What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a style that mostly focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs. Everyone has their perspective on what is going on around them. This is influenced by your history and experiences which form a lens through which we perceive the world. We then formulate a belief system in which we subconsciously filter the information. That is to say that we are biased by our habits, our family of origin, our lessons from life, our fears and hopes, etc. These are not always accurate and/or may be leading us to make the same ineffective choices and resulting in the same unwanted results.
Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we start with what you see as the problem and work backwards to make you more aware of how you feel at the time, what thoughts run through your mind, and challenge you to reassess if your beliefs are in line with what you really want to accomplish. The hardest part of the process is making the changes in the moment when you feel the most and do things differently. Often is the case where we may know that we are falling back onto ineffective habits, but go there anyway. There is major overlap in the use of Mindfulness Theory–the more you are in the moment and using relevant body, mind and other stimulus information, the more likely you are to be able to change your patterns.
An example of this is where you are able to recognize all the ingredients to why you reach for that last doughnut. You give in. You feel bad. You don’t know how to stop. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we break down the why’s and how’s by being as inwardly tuned-in as possible. We you hungry? What are the sensations that reward eating the doughnut? How do you feel about yourself? Your body? What are your values in measuring your successes or failures in such matters? There is a pattern at work here. You feel tension and build up of guilty pleasure. You give into temptation in part because you believe the reward of the pastry is worthwhile in the moment. Can you also start to think about how good it will feel to know you had an alternative snack and feel proud of yourself?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also is a learning opportunity to understand the connection and interplay of subconscious, unconscious, and conscious memory. Conscious thought is readily available, but often flawed by lack of awareness or by unproductive habits. It draws off of beliefs and information from short and long term memory as well as other levels of the mind. Subconscious is the hard drive of a person, the place where we draw from to formulate how to understand the world and our experiences. You may not automatically be able to draw where and how you do and say certain things, but chances are if you think about it, you know why you chose to sit on the left side of the couch versus the right side. Unconscious is the part of you that does things on autopilot and of which you probably are completely unaware of. The unconscious is also the place where those things that bother us, scare us, or are too big to carry around easily reside. We can draw some of these out, getting a sense of the bottom line of your beliefs.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy deals with your belief system–the things you think about the world, how things ought to work. Also in there are the messages you say to yourself. This includes self-judgment and interpretation of one’s own value. Often is the case that a person carries negative messages long after the event, situation, or person who hurt you is gone. Examining what you believe is essential to determining whether or not these match up with reality and what exactly the plan is to correct whatever is amiss in your life.
All of this is complex and difficult work. It may time some time to sort through your defenses and catalog your lifetime of experiences, beliefs, and inner messaging system. It is worth it…… you can never be harmed by knowing yourself better, as in the end, what ever you find is more manageable when you can specifically identify what you are or are not willing to do to bring about change.