Browsing the archives for the idea repair tag.
Subscribe via RSS or e-mail      


What in the World Is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

Guest posts

Today’s guest post is from Kari Wolfe, whose blog Imperfect Clarity passes on everything she’s learning as she works toward building a writing career, interviews fascinating people, parents her daughter in ways she never expected, and forges her own habits of success.


Recently, Luc has been talking about broken ideas, his term for cognitive distortions. This topic falls under the general category of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) which is based on the idea that if you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel.

psychiatrist Dr. Aaron T. Beck, who pioneered cognitive therapy

CBT began in the 1960s and is one alternative to your standard lay-on-the-couch-and-spill-your-thoughts psychoanalysis. For many specific problems, CBT can help you solve those problems in about four to six months of therapy while standard psychoanalysis can take years to reveal roots of problems.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages and, for some situations (and some patients), one can be better than the other. As always, it is up to YOU to decide what method works for you.

-00-

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The main idea behind CBT is your feelings and thoughts need to be in accord with the events as they take place.

As PsychCentral’s introduction to CBT states, “it’s not events themselves that upset us, but the meanings we give them.”

If these meanings do not line up with what really happened, it can cause a cognitive distortion, i.e. Luc’s broken ideas. Cleaning up these broken ideas is one form of CBT.

-00-

What is professional treatment like?

Professional treatment usually consists of three main areas:

Structure. CBT sessions are highly structured, focusing on the best use of the time. Since the goal is for the process to eventually become second-nature to the patient, the therapist acts as a guide, helping direct the patient toward his/her goal in the beginning, giving up that role later as the patient learns to guide themselves.

Homework or exercises. As with most therapies, this is an important aspect of CBT. As the therapist and the patient discuss the problem, they talk about what’s going on and the patient receives exercises to do at home. This is where the patient begins to put what he/she is learning into action in his/her own life.

Therapists and patients are on equal levels. The therapist acts like more of a guide than an all-powerful solution-holder.

-00-

What kinds of problems can benefit?

According to PsychCentral, CBT can be an effective therapy for the following problems:

anger management
anxiety and panic attacks
child and adolescent problems
chronic fatigue syndrome
chronic pain
depression
drug or alcohol problems
eating problems
general health problems
habits, such as facial tics
mood swings
obsessive-compulsive disorder
phobias
post-traumatic stress disorder
sexual and relationship problems
sleep problems

Can it replace medications for these problems? Well, maybe. But that’s between you and your doctor.

-00-

Do I have to see a therapist to learn about CBT?

Well, no. Not necessarily. There are a lot of online resources that can help you get started in learning what CBT is.

Wikipedia: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

While you don’t want to necessarily take Wikipedia at its every word, it can be one of the best jumping off points to begin your research. But, take everything with a grain of salt and if you’re just not sure, check the page’s references.

Cognitive Behavioural Self-Help Resources

Lots of information from a UK cognitive therapist, Carol Vivyan.

Luc’s tag on broken ideas (AKA cognitive distortions)

Not to continuously repeat myself, but I have found that Luc’s articles on broken ideas, idea repair, and schema therapy (another alternative therapy that incorporate some CBT ideas) are FANTASTIC places to start. Not only has he explained these topics extremely well, Luc has used a great number of sources on each article as well–dig in however far you want.

CBT has also been adapted for numerous books in the self-help section of the bookstore.

Kari Wolfe is a stay-at-home mother of a very curious three-year-old daughter who happens to be autistic. She is a writer and maintains her own blog, Imperfect Clarity where her focus is becoming the best writer (and person) she can be by living her life to the fullest 🙂

3 Comments

7 Kinds of Dysfunctional Eating

States of mind

In an ideal world, we would all eat exactly the things that our bodies needed in exactly the right amounts, and those things would be incredibly delicious to us. Unfortunately, of course, many of us don’t live in that world. It’s not uncommon to come up with any number of reasons to eat that have little to do with what our bodies need–and surprisingly enough, often little to do with even enjoying our food.

But if we become more aware of why we’re eating when we’re eating dysfunctionally (those of us who eat dysfunctionally sometimes), then our options improve, and it becomes easier to make choices that will increase our happiness and health. This is a way of practicing mindfulness: noticing patterns in ourselves that, once seen and understood a little, can be changed.

