Although I’ve spent a lot of time studying psychology, and working in human services and mental health, I still find it difficult working on certain things and asking for help. For years, I encouraged parents and grandparents to seek help for their own sake and most of all for their children. I felt that then as an advocate and now as a teacher, I should be able to have everything together as if knowledge is enough power.
I don’t feel that anyone should feel ashamed for attending therapy or asking for help, but sometimes, I don’t always see myself in that category for some reason. I tend to downplay some of the things that I have experienced in life; some of which are almost too scary to talk about online for fear of being judged (read: or perhaps too scary to talk about right now). I think it may be about time to reread that book “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown…
At any rate, I teach psychology and yes, I also attend therapy in the form of family therapy/marriage counseling and I recently started attending a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy group with the veterans. The CBT group comes with a binder and homework. This week’s homework was on Identifying Automatic Thoughts. This means learning to identify that those thoughts really are automatic for us by separating the situations, moods, and thoughts involved so that we can learn to be more in control of our moods.
There are 3 levels of Cognitions. Automatic thoughts, intermediate beliefs, and core beliefs.
Some examples of Automatic Thoughts:
I can’t do anything right.
I’ll probably get fired.
I’ll never be successful.
Intermediate Beliefs (Internalized rules, messages or expectations in attempt to make sense of the world. The “rules of the road” about self and others.)
Heh, you saw some of mine above right?! It’s great, and I am supportive of others seeking help, but I’m not sure that it is okay for me to identify as someone who also needs help at times…
Core Beliefs: Very entrenched and rigid beliefs about oneself, absolute truths about how the world works, these are “internalized messages”.
ie: I’m incompetent
I’ve found that identifying these parts and separating them out helps me to find the flaws in these automatic thoughts as I often worry about getting in trouble, or whether or not I’ll be successful. Truth is, I know I’m not incompetent but it doesn’t always stop some of these automatic thoughts from flowing.
I tend to also have a lot of automatic thoughts around the house (My husband and I are temporarily living with my in-laws. I am finding that it can be extremely challenging living with another family and experiencing their ways of family life, habits, behaviors, etc that are far different than the way that I grew up.)
Another example that was given in our homework showed how there can be differing reactions to the same event:
Activating Event = Co-Worker walks by (in this case I’m thinking of my in-laws) without saying “Hi” or even acknowledging you
“How dare he ignore me!!!” – Annoyed
“I wonder why he doesn’t like me anymore?” – Depressed
“I wonder what did I do?” – Anxious
“Hmmm… what’s that all about?” – Puzzled
“What a space cadet!” – Amused
With this type of scenario, I tend to experience the depressed and anxious reactions, separately or together. I am also finding that some of these things are a bit deeper having experienced certain things in the past that these events trigger and take me back to. I hope that doing some of this work will help me to practice and find more ways to get rid of or manage some of these automatic thoughts better and ultimately help me to be more present and successful. Some of my goals are to be gain greater mental clarity and presence so that I can be a more caring, courageous, and compassionate caregiver, wife, and family member. I also hope to grow my confidence in myself and in teaching. (Yes, I have lofty goals!)