Updated: Jun 26
Firstly, we all have unhelpful thoughts, but some of us have them more often than others. If you find that unhelpful thoughts are something you have on a consistent basis than this may contribute to things like anxiety and depression.
However quite often these unhelpful thoughts are going on in our subconscious and we may be unaware we are having them, how often we have them, or even recognising them as unhelpful.
To understand what unhelpful thinking styles are and how they can have an impact on you may help you to change things.
Every emotion we have will likely be linked to a thought we have; your mood will be influenced by these thoughts.
So, for example
Say you are at a party and are introduced to someone, lets say Bob, you’ve not meet him before, but you notice that as Bob talks to you he keeps looking over your shoulder and not at you.
What would you be thinking?
"How rude I really don’t like this man" and maybe feel irritated by him.
"Gosh I must be boring Bob, he’s looking for a way to get away from me" and you may feel nervous or embarrassed.
"Bob seems to be quite nervous, maybe he’s shy" You are likely to feel some compassion towards Bob.
The situation is the same, but your thought is different, the thought has led to different emotional responses and likely a different resulting behaviour by you.
So, it can be important for us to check out what we are thinking and to check out the accuracy of our thoughts.
If it turns out Bob is shy rather than rude and you treat him with irritation or anger because of his perceived rudeness, you may come to regret your actions later.
Being able to understand our thoughts can help with how we feel and how we behave,
When I work with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) a large part of our work is uncovering these connections between thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
Often we can find we move towards similar thought patterns in different situations, we may have a go to unhelpful thinking style.
You might think that some situations would create exactly the same mood for everyone, but this is rarely the case because our different personal beliefs, the meanings we give to things and the perspective we look at things from can produce different thought processes about the situation that can lead to different emotions and behaviours about the situation.
For example, say you are fired from your job-most of us would expect the emotional response to that to be pretty much the same for everyone
However, what if you think
"I am a failure it’s all my fault they are firing me" - this could lead to you feeling depressed and dejected
Someone else may think
"They have no right to fire me this is discrimination" - this could lead to them feeling angry
Someone else may think
"I was not expecting this, I don’t like it, but this is my chance to look for a better job" -they are likely to feel a little bit nervous but maybe a little bit excited too
So, you can see how your thoughts can lead you to a different emotion and our emotions are likely to drive how we behave.
The depressed and dejected person may hide themselves away and not feel good enough to go out and look for a new job and be unemployed for months maybe years-this could lead to further distress in their life.
The angry person could spend months working out ways to get justice, could rant about it at every job interview and put off potential new employers and start to feel the whole world is against him.
The nervous but excited person could start to look for a new job immediately explore some new opportunities and get excited about going to interviews, present themselves to new employers as keen and interested and very quickly find themselves with a new career.
Can you see how your thoughts could even lead to a domino effect in your life!
There are a number of unhelpful thinking styles that are very common, see how many of these you recognise.
Do you have any of these thoughts yourself, do you recognise them in others, and have you thought about the influence they have on your emotions and behaviours?
Laura Knight Dip.Couns MBACP is an experienced and qualified counsellor and CBT therapist who runs her own private practice SeeClear Counselling in Poole, Dorset.
She is an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist and specialises in working with anxiety and panic attacks, helping adults move from a place of fear and worry to a place of calm, leading a happier, more fulfilled life.
Laura can offer face to face, telephone and video counselling.
You can contact Laura by text or phone 07975 733029
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org