These patterns are useful to notice not just for eating more healthily, but also for taking more pleasure in what we do eat. Many of these patterns contribute to eating food that is meant to be pleasurable in a way that prevents it from providing any enjoyment–and what good is that?

  1. Compensation eating: Eating as a consolation prize because something went wrong. Some examples are eating something we usually like because something we ate earlier was disappointing, or eating when something goes wrong (“I can’t go to the concert, but at least I can eat this huge bowl of ice cream.”)
  2. Add-on eating: Continuing eating during a meal or snack even when we’ve had as much as our body needs at the moment. One of the reasons add-on eating happens is that it takes our bodies about 20 minutes to feel full even when we’ve eaten a substantial meal. Another reason is that eating something sweet starts a cycle that creates a craving for something else sweet.
  3. Automatic eating: Eating because something is in front of us, not because we’re enjoying it a lot or because it’s something we need. Automatic eating is a good reason not to have conversations at the snack table at parties and not to open a bag of chips when sitting down to a movie: you look up after half an hour and realize you’ve eaten twice your body weight in junk food without really noticing or enjoying it.
  4. Bounty eating: Eating because there is so much there to eat. College students (for example) often run into this problem at any event that offers free food, and sometimes it can occur as a result of having just stocked the cupboards to bursting or from being at an event where a huge amount of food has been put out.
  5. Social eating: It’s not uncommon to eat in order to appease someone, to appear polite, to fit in, because everyone else is doing it, or to have something to do with our hands.
  6. Supposed-to-be-delicious eating: Eating a favorite or very attractive-looking food not due to actually being hungry for it, but on the general idea that it’s desirable food and that therefore we should be enjoying it. Yet sometimes foods we like just aren’t what we need or even want at the moment.
  7. “I just can’t resist” eating: Telling ourselves that although we wouldn’t be best served to eat a particular thing, we “just can’t resist.” This is an example of “all-or-nothing thinking”, a broken idea. In fact, there are almost always options.

Readers: have any patterns to add?

Photo by brotherxii

No Comments

How to Become More Focused and Enthusiastic, Part III: Willingness

Strategies and goals

The first article in this series talks about the difference between distraction and lack of focus or enthusiasm as well as the problem of not believing your goal can be achieved. The second article touches on how much the goal matters and whether or not it’s possible to track progress. This article will tackle another essential of being committed to a goal: willingness.

The question of willingness came up as a side note in my article the other day about whether our willpower gets used up on a daily basis. The idea was that people seem to usually be less willing to keep doing things that require self-control the more of them they’re asked to do. Repeated demands are one reason a person might find she or he isn’t willing to exercise willpower. Others include

  • Feeling anger or resentment about having to do the thing in the first place, or being unhappy about some expected result–for instance if a person avoided cleaning an area up because they didn’t make the mess (even if they knew the mess-maker wasn’t going to clean it up), or if they were to hold off on doing certain work because they strongly suspected someone else would be getting the credit.
  • Being uncomfortable with success, for instance when a person is scared of the life changes a new job would cause.
  • Having a broken idea that someone else should be doing whatever it is, that whatever it is shouldn’t be necessary, etc.
  • Focusing on short-term discomfort or interruption of pleasure, like not wanting to pull a splinter out due to anticipating that being painful.
  • Feeling as though you don’t deserve to achieve your goal, for instance because of impostor syndrome.

Those are a few samples. The key point is that even when we have a desire to do something and recognize that it would be a good thing to do, we often still have conflicting feelings about moving ahead. To say that we simply want something or don’t want it is to imagine our minds being much simpler than they are. For instance, a person might desperately want to lose weight for reasons of both health and appearance, but also might want to feel free to indulge in eating as they like, might be worried about the discomfort of regular exercise, might feel protected in some ways by being overweight, etc.

Feeling conflicted is a natural result of being a complex human being, but when these kinds of conflicts prevent us from committing whole-heartedly to our goals, it’s time to address them and move past them. Broken ideas (including ideas about what should happen or what a person deserves) can be repaired, conflicting needs can be compared so that the highest-priority need can take precedence, discomfort can be faced in light of the greater happiness it will lead to, and so on. In the end, most barriers to willingness can be sorted out–and starting that process only takes asking ourselves this question:

“Am I really willing to succeed?”

