Before we proceed with learning how Cognitive Flexing can trump Stinking Thinking, I would first like to point out that Stinking Thinking in itself it is not at all unusual or abnormal, but actually a very natural artifact of living in a social world.
Because we are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world, we therefore from time to time either misinterpret and/or exaggerate the natural imperfections in ourselves, others, and life.
Learning to use Cognitive Flexing to trump Stinking Thinking is three phased. Firstly, become practiced at observing your initial judgment(s) or thoughts about stressful events. Secondly, test the accuracy of these initial interpretation(s). Thirdly, develop an alternative view of the event, which is referred to as objectifying the situation.
Please keep in mind that stressful events can happen solitarily – such as failing a test – or publicly – such as suffering a social mishap – or generally as in an unexpected turn of events in life – such as company downsizing.
Anyone interested in mastering this technique can use a standard Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) thought record form, which is available in CBT self-help books or can easily be found online and downloaded. For those individuals who prefer a more modern approach, CBT apps are available online at either the Google Play or iTunes stores.
A helpful hint when completing these forms is to do so only when you are in an optimal mood. As the Dali Lama said to Dr. Aaron Beck, the founder of CBT at the Goteborg Sweden 2005 conference of the “meeting of the minds,” “… we cannot see reality when our emotions are doubled up.”
This endeavour of learning to objectify undesirable life events is akin to the metaphor of developing a “big sky” mind as if you are looking down at this situation from afar, a term used by Dr. Ronald Alexander, a clinical psychologist who is also an ordained lay Zen Buddhist.
Please stay tuned for next month’s post on the synergy of CBT and mindfulness.
To review last month’s column on Stinking Thinking, click here.