What are you talking about David, don’t believe everything you think?
You know the scenario, you get a negative thought and then suddenly what was just a slight issue turns into something big in your mind.
The next thing is that you are completely catastrophising the whole thing. Then, other thoughts come into you head and those thoughts start running wild and causing you all sorts of stress, angst and sleepless nights.
Some people say that by just thinking positive thoughts they they will overlay the negative thoughts and all will be fine. We may look for the positive or the silver lining but that won’t really cut it after a while when the negative thought patterns become entrenched.
This is when CBT or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and the technique of Thought Challenging steps in and brings about a scientifically proven way to battle negative thoughts.
The basis of Thought Challenging is not about thinking positively in a negative situation. The thinking that troubles us is most times are irrational negative thoughts that if left unchecked will run like untamed horses in the wild. It is about a set of procedures that are used to dispel or weaken the negative thought.
It looks at the thought, it dissects the thought and takes its power or legs away. It uses actual evidence from your own life and experiences.
In my former profession I was involved in many high risk tactical situations where keeping a level head was imperative to my safety and the safety of those around me. I quickly used this technique to help keep calm and not get into a spiral of negative thinking that would cloud my judgement.
Thought challenging helps you to see things from a more objective perspective. It challenges your thoughts so that you see the real picture rather than just believing the thoughts that are coming into your head at the time.
Remember, your thoughts can sometimes lie to you. Thought challenging dissects your thoughts and puts them into a better or real perspective.
Whist you’re thinking “gosh this sounds like it’s going to complicated or hard to do”. Well the fact is, part of the beauty of this technique is its simplicity.
When possible, I grab some paper and a pen and actually write down things as I go.
Here are some simple questions that I ask myself.
Is there substantial evidence in my life that supports my thought?
- Is there substantial evidence in my life that supports my thought?
- Am I jumping the gun and making an erroneous decision without having all the facts?
- Why am I upset about these thoughts?
- Am I giving the negative thought much more power that it deserves?
- Does it deserve the power that it has over you?
- Is there evidence in my life that is contrary to the thought?
- If the thought is true, then what is the worst thing that can happen to me? What things could I do to cope with the situation?
- How will this situation be in 24 hours, a week or 2 years from now?
When you first use the thought challenging technique, like most new things, it can feel awkward and unnatural. Stick with it and it will be one of your favourite techniques.
One of the best ways to implement it is to use it before you really need it. Try doing it on some smaller less intimidating thoughts as practice.
By far the best way to do it is to write it down and then take it all in. As you get more proficient at it you can actually do it in your head. I still to this day write it down and keep the notes.
I often refer to my notes when I have negative thoughts and see what occurred last time, this again helps control irrational thoughts. When you have written down your thought challenging, try to do something distracting so that your mind doesn’t go back into negative-irrational thought mode.
Remember that you are strong and the human spirit is extremely resilient.
Some people unfortunately overestimate the likelihood that something bad is going to happen to them or their loved ones. They underestimate their ability to cope with life’s situations.
Many people also fall into the trap of thinking they can read minds, not like the Hollywood Magician type of reading minds but they keep up the irrational thoughts that people will judge them or that they will make a fool of themselves.
One of the biggest reasons that people find it tough to go to a gym or commence a new activity/job is that they feel uncomfortable about what other people will think about them. In most cases people are too busy with their own lives to really worry about that you are doing anyway.
I used thought challenging extensively and still use it today. Obviously, the thoughts that I get now are no longer in relation to death, atrocities, tactical situations and the danger that I could be potentially in.
That said, I still find the technique extremely helpful when those inevitable negative or irrational thoughts do creep in. When I was involved in motorsport we unfortunately lost one of our much respected competitors in a race accident. Many of the people involved questioned their involvement in the sport at the time.
Rationally whilst the incident was extremely tragic and hard hitting the fact remained that ostensibly the sport was as safe as it could be. There are numerus pieces of safety equipment to keep the driver safe and there hasn’t been a fatality in over 11 years. Whilst there is still a danger, the risk is fairly mitigated.
Every time a driver is strapped into a car he/she knows there is a risk but they rationalize the danger against the odds of something happening.
I hope this information helps you with that mind chatter that we all have.
I love the story of the Cherokee Indian Brave who tells his son the story of the two wolves inside his mind. One is a white wolf which fills him full of love, confidence and positivity. The other is a black wolf which fills his mind with evil actions and evil thoughts. The son of the Cherokee brave asks his father, “Which one will win, which one do you listen to?” The Cherokee Brave answers, “the one I feed”
Remember if your thoughts are heading towards self-harm, suicide or harming others seek professional help immediately.