Photo by Gavatron

No Comments

18 Ways to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Habits

Author and fellow Codex member Elaine Isaak posed this question:

So as I was tossing and turning last  night, it occured to me that the one area where I’m not sure I *can* effectively apply my willpower is in getting a good night’s sleep.  I can’t WILL myself to sleep the way I might will myself to get up on time to start writing or to go to the gym.  I wondered if you have come across any research that tackles this, or have any tools to suggest?

I have to agree with Elaine on not being able to will ourselves to sleep by sheer determination, but fortunately I do know of a number of ways to get to sleep and to sleep better, based on research. Understanding that serious problems with insomnia are worth seeing a doctor about and that these recommendations are not professional medical or psychological advice … here they are:

Long-Term Habits

1. Plan your schedule so that you can get to sleep at a decent hour and still be able to wake up if you want to. If there are things you need to do before going to bed, do them earlier in the evening to make sure they don’t push your bedtime back.

2. Figure out how much sleep you actually need by keeping track of how much sleep you’re getting each day and whether that turned out to be enough. This may change over time, or under different circumstances (such as in stressful periods or with more or less exercise).

3. Get on a steady schedule with your sleeping hours. Staying up late on weekends or going to bed at different times every night, for instance, can sometims interfere with your body’s attempts to establish a natural sleep schedule.

4. You may need to make your bed an environment you associate mainly with sleeping (and, if appropriate, sex). Take activities like reading, using a laptop computer, or watching TV out of bed if your bed doesn’t feel like a place that naturally relaxes you.

5. On mornings when you don’t have to get up right away, if any, don’t sleep in for long periods, as this may tend to muck with your ability to sleep that night. More sleep isn’t always better.

6. Take steps to make sure you have the physical comfort you need, to the best of your ability: a firm, comfortable mattress; good ventilation; a comfortable temperature; etc. For me, one of the most relaxing features of my bedroom in summer is a fan pointed at the bed. You may also find it more comfortable to use a non-illuminated bedroom clock, although this is admittedly inconvenient if you are up in the middle of the night and want to know what time it is.

Daily Habits

7. Watch out for caffeine and consider cutting it out for a little while if you’re having sleep problems. Remember that in addition to regular coffee, most sodas, black/green/white tea, and chocolate contain caffeine, and that even decaf coffee and decaf tea contain some caffeine–just a reduced amount. Other stimulants to be careful of include ginseng and nicotine.

8. Exercise during the day! Be active! Regular exercise contributes to very good sleep.

9. Watch out for alcohol: while it can help you fall asleep more quickly, it also can cause sleep problems. According to MayoClinic.com, “it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night.”

10. Don’t eat or drink a lot late in the evening. Either can cause physical discomfort that keeps you up at night or that can interrupt an otherwise sound sleep.

Before bed

11. Stretch, either doing yoga or basic stretching techniques. Stretching will release tension and improve blood flow.

12. Before bed, steer clear of things that might stir you up, like watching television, reading a suspenseful novel, or taking on stressful tasks. Relaxing activities will help settle you down so that you can sleep more easily. These can even include things like picking up and cleaning around the house to set things in order, or gathering things you’ll need the next day. The relative mindlessness of these tasks, the mild physical activity, and the way this prevents you from having to worry about getting things done in the morning are all conducive to good sleep.

13. Consider meditation, for instance body scan meditation, in which you focus your attention on each part of your body in turn and allow it to relax. Meditation can help still mental chatter and create a serene state of mind.

14. Ask a romantic partner, family member, or friend to give you a massage in the evening. This is an excellent means to rope someone into giving you a free massage, so don’t miss out.

In the moment

15. If you find yourself kept up by specific worries or general anxiety, try idea repair, journaling, or talking things out with someone who cares about how you’re doing.

16. Soft earplugs are great if you’re having trouble with noise. There’s a picture of the kind I like in this post.

17. If you’re obsessing about making yourself sleep, you may want to get out of bed, go sit on the couch, and read a book or listen to music or watch a movie that you’ve already seen, turned down low. These kinds of activities can engage your attention in a more relaxed way that may allow you to fall asleep more easily. Just make sure to have a comfortable couch.

18. In bed, listen to low music or a relaxation CD. Like the tactics mentioned in the previous item, this can help relax you when your mind is overstimulated.

Photo by babblingdweeb

No Comments

Feeling Tired? Need Energy? Here are 9 Ways to Get Charged Up

Strategies and goals

Energy to spare

In a recent e-mail to me, a correspondent talked about the problem of not having energy left after her daytime obligations:

My major problem is I have some studying to do and I am not able to do anything once I am back home. I am so tired. I’m basically brain dead too. I need the weekend to recuperate and so I am not productive at all during the weekend.

