thought I was stupid.” Part B is Fortune Telling. Arbitrarily predicting that things will turn out badly. Eg. “Everything is bound to go wrong.”

Magnification or Minimization – Either blowing things way up out of porportion or shrinking their importance inappropriately. Eg. “I’ll never get over it.”

Emotional Reasoning – Mistaking feeling for facts. Eg. “I’m so worried; I just know soemthing is going to go wrong.”

Should statements – Criticizeing yourself or others with shoulds, shouldn’ts, musts, oughts and have tos.

Labelling (Name Calling) – Idenfiying with your shortcomings or mistakes. Eg. “I’m and idiot.” or “Anybody who could do that must be brain dead.”

Personalization and Blame – Blaming yourself for soemthing that was not your responsibility. “Its all my fault” or “If only I’d done more.”

When I went through this list the first time I easily was able to check off four patterns that apply to me. Since watching my thoughts more carefully I’ve checked off more.

Our class was given the following exercise:

For one week record your negative thoughts. You might write them down, or make check marks on paper, or put a penny in a jar for each one that you have. If you are recording your negative thoughts on paper, divide your paper into three columns. In the first column put your thoughts. In the second column identify the pattern. Lastly, re-frame the thought in the third box. This exercise is done to bring more awareness to what thoughts you are thinking and gives an opportunity to practice re-framing, if you are so inclined.

You are invited to join us, and share with me your experiences of this approach and thought patterns. Have you done something like this before? Was it beneficial? How did you change your thinking most efficiently?

Next week is part two of this topic. 🙂