Looking for effective ways to stop self-defeating behaviors, discover and acknowledge underlying fears and motivations, and build new thought patterns that will improve your confidence and lower stress levels? I know, I know—this sounds like a snake-oil spiel. Actually, cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you to recognize patterns of negative self-talk, then respond to those nasty voices in your head with realistic, fact-based positive alternatives.
By acknowledging your challenges and history, and recognizing the positive elements in the steps you’ve already taken, you can discover hidden strengths and build on unacknowledged successes. You can recognize skills you didn’t realize you had, set realistic goals, and attain them more readily. You’ll learn to recognize negative, judgmental, or defeatist thought patterns, then adjust the way you respond to things that used to trigger you. Building these new skills allows you to be more accepting and kind to yourself and to others. This improves relationships, increases empathy, helps you create stronger bonds with others, and even boosts productivity.
Don’t feel you’re ready to see a therapist? I highly recommend reading the work of psychiatrist and cognitive therapist David D. Burns, MD. His behavioral modification methods have been at the heart of many cognitive behavior programs for over 30 years. His techniques involve recognizing and altering negative and self-defeating behavioral patterns, and you can learn them easily from his book Feeling Good.
Burns, who has taught at Stanford’s School of Medicine, has written several excellent best-selling books on fighting negative self-talk with realistic, fact-based positive alternatives. Years ago, my own therapist recommended his book Feeling Good to me, and I have found his techniques hugely helpful in my own life.
Burns’s work is not about spewing mindless platitudes and bland I-can-do-it positivism. It requires looking directly at the negative things we say to ourselves (and others), then peeking underneath to see what fears and distorted thinking cause such situations. Burns shows us how to counter automatic negative thoughts with relevant, accurate, truthful alternatives; he teaches that we can train ourselves to limit our unconscious and automatic negative self-talk. He shows that there are nearly always alternative ways to see situations that can lead to more positive outcomes in the future.
This book doesn’t take the place of a strong relationship with an excellent therapist. That can go much farther in helping you to develop important insights into your history and your behavior patterns. But Feeling Good is a great place to start, and will give you a wealth of valuable information that you can put into immediate use. And it’s readily available online for under $10.
Feeling Good can help you to better understand the power of cognitive reframing, and discover methods that can help you permanently improve your relationship with yourself and others.