Challenging Your Beliefs


Challenging Your Beliefs

Our beliefs are the result of the experiences we have as we mature. These experiences as well as the influences of parents, clergy, books we read and movies we see shape our beliefs. Much of the time our beliefs serve us well and allow us to deal with life's challenges in an adaptive way. At times, however, our beliefs can give rise to thinking that affects us in deleterious ways.

The list of irrational beliefs below, exaggerated for effect, are not uncommon. They can lead to thinking or perceptions (See Blog Post-Changing Your Thinking and Feel Better) resulting in negative feeling states like anxiety or depression. Are some of these beliefs your beliefs? Can you propose to yourself an alternative belief that might make your life better?

Irrational beliefs

1. It is a dire necessity for adult humans to be loved or approved by virtually every
significant other person in their community.

2. One absolutely must be competent, adequate and achieving in all important respects or
else one is an inadequate, worthless person.

3. People absolutely must act considerately and fairly and they are damnable villains if
they do not. They are their bad acts.

4. It is awful and terrible when things are not the way one would very much like them to

5. Emotional disturbance is mainly externally caused and people have little or no ability
to increase or decrease their dysfunctional feelings and behaviors.

6. If something is or may be dangerous or fearsome, then one should be constantly and
excessively concerned about it and should keep dwelling on the possibility of it

7. One cannot and must not face life's responsibilities and difficulties and it is easier to
avoid them.

8. One must be quite dependent on others and need them and you cannot mainly run one's
own life.

9. One's past history is an all-important determiner of one's present behavior and because
something once strongly affected one's life, it should indefinitely have a similar effect.

10. Other people's disturbances are horrible and one must feel upset about them.

11. There is invariably a right, precise and perfect solution to human problems and it is
awful if this perfect solution is not found.

Three Column Technique

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Three Column Technique

One technique to help you challenge your negative/irrational thinking is the Three Column Technique. Simply fold a piece of paper in thirds. Label the first column "Event", the second column "Thought/Thinking/Perception" and the third column "Feeling/Behavior". The technique highlights the fact that it is not events that affect our mood or behavior but our interpretation or thoughts about the event. See the example below.

1st Column: Event-I had a first date with Gretchen and it seemed to go well. I asked her out this week. She said she was too busy.

2nd Column: Thought/Thinking/Perception-She does not like me.

3rd Column: Feelings/Behavior-Sad. Frustrated. I won't bother to ask her out again.

So it's not the event that triggered the sadness, but this individual's thinking about the event. Note his thinking error-Mind Reading, making an assumption about Gretchen without much evidence.