If you’ve been following me for a little while, you’ll remember I opted to receive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a way of trying to combat my Social Anxiety. Today was my second appointment and it’s left me feeling pretty perplexed about the whole thing. Before I start, as a reminder, I’m practising a guided self-help form of CBT. What this means is that my therapist will show me the tools I need to use, in order for me to go off and start to fix myself bit-by-bit. This is not full on, one-on-one therapist lead CBT. Does that make sense? I hope so.
Anyway, after shooing away the usual doubts of “Is this really worth it? Should I really go? Maybe I’ll just cancel and deal with this on my own”, I jumped in the taxi and got myself off to the doctors. I use a taxi otherwise I’d get halfway there, think twice about it, turn around and leg it back home.
So two things shook my resolve before we even started. The first was that no-one told her I was there, which resulted in me waiting, anxiously, for a further half an hour and secondly on entering the room, she announced that she didn’t have a lot of time. Great! I overcame several of my own mind-games in an attempt to get me there and found out instead of the usual 45 minutes I would have got, this time was cut down to about 10 minutes. I get that she was probably enormously busy, but it was irritating and only deepened my sense of “Why am I doing this?”.
The session itself was confusing. I have a table on a piece of paper with 4 headings. In heading one, I need to write down a situation so for example “The Beef wanted me to go out for a walk”. In heading 2 I then have to identify a feeling that occurred as a result of the situation and then rate it between 0-100%, let’s say “I felt flustered, anxious and apprehensive – 95%“.In heading 3 I add the thought that I get, when thinking of the situation and feeling and rate how much I believe it, like, “If I go out walking, I will get hot and sweaty and think that people looking at me, will think that I look fat, horrible and ugly – 100%“.
Bare with me dear reader, it gets a bit more complicated from now on.
Now on a separate sheet of paper, I have a table with the headings “My thought” (call it heading 4) and “My % belief” (heading 5). Under “My thought”, I would write “When I go out walking, people will think negative things and laugh at me”. Under “My % Belief”, I would write “100%”, because right now, that’s how much I believe that thought. Now under these statements, in the first column is the heading “Evidence for” and in the second column, “Evidence against”. In the “Evidence for” heading, I need to write down the evidence I have for why I think that “When I go out walking, people will think negative things and laugh at me”. My evidence for this would be, “Last week I went to the shop and got dirty looks from a group of teenagers”, or “On my way to the doctors, the taxi driver didn’t say a word to me” and you carry on listing the evidence for. (In any normal situation this wouldn’t be a concern to anyone, just a bit awkward. With the way I think, it MUST be something wrong me ME that causes this.) You now move on to Evidence against. What have you done recently that would go against that thought you had? Something like, “I walked to the mail box and got a lovely smile from an elderly gentleman”, or “I took my toddler to the supermarket, and was told how well-behaved he was”. These are examples of where what I thought would happen, didn’t happen.
Phew we’re getting there.
Right. We’ve done 1 – Situation, 2 – Feeling %, 3 – Thought % on the first sheet. On the other sheet we did 4 – Thought and 5 – My Belief % and the subsequent for and against instances. We now go back to the first sheet for 6 – Revised Thought and how much I believe in it %.
What a Revised thought is (as it was explained to me), is a thought that I can come up with, that’s a bit more positive than my original one, and one that I can believe. So in my case, instead of “When I go out, people will think negative things, and laugh at me”, I will change it to “When I go out, people might notice me, but won’t think much about me”, then I rate it by how much I can believe it, lets say 45%. I could probably come up with a better thought to go on, but hopefully you get the idea. I create a new thought that I can believe in enough, to put into practice.
Then comes the last heading 7 – Feeling, how bad was it? %. I write down how I feel before I go and test my new thought. So I might put something similar to heading 2′s ‘feeling’, purely because this is my first time trying this method. The idea however is that the more I test out my “new thought” (heading 6), the more I will believe it, which will change how I feel about it and hopefully change my thinking enough that when I go in to the same (1) situation, over time I will no longer (2)feel or (3)think as I used to.
In essence, instead of:
The Beef wants me to go out for a walk. I feel about %95 flustered, anxious and apprehensive, because when I go out, people will 100% think negative things and laugh at me for being hot and sweaty.
a change in the thought process, should help me get to:
The Beef wants me to go out for a walk, I feel a little flustered, anxious and apprehensive, HOWEVER, when I go out, people might notice me, but won’t think much about me and I believe this 100%.
I sincerely hope this has made sense to any of you who have had a go at following. I’ve been trying to understand it as I go along, because I didn’t have a clue what the woman was talking about at the time. Explaining it to you though, has helped to explain it to me. I’d also like to add that the examples of thoughts and feelings I’ve used, are indeed my own. This is how I think and behave, which is why getting to grips with this therapy is so important.
Have you gone through a similar experience? If so, please, comment and help me to make some sense of it all. All comments are welcome, even if it’s just to say how impossible it was to follow any of the above.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – Part 1: Assessment. (fivesafellowship.com)
- Here goes…. (learningtobeabutterfly.wordpress.com)
- Brain training (cognitive behavioural therapy) seen as most cost-effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (sharpbrains.com)