It’s a common problem: most of us seem to have days when the energy we want to have just isn’t there. Here are nine approaches that can help dredge up energy when no energy seems to be available.

1. Are you getting enough sleep? (See How Much Sleep Do You Need? 8 Hours Isn’t for Everyone) If not, are there ways you can get more, for instance by giving up a small amount of recreation time?

2. If worry is tiring you out, there are some things you can do to relieve the worry and leave more energy for getting things done. These include idea repair (see How to Detect Broken Ideas, How to Repair a Broken Idea, Step by Step, and Examples of Broken Ideas (Cognitive Distortions)), meditation (see Strengthen Willpower Through Meditation), brief walks in natural surroundings (see The Benefits of Quick, Easy, Pleasant Exercise), talking with a trusted friend or family member about worries you have, and writing in journals. Worry not only saps energy, but also makes it harder to use what energy you do have for constructive things.

3. Try to get into flow (see Flow: What It Feels Like to Be Perfectly Motivated and Some Steps for Getting into a State of Flow), a state where you’re concentrating fully on what you’re doing. Even if you feel tired at the beginning, if you really get deeply involved in a task that interests you, you can start feeling energized by the task itself.

4. Choose things to eat that will make you feel good in the short term. Of course this tends to mean whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. Fats take a lot of digestive energy to break down and tend to make a person feel groggy, as does eating too much. Sugars tend to give a quick boost and then drop a person into a low that’s a good bit more tired than they were before the sugar high. Caffeine also tends to give a boost at one point but take much more out later. Drink enough water to ensure you’re not dehydrated: dehydration is a common cause of fatigue, as detailed in this article on the Psychology Today site. The article also contains other good anti-fatigue eating advice, like getting plenty of iron.

Of course it’s difficult to make healthy eating choices sometimes, but it can help to think about wanting to feel good right away from good food choices instead of thinking more of their long-term benefits, (though of course the long-term benefits are great, too).

5. Work yourself into an excited state about a project. Again this tends to mean talking to someone or writing about the project. This is similar to getting into flow, as it engages your mind and your interest and wakes you up.

6. Put on music that gives you a lift (see How and Why Music Changes Mood).

7. Think about things that make you happy. Reflecting on good things that happened to you over the last day, anticipating something you’re looking forward to doing soon, or thinking about someone whose company you really enjoy can make your mood more buoyant.

8. Tidy up. If your environment is messy or chaotic, you may tend to feel a little exhausted just being in it from the constant, low-level annoyance of clutter or mess. (See How Tools and Environment Make Work into Play, Part II: Letting Your Environment Help You.)

9. Meditate, or sit still for a short while. Meditation (see Strengthen Willpower Through Meditation) can help release tension and create calm and focus. If you’re not experienced in meditation, one easy way to start is with this 15-Minute Online Guided Meditation from Kelly McGonigal. Just sitting still gives you a chance to relax and let go. If you take this approach, don’t try to do anything, keep TV and music off, and just gaze out the window.

Photo by eMotionblogster karolien taverniers

No Comments

Does Guilt Help or Hurt Self-Motivation?

Handling negative emotions

A warning light

Let’s say Derek is a student, and on his mid-term exam he did badly because he blew off studying. Let’s further say that Derek feels pretty crummy about this. Is feeling crummy going to help him or hurt him? Will it make him more or less likely to study next time? Will it improve him in other ways, or hurt him in other ways, or both? Does he have some kind of moral obligation to feel guilt?

Guilt is useful … sometimes. If I feel guilty, it means that I’ve looked back on something I did and compared it to how I’d like to act. This is a very smart thing to do, because if I’m not aware of whether or not I’m following my own best instincts, then I have no idea what I might want to improve or how I would need to improve it. Guilt is a red flag, a warning indicator on the dashboard saying that something has gone wrong. And guilt can persist for quite a while if the problem doesn’t get fixed.

That warning job, as far as I can tell from research, coaching, and personal experience, is the only useful thing there is about guilt. Once you get that message and commit to doing something about it, the guilt is no longer useful, providing you won’t forget about your commitment the minute the guilt is gone–so it makes sense to get rid of it. How? By detecting and repairing the broken ideas that are keeping the guilt going. (I won’t go into more detail about that for here, but just follow the links for more detailed information.)

