Why You Do What You Do… (and are unhappy with the outcome)

WYDWYDEvery day we make choices around what we will and won’t do from situation to situation. Within our personal issues and the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) self-help approach, these behaviours are our actions or inactions influenced by what we think and feel in response to the situations we find ourselves in.

Behaviours can be self-expression, sulks, shoves, comfort eating, facing our fears, shrugs, self-harm, shouting, using alcohol or recreational drugs, crying, sabotaging relationships, swearing, facial expressions, withdrawing, sex, taking ourselves out of difficult situations–or, as most of us do–avoid the situations and experiences we find difficult.

As you will have learned from my posts introducing CBT and normalising what we feel, we experience personal issues in part, or in full, through the way we think. In this post we will be looking at why we do what we do and how these behaviours often lead to our difficult experiences in situations, support our unhelpful thinking, and keep us stuck within our cycles of unhelpful thoughts by preventing us discovering different perspectives and learning different problem solving and coping techniques. A good place to start in understanding why we do what we do is to identify our behaviours in the first place.

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It’s OK To Feel Your Feelings… (we all have them)

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We all have feelings—happiness, anxiety, stress, unhappiness—and we feel them every day to varying degrees. Regardless of your age, gender, race, sexuality, status, strength, class or education, you could also experience emotional difficulties—too much of these feelings. Personal problems do not discriminate. In the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. You are not alone in experiencing your difficulties—it’s not just you.

Why do we feel the way we feel?

Our feelings can be influenced by hormones, our chemistry, illness, side-effects of medication, stimulant and relaxant foods/drinks/drugs, but largely because of what we’re thinking.

Situations themselves are not emotional. It’s what we think—our interpretation or perception—about the situation and the meanings we draw from them which upset us. To understand that more, and for an introduction to the self-help approach of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) then check out my first blog post Think Better To Feel Better.

So, just what are feelings?

Feelings are the emotional reactions that we have and the physical symptoms that accompany them. Emotionally, there are four types of feelings; happy, sad, angry and scared. Every emotion—no matter how colourful our description—can be reduced down to these four. This can be helpful to remember as it makes recognising and communicating what we are feeling easier. Symptoms are the sensations and reactions of our body that help us know what emotion we’re feeling. These can often be unpleasant, especially with anxiety and stress attacks. A feeling is not an interpretation, an opinion, a guess, or an explanation—these are characteristic of thoughts.

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Think Better to Feel Better (an introduction to CBT)…

 

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What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach which can help us understand, challenge and overcome our personal issues.

CBT takes the stance that our personal problems are either worsened or caused by the way we think about them and the way we act in response to those thoughts. It’s an approach that places our own perception and interpretation of situations at the forefront of dealing with our problems.

CBT for understanding our difficulties

CBT is all about breaking complex and often overwhelming experiences down into their component parts to make manageable steps towards challenging and overcoming them. It does this within a CBT cycle of elements:

  • The Situation is the factual, actual world. The indisputable details—the time, the place, the people involved and the task at hand.
  • Our Experience is formed from our perception and interpretation of the situation; the assumptions around what the situation means, and predictions of what’s going to happen in this situation. Our experience is a complex relationship between these thoughts, and our behaviours and our feelings in response to these ideas. These three ingredients of experience tend to feed each other within an unhelpful cycle and are the focus of CBT self-help work.
  • The Outcome is what happens in part, or in full, as a result of our perspective of the situation, and how our resulting feelings are expressed and how we act in response to these thoughts through our behaviours. The outcome then becomes a new situation for us to experience, and so begins another circuit within a CBT cycle.

GOI CBT 101

 

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4 Ways to Cope Better this Christmas…

Christmas is the geekiest time of year. Don’t let depression, anxiety and stress put the Grinch into your Christmas…

FB Christmas Personal IssuesChristmas is sold to us as a time of happiness and celebration. Yet for many of us, Christmas can be a time of stress, anxiety and unhappiness, and as a result it can seem like an ordeal. This could be because of Christmas itself, or because we struggle with those feelings throughout the year.

Whether you recognise or accept it, the reason we feel unhappy at any time of the year is because of the way we think about things. The therapeutic approach of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) operates from the perspective that we’re always thinking—trying to understand and find meaning in what has happened, is happening, and might happen—and our thinking is often negative, inaccurate, and unhelpful.

The explanations we come up with to understand ourselves, other people and our experiences often cause us to feel unhappy and to act in ways that add to our difficulties and unhappiness…

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Reflecting on September (2015)… Thinking Write…

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My latest book launched recently. ‘Get Over It’, a self-help book using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). A slight departure from horror and mystery titles, but therapy and thinking better to feel better was my day job for a number of years, and has been a big passion since my counselling training. Soon after finishing the book, though, I found I was strung out and a bit blue myself.

I love writing; creating characters and worlds and formulating stories. I can write all day, and could write every day. At the risk of sounding pretentious, it’s really liberating, and there’s never a dull moment for me when I write and my stories unfold on the screen in black and white. However, I have noticed that as much as I love writing, there are low periods when I’m creating. Instead of reflecting on the practicalities of writing, editing and marketing as a self-published writer, I thought I would use this post to reflect on the thinking behind my writing that can get me down. In writing ‘Get Over It’ I’ve realised that I have been a bit lax in using CBT myself. In the book I suggest sharing the way we think in blogs, or with friends, as a way to not be on our own with our issues and to reduce the stigma attached to not feeling happy 100% of the time and bring self-help work out into the open. So, I guess it’s only fair that I should show you mine.

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