i'd try really hard to challenge all my negative thoughts so I can work hard to 'unstick' myself but I just have a constant stream of them and really bad habits of comparing myself to people that I don't know how to stop practically, and I'm so scared its not going to work and i'm going to be stuck miserable and alone all my life, everytime I try and think positive (about my appearance, my personality, uni work, the future) the negative just creeps in and I end up getting frustrated with myself for not being able to be positive and scared I won't be able to change and bursting into tears and then that just makes me feel defeatist about it and I want to try even less. He keeps asking me "do you WANT to get better?" which I find really irritating because of course I do or I wouldn't be going to the sessions?! I just need some guidance about how to actually go about it because it just doesn't seem to be working for me at the moment, I keep trying but I just feel a bit hopeless...
Hi Larose, Let me see I can help.
CBT can be a very fruitful therapy option. Unfortunatley it has some limitations which can often be worked around by an experienced therapist.
From your description, It appears that you have come across one such limitation.
It is sad that you therapist asked you the question-"do you WANT to get better?" This quesion assumes that you are not trying, when in actual fact you are most likely doing the best and getting frustrated that your best is not acheiving what you want. This can eaosily lead to a feeling of hopelessness.
How can we challenge or stop thoughts that seem to have a mind of their own. Quite often any sort of self-challenge will naturally become sabotaged by the tendency to be self-critical because our efforts are not working well for us.
Ironically self-critism is negative thinking too and negative thinking cannot really work well as a tool for stopping negative thinking.
In addition, when we are prone to any form of emotional difficulty, the inability to challenge negative thoughts is created from not having enough of What I call the "mental muscle" required to stop certain thoughts.
These thoughts are not like other thoughts because we have become so sensitive to them that they just pull us in regardless of our efforts to control them.
What's more these thoughts are so powerful that they seem to force us to behave in certain ways in order to cope.
Any muscle that is not used for a long periord of time naturally wastes away. before the muscle can be useful again, we have to do some regular work to build it back up again.
The brain can be likened to muscle as well. If we grow into a habbit of letting sensitive thoughts drive us, our mental muscle for dealing with these sensitive thoughts grow weak. Unfotunately, many people grew into the habit of beign driven by sensitive thoughts from their childhood, as such their mental muscle would naturally be very weak when they come across these thoughts.
Fortunately just as with physical muscles, there are practical things we can do to build up our mental muscle so that we can have more staminar and be in better control of what our mind does.
These strategies help us be in the driving seat of our thoughts so we have the control to decide what thoughts we want to follow through or ignore.
As a CBT practitioner myself, I regularly use these strategies as an aid to CBT to help people break through the barrier of challenging negative thoughts if they find this aspect of therapy too challenging.
- attention training
- mindfulness and meditation: I find these two exceptionally helpful for gaining control over negative thinking patterns.
- Compassion focussed CBT
You can do a google search on them if you want to learn more about them.