3 Questions Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Change Your Destructive Patterns of Behavior

French philosopher Rene Descartes writes, “I think; therefore I am.” The mind is a powerful tool. How we think, believe, and form perceptions on situations impacts the way we perform on a daily basis. When we believe in our capabilities to accomplish our goals, we learn to motivate ourselves to keep going. Those are the good days we often talk about and celebrate. However, sometimes our doubts might be so big and detrimental that they get the best of us. This causes us to experience dysfunctional emotions and think distorted thoughts that bind us up instead of helping us move forward and progress.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that helps treat problems by modifying one’s unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It encourages people to analyze and change their harmful cognitions that fosters the idea that we all have the power to get better if we want it enough. Psych2Go shares with you 3 questions using CBT that can help you change your destructive patterns of behavior:

1. What is bothering you?

Does the problem pertain to financial, emotional, or physical stress? Is it external or internal? Identify the characteristics of the problematic situation to figure out what is that you’re working with. If you find yourself overwhelmed and unsure of what it is exactly that is bothering you, you don’t have to limit yourself to identifying just one problem.

If there are multiple situations going on that are troubling you, create a list of all of them. Don’t worry about being organized or if it’s not exactly coherent yet. Right now, you’re just creating a map of your stress stimulators. But until you can be honest to yourself and identify what is bothering you, you can’t move onto the next step. Remember: a problem isn’t the end of something —it is only the beginning.

2. How is your response to this situation overly negative, excessive, or out of line with reality?

Examples of distorted thinking are:

Over-generalizing: This refers to black and white, all-or-nothing thinking. For instance, if someone makes a mistake and lets you down, you jump to the conclusion that they don’t care about you. Or, if your morning starts off on a bad note and you assume that the rest of the day will go awry, then you’re over-generalizing the situation.

Mindreading: This occurs if you assume that you know what someone else is thinking. For example, if you assume that someone thinks you’re annoying, then you’re mindreading, because there’s no actual evidence to prove it unless the person explicitly states it.

Catastrophizing: You catastrophize a situation when you blow a small piece of the picture into something bigger. For instance, if your boyfriend or girlfriend tells you, “We need to talk,” you might catastrophize it by assuming that they want to break up with you before the talk even happens.

Fortune telling: This occurs when you think you’re so sure of something that’s going to happen. For example, you think you’re probably not going to get that job after the interview or that the next person you date will only break your heart. You try to tell your own future before it unfolds.

Ask yourself which of these examples of distorted thinking that you’re doing and apply it to the way you’re reacting to the problem.

3. What would a better or more positive response be in this situation?

Come up with a solution that can help you cope with the situation more, rather than being stuck in it. Would talking it out with someone help? How can you keep your doubts at bay? How can you learn to let go? These are all questions you might find yourself asking as you work through the situation to provide a more positive response.

Instead of just mentally running through these 3 questions, it’s more effective to write your responses in a journal or on a blog. That way, you can keep a physical record and can always go back and refer to them if similar problems arise again within the future. It’s also a great way to keep track of your progress and see how far you’ve come!

Does CBT work for you? Leave a comment down below!



Shapiro, S. (2014, February 14). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: 7 Effective Tips. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 20, 2017.

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