ANALYZING YOUR THINKING
So over the past few days we have explained how our thoughts end up affecting our feeling and vice versa. If you suddenly feel sad or unmotivated, chances are you have been having negative thoughts about negative things. If you feel happy, you’ve just had positive thoughts cross your mind. Negative thoughts are often referred to as unhelpful thoughts simply because they lead to unhelpful actions and unpleasant feelings. And that’s why you’ll hear a depressed person say he or she feels anxious or upset.
Every one of us has, at some point, thought about negative things that make us feel unwanted, sad, or anxious. It’s totally normal. What’s not normal, is not wanting to find a way to improve your situation, even after realizing that something might be wrong with you.
It’s not rocket science, to be honest. If you’ve learned that you have unhelpful thoughts and that’s why you feel emotionally distressed, it stands to reason that you should find a way to change those unhelpful thoughts to helpful ones. And how can that be done?
First off, you need to identify those thoughts and beliefs. You really cannot change something that you’ve not seen or experienced. Learning and capturing those unhelpful thoughts can be done with the help of the ABC analysis.
The ABC analysis
The analysis starts with identifying the ‘A,’ which is the Activating Event. All you have to do is write down that situation or event where you felt like you were experiencing a strong negative emotion like depression. When recording the situation, handle it the same way you would if you had a camera – only take note of the facts. What we mean is you don’t really have to write about who was involved, how you felt about the situation, or why it occurred. Just describe it in a simple way, without adding any ‘frills
Step number two is identifying the ‘C.’ C in this case stands for Consequences, and it includes feelings and behavior/action. The first thing that you do here is to wrote down words that you feel best describe your feelings. Once you’re down, start rating them from 0 all the way to 100, with 0 being less intense. Take a look at all those feelings and choose one that represents what you felt at that time. It’s also advisable to add whatever action you took, for example, going to bed.
Step number three is all about identifying the ‘B,’ which is the belief, attitude, perception, expectation, or thought. Examples of question that you could ask yourself include, “what exactly was going through my mind during that time?”, or “what crossed my mind before that event occurred?”
Write down all those thoughts and go through them. There will be that one thought associated with the primary emotion that you did feel during A. That’s the thought that you need to underline because it’s our ‘hot’ thought. Rate it on a scale of 0 to 100.
Let’s look at an example:
Jane went to a party and started feeling anxious. She decided to carry out an ABC analysis, and asked herself these questions; “What’s making me anxious? What exactly am I thinking?” She then went ahead to identify a thought which was, “I really do not want to be around these people.” If this was the only thought that she had, then the feeling won’t be severe at all. But if it is, there’s obviously a lot more that she needs to unpack before she finds what’s really making her feel anxious. Not wanting to be around those people at the part is just an initial thought.
How to uncover unhelpful thoughts
You have to be very specific when identifying unhelpful thoughts even if some of them sound insane or stupid. One or two unhelpful thoughts might not be enough to represent all the other thoughts that you’ve already had. Use the ‘Thought Discovery Questions’ to act as your guide throughout the process. They include:
· “What’s really bad about that?”
· “What am I seeing happening here, in this situation?”
· “What conclusion am I arriving at?”
· “… it’s bad because…”
· “… and what does it say about me?”
Always remember, the ABC analysis is the first step in understanding your mood and helping yourself deal with it.
Raquel Soteldo, RP(Q), CCC, ABA, MA, PMP