In addition to that helpful warning role, guilt plays a harmful role in other ways. It can make it painful to think about certain obligations–for instance, if Derek feels guilty about not studying for his mid-term, he may avoid thinking about studying for his finals because he doesn’t want to revisit the unpleasant subject of him failing to study. Guilt sucks up attention and causes negative emotions like sadness and anxiety, which can make it harder to be motivated even in unrelated areas.

So the best possible use of guilt is to experience it, pay attention to it, figure out what needs to be done, and then get rid of it.

A study by Michael J.A. Wohl, Timothy A. Pychyla, and Shannon H. Bennetta (“I forgive myself, now I can study: How self-forgiveness for procrastinating can reduce future procrastination“), published this past February, supports this view of guilt as damaging in the long term. It surveyed students who felt guilty about past studying habits, whether they forgave themselves, and how that forgiveness (or lack of it) related to their studying afterward. Wohl and colleagues concluded that students who forgave themselves (a kind of organic idea repair–though that’s a subject for a future post) tended to do better studying afterward than students who kept beating themselves up. In other words, letting go of the guilt helped them act better so that they wouldn’t need to feel guilty in future.

Thanks to Jeremy Dean of Psyblog for the mention of the article.

Photo by akeg

No Comments

Mental Schemas #7: Vulnerability to Harm

Handling negative emotions

This is the seventh in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

How vulnerability schemas work
A person with the vulnerability schema has thoughts like these:

  • What if something happens to the plane while we’re in flight?
  • He’s late. Maybe he got in an accident.
  • Business hasn’t been good lately. What if I get fired and can’t get another job?
  • I can’t sleep when it rains because I keep worrying about flooding

Being vulnerable is part of being alive. No one is completely immune to natural catastrophes, disease, accidents, war, financial setbacks, crime, and all of the other kinds of trouble that can arise even when things are going well. Most of us either ignore this (“I’ll deal with it if it ever comes up”) or accept it on some level (“Sometimes bad things happen; I’ll just try to be prepared and not worry too much about it”), but people with the vulnerability schema have a lot of trouble letting go of these worries. Fear of something bad happening causes them to be overprotective, hyperanxious, or too timid to take chances.

People with the vulnerability schema generally get it from a parent who worried too much about things that might happen and passed the idea along to their children, insisting that the world is a dangerous place. Some children don’t acquire these ideas from the parents, learning from others or from experience that harm doesn’t lurk around every corner. Others, however, follow the model their parents (or other significant people in their lives) set.

Getting past a vulnerability schema
As with any schema, the vulnerability schema tends to come out in part as a series of broken ideas, like fortune telling (“I’m going to get swine flu from a sick kid at school!”) and emotional reasoning (“I’m so worried about earthquakes that I know one will happen before long.”) The day to day healthy habit of repairing these kinds of ideas helps weaken the vulnerability schema.

Also as with any schema, getting past a vulnerability schema means both accepting the idea of harm (“Sometimes bad things happen, and I’ll just do the best I can to get through them when they come up.”) and rejecting an obsession with harm (“Just because I’ve been worried about all of these things in the past doesn’t mean that I have to continue to be worried about them, or that I’m justified in my worry.”)

Photo by tj.blackwell

No Comments

Mental Schemas #6: Incompetence

Handling negative emotions

This is the sixth in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

Ever felt stupid? Not just like you did something stupid, but that you are stupid, can’t learn, are incompetent, are talentless or useless? That you in a basic and profound way are just not up to the mark?

Most of us feel some of that at least a few times in our lives, but people with the incompetence schema feel that way every day. On a basic level, they feel as though they’re not good enough. If this feels like you or sounds like someone you know, learning about this schema might come in handy for you.

How incompetence schemas work
Incompetence schemas usually develop in childhood, when parents or other important figures in a kid’s life start telling them–whether in so many words or through attitudes and actions–that they can’t hack it, that they’re not up to the challenge.

Studies of randomly-generated praise have shown that when someone is doing a task, even completely meaningless, computer-generated encouragement tends to improve their mood and make them feel more competent. I suspect on some basic level it’s built into us to need a certain amount of encouragement. Some of us eventually internalize that encouragement and can provide it for ourselves, mentally telling ourselves “You’ve got this!” and “You’re going to kick butt!”

