As a cognitive behavioral therapist, I deal with people’s thought and behaviors. “No duh,” you might be thinking – It kinda even says that in the name of it…whatever. As part of that, I help people understand how thoughts might be hurting them. I help people understand that negative thoughts can be challenged and changed.
Thoughts radiate out of an individual’s core belief system. We each have our own core beliefs that have developed over time, through experience, observation and teaching. Sometimes the things that we believe are false, misleading or tainted in counter productive ways. Because these harmful thoughts just happen; it seems they must be accurate, but that isn’t always the case. It has been my experience that it is often the way people think about a situation that is the problem, not the situation itself. I want to share with the reader something I came up with to help my clients challenge their problematic thoughts.
I like to call this technique the “maybe trail.” There are some negative thoughts that can creep in to an other wise positive mindset:
“I’m not good enough,”
“I always mess things up,” or
“Things never work out for me,” to name a few.
Imagine a thought like that as a trail, cutting through the underbrush in your mind, leading away as far as the eye can see. The more often that thinking happens, the more developed that trail becomes. Now imagine yourself with a machete, standing next to that negative thought trail. It is your task to challenge the thoughts that are convincing you that you are less than adequate. With your mental machete, start making a maybe trail:
“Maybe I am good enough,”
“Some times I really shine,” or
“A lot of things do work out for me.
Each negative though challenged with a simple “maybe” begins to slash and carve its own path, drawing the poison from the negative thoughts. The simple act of investigating a negative thought and trying a positive one on for size pulls away half of the mental energy assigned to it.
Now, running parallel to the well worn path of negative thinking, is the maybe trail. By teaching yourself to challenge your thinking using the maybe trail, you are learning to explore options. You are learning not to take situations, people and reactions to things at (a negative) face value. You are also learning not to be such a downer at parties. I kid because I love you. Go get after being positive.