You’ve worked with your therapist to isolate the thoughts and emotions that are kicking you around in your life. You’ve probably spent a few sessions discussing how you feel, what brings on certain thoughts, and beginning to understand how those drive your actions.
Stress about paying bills? Let’s just stack those bills off to the side and handle them when we have time. (By which we mean we will then forget them until they’re on our credit report and screwing up far too much in our lives.)
Fear of speaking in public? Never take any opportunity that requires you to do so.
Worried someone will break your heart? Find every flaw in anyone who dares take an interest in you, or convince yourself not to approach anyone who catches your eye.
These actions look obviously self-defeating when we see them written out this way, don’t they? But without sorting through the thoughts and emotions that drive those actions, it’s hard to see what’s happening.
Perhaps you’ve looked at the bills. You’ve identified feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and feeling as if you can never pay them all. Maybe it’s enough fear that you’re suddenly buying things you don’t need or spending money in ways that defeat the actual goal of paying them off and having that freedom from them.
Once you’ve isolated the actions, you’ll work with the therapist to create a plan. Depending on the issue you’re addressing, they’ll have a variety of methods you can use to make sure this plan has good chances of succeeding.
Before the next session, you’ll track your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’ll evaluate what did and didn’t work in the plan.
Next week I’ll go over how you know CBT is working and when you “graduate” from it.
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