by Karen Hastings, Hertfordshire
Changing the way you think in order to improve the way you feel, forms the basis of cognitive approaches to mental-wellbeing. Cognitive therapies recognise that our thoughts can affect our understanding of the outside world. Depressed people (i.e. people that practice depressed thoughts!) experience the world in a different way to others. For example, they may perceive colours less vibrantly, food can seem bland and unpleasant, and safe everyday situations can seem threatening. They often predict bad outcomes from actions and events where others would expect positive consequences. A depressed persons world is likely to be experienced significantly differently to a happy person’s. However, to an observer their circumstances could appear the same.
Cognitive therapy and related approaches such as NLP (neuro-linguistic-programming) are very effective at helping people recognise the thinking habits behind problems such as depression, anxiety, panic disorders and phobias. There are many cognitive techniques for testing negative thinking patterns and developing new more adaptive ways of thinking. If you are considering cognitive therapy, expect to commit to homework tasks and regular practise of these techniques.
Negative thoughts are usually fairly easily identifiable with the help of a therapist. In order to bring about a more global change, it’s often necessary to go beyond the thoughts we have to the deeper levels of our cognition – our beliefs.
Most people rarely think about their beliefs, how they developed, their role in guiding your life or whether they are helpful and supportive.
That’s because our beliefs have often been with us for a very long time. Very often we develop them in childhood. For example, a child may learn that ‘dogs are dangerous’ or ‘dogs are friendly’, depending on his experiences related to dogs. As that child grows up, it is likely that he will become more flexible in his belief about dogs, able to judge individual dogs for friendliness or dangerousness. This happens in most areas of our lives, as the more rigid beliefs from childhood, evolve and become more flexible as we develop.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes negative beliefs develop due to trauma or consistent negative interactions or early life experiences. These beliefs often remain fixed in adulthood even though they hold the person back or negatively impact on their lives. Often they are taken as the absolute truth.
Beliefs form the core of your identity. Holding beliefs about yourself, your world and others that are unconstructive and not necessarily true, can be bad news for your self-esteem. Beliefs influence on your emotional experience and behaviour by colouring how you see the world.
Every belief you have is a generalisation or simplified way of viewing the world. Generalisations by their very nature are distortions. Often when I see clients for therapy it is possible to find a distorted belief behind the problem. For example ‘I am worthless’ is a belief, which promotes depression.
Your beliefs can actually determine outcomes. This is because your beliefs effect what you focus on or pay attention too. So for example, if you focus on being un-likeable, your unconscious mind will be on the lookout for examples of people not liking you and will find various ways to bring this to your attention. Whilst this is going on, you are of course ignoring evidence that shows you are in fact liked by all sorts of people.
I practice NLP, CBT therapy in Hertfordshire and I am also a hypnotherapist, Hertfordshire. People often come to see me with difficulties, which can be traced back to limiting beliefs e.g. “I am unattractive”, “I am a bad person”. Of course, it is not always obvious to them that they are holding onto damaging beliefs about themselves and their world, which prevent them from growing and developing or doing things they want too.
NLP and CBT therapy and Hypnotherapy, Hertfordshire has proven methods for empowering people to challenge and even eradicate illogical beliefs. The result can mean seeing the world in new and fresh ways.
About the Author
Karen Hastings, has a degree in Psychology and is also a Mental Health Occupational Therapist, Master NLP practitioner, and Hypnotherapist, in Hertfordshire.Karen has NHS and private practice experience of using cognitive approaches to support people in overcoming a range of problems. Karen is based in Hertfordshire. For further information visit http://www.karenhastings.co.uk.