People with this schema never got enough of that encouragement in their formative years and therefore have trouble generating their own encouragement or believing other people’s. This can lead to expecting failure, fearing challenges, and shying away from anything that might “prove” the incompetence.

Getting past an incompetence schema
How do you get the best of an incompetence schema? Well, external encouragement may help, but there are two things that have to happen inside a person for a real change to emerge over time: acceptance that failure is a normal part of life, but also understanding that one failure doesn’t doesn’t define a person. A person can fail without being a failure. People who have failed once may very well succeed when the next challenge comes along. Thomas Edison claimed famously that he had thousands of failed attempts  before he came up with a working light bulb.

In terms of broken ideas, an incompetence schema can show up in a variety of ways: all-or-nothing thinking (“I’m completely incompetent at math.”), overgeneralization (“The woman I asked last year turned me down for a date, so I’m obviously not desirable”), mental filtering (“Winning that poetry prize was a fluke; the judges probably just felt sorry for me”), fortune telling (“I know I’m going to screw up this project”), and so on. Each of these ideas can be detected and repaired on its own, slowly breaking away the barrier of feeling incompetent and revealing the truer, brighter possibilities behind it.

Photo by Paul in Uijeongbu

No Comments

How Do You Keep a Good Thing Going?

Strategies and goals

I’ve been corresponding with someone who has recently become more productive, and this person brought up a very useful question: once you start doing well with something, how do you make sure it continues? Some of the material I’ve dug up in the course of writing for this site offers some answers.

Use feedback loops
First, take a little time to figure out what you’re doing right. The best ways I know of to do this are to talk the situation through with someone sympathetic to your success or to write down your thoughts. What kinds of things do you think about before and during a successful experience? What kinds of thoughts are keeping you on track? Have you made any changes to your schedule, organizing, etc. that might be helping? The more you know about what’s going right now, the more likely you are to be able to keep it going or do it again in the future.

Build a Habit
Second, if you’re not doing it already, you may want to try to get into a habit of doing things at the same time and place each day. By repeating the successful behavior in the same context again and again, you can encourage it to become a habit over time, so that eventually you find yourself getting into the successful behavior automatically.

Troubleshoot
Third, keep a sharp eye out for obstacles. If you start to feel avoidant or negative, that’s not necessarily a problem: we all have our ups and downs. But it can become a problem if the feelings aren’t recognized, understood, and worked through, so it helps to pay special attention to exactly what your thoughts are and use idea repair as needed–the earlier, the better.

Photo by K2D2vaca

No Comments

Tools for Feeling Better, Part I

Handling negative emotions

I’ve mentioned in some recent articles that I’m doing my best to remember and make good use of whatever tools I have to make good choices. Some of the most useful tools of this kind are for getting past negative emotions: anger, depression, frustration, anxiety, avoidance, despair, and so on.

Here are five of the best tools I know of for handling bad states of mind. I’ll post another article or two in the near future with more.

Idea repair: Negative emotions that keep going even when no new bad things are happening are usually maintained by specific kinds of thoughts (as talked about, for instance, in Jenefer Robinson’s book Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art). Idea repair, called “cognitive restructuring” in psychology circles, is the process of detecting flawed thoughts and reframing them so that they become constructive and stop causing pain.

Mindfulness: A key ingredient in sorting out negative emotions and one of the requirements for idea repair and other positive processes, mindfulness is simply being aware of what’s going on both around and inside us. We can’t be mindful all the time, but there are certainly situations in which we become more sane, happy, focused, and relaxed just by using this one idea.

Meditation: Although some people meditate for spiritual reasons, others do it just for the immediate personal payoff in serenity, self-awareness, and clarity. It’s not difficult to get started.

Understanding schemas: Mental schemas are flawed patterns of thinking and behavior that are usually learned when we are young but stick with us into adulthood, often causing trouble for us on a daily basis. There are a variety of them, including, for example, Abandonment, Mistrust, and Emotional deprivation. If we find any schemas in ourselves, we can learn to understand and overcome those schemas, clearing away a lot of emotional drag and clutter in the process.

Emotional antidotes: Buddhist inquiry into human emotion, which is a time-honored and conscientious tradition, has come up with some kinds of emotional experiences that can be used to reverse negative emotions. I explain something of how this works in my article “Antidotes to bad moods and negative emotions.”

For more tools, see the follow-up articles: Part II and Part III.

Photo by Michael Flick

No Comments
« Older Posts
Newer Posts »


%d bloggers like this: