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As we go through life we are carrying on a constant dialog in our head much like the stock ticker tape running across Wall Street. Many of these thoughts unconsciously just pop into our heads. Cognitive Theorist, Aaron Beck, refers to these as “automatic thoughts”. They can distort our thinking because of their unique characteristics:
Spontaneous: they appear to just pop into your head
Shorthand: the thoughts are composed of few words and/or a brief visual.
Unconditionally accepted: no matter how irrational, they are almost always believed. Because they appear rapidly they don’t get analyzed for validity.
Language: automatic thoughts are veiled in distorted terms such as “should, must, and ought”.
Hard to turn off: they are reflexive and seem plausible, come and go with a will of their own and tend to feed off each other
Learned: they have been reinforced since childhood, but can also be unlearned.
It is this unique nature of auto-thoughts that often makes it hard for us to be sensitive to the feelings of others. We have already discussed the idea that we really don’t know people. When we consider that their thoughts, like ours, are streaming in and out of their head(s), it is no wonder we are sometimes amazed at the reactions of others. And, sometimes it is a “wonder” that there can be agreement over important matters.
Click on the link below and watch the short video on “auto thoughts”
Wellcast – Automatic Thoughts
Your Practical Application Work for this week involves checking your auto-thoughts. At the first moment of tension, after reading this, check your auto thoughts:
Describe the moment or situation.
Describe your thoughts about it (those which cause tension/stress).
Write a ¾ to 1 page typed written response and allow your self to replace the negative, irrational thoughts with a healthier response.