Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Story of Your Life

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Story of Your Life

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Story of Your Life

The topic of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can seem cold and complex on the surface. In a broad, clinical sense it refers to a category of psychological treatment methods that aim to change our patterns of thinking. We can also think of CBT in a more personal context. For example, we may consider it to be the process of rewriting our life stories.

Our Personal Stories

Each person has a unique life story that is comprised of a series of events, emotions, lessons, and anticipations. It defines who we are, how we experience the world, and how we expect life to unfold in the future. Mental health problems can be deeply rooted in our life stories, and CBT can help us address these issues by rewriting parts of our tales. CBT isn’t a time-traveling tool. We’re not able to change the events themselves. The focus is instead on changing the ways in which we relate and respond to these events.

Becoming an Engaged Author

We can’t change the past, but we can certainly change how we think about it. CBT is more about altering how we write our life story, rather than what is written. The process of writing our life story is largely passive, although people undoubtedly put their own spin on memories (sometimes consciously, sometimes not). We tend to not pay attention to the manner in which we record, replay, relate, and respond to our life stories. We’re usually focused on the content alone. CBT helps us become more aware of the ways in which our “writing style” impacts the story, allowing for more engagement in the writing process.

How CBT Changes the Story

Our behaviors are directly linked to our cognitions (mental constructs, like thoughts, emotions, and memories). These cognitions contribute to the formation of our life stories. Mental health can suffer because of irregularities in the formation and functioning of these cognitive process. We may, for example, develop an irrational fear of birds because of a single bad experience as a child. If this fear is left unexamined, our life story would likely be framed in a negative light whenever birds are involved. CBT could help us identify the source of our fear (the first bird incident), and eventually to eliminate it with verified treatment methods. We would then be free to reevaluate our past experiences involving birds with a new perspective, allowing us to rewrite our life stories, one event at a time.

Right Thinking & Awakening the Mind

Right Thinking & Awakening the Mind

Where you focus your attention, your energy will flow in that direction or you may know this saying better as: ‘Energy follows thought’. These days, staying focused on any thought is no small achievement. We live in a time of emotional and mental instability and no sooner do we attempt to complete one project another one pulls us in different direction. The world is full of things clamouring for our attention; even setting the sound and haptics of our smart phones is a full-time endeavour. And as if that is not enough as we watch the news on TV there is a ticker tape of breaking news distracting our thoughts from what the anchorman is showing or telling us on the screen.

Technological Advances

Each and every day we sit back dissatisfied and stressed as very little seems to be accomplished to our full satisfaction. It seems the key to getting things done is being able to concentrate for more than a few seconds on one object. We have to relearn how to concentrate our thoughts without the modern-day distractions that keep us busy doing nothing. The great technological advances which have made instant communication and global connection possible are a wonder and very useful and convenient for business and communication. But there is a flip side, these wonderful technological advances keep us so busy we fail to keep our attention on one thing for longer than a few minutes as we rush to answer another email or post on Facebook. It takes a very special person not to become overwhelmed by the demands and distractions that are presented to each and every one of us throughout the day.

Mindfulness & Meditation

One of the ways to train the mind is through the ancient practice of Mindfulness. This meditation practice has become increasingly popular in our culture and is used to help focus the mind on the present moment.  It assists an individual to develop a one pointedness of attention that stops the distractions and white noise of the external world.

More and more people are turning to meditation to bring calm, focus and even productivity into their lives. It’s as if people are appreciating, they have a mind and if they can use that mind correctly, they will be a lot happier than they are now.  Certainly, with the mind in control and not the chaotic emotions we do seems to be happier and more balanced people.

Mindfulness advocates that no daily is task is too menial to not have our undivided attention.  With everything we do we use the mind to keep us present and in the moment. If we are daydreaming and allowing the mind to go off on its own journey of thoughts and fantasies we will get nowhere.  Keeping the mind focused takes will power but it gets easier the more you do it. It is not hard to learn to control the mind, we just have to choose to take back control. With the mind back in control, our attention is not divided, and we can achieve all the things we choose to achieve each day. No matter how clever we are, we have to make choices and one of those choices may be to take back control of the mind. This is quite a relevant choice as each and every day we create thoughts by thinking. Now the trick is, we have to decide what we want to think about. Otherwise nothing will get done and our thoughts remain a distracted mess of chaotic emotional and mental reactions.

Right Thinking

Right thinking is not just about accomplishments and doing a good job in the home and office. Right thinking is clear thinking, based on right values and a sense of good will. Right thinking is not clouded with criticism, doubt, worry or fear. Very simply, right thinking raises us up; wrong thinking brings us down. And we are not just pulling ourselves down with wrong thinking, usually we managed to drag everyone else into the pit with us. Who would want to do that to their friends, colleagues or family?   As we focus on right thinking, we help others rise up as they are influenced by our right thinking and decide to think clearly and more compassionately.

As a human being it is a great responsibility to recognise and appreciate that energy follows thought. If the energy behind the thought is negative, then we are having a negative affect not just on our own psyche but also on the people within our environment.

Thoughts are things and with each thought, and indeed each word, we are building, creating something. Thoughts are creative because energy follows thought and on the mental plane something is created and will grow if fed. Once it is created, it leads and conducts energy according to its qualities of right or wrong thinking. Our whole system (mental, emotional and physical bodies) respond to these energies. The nature of the thoughts we have determines the kind of energy that builds our life.

This reminds me of that story about the wolf you feed.

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,

“Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied,

“The one you feed.”

Pause for a moment and consider the thoughts you have about yourself. What wolf are you feeding? Are you raising ourselves up or pulling yourself down?

What Do We Want to Build?

The next consideration is; what do we want to build? What do we want to create? And how do we do that? Whether it’s something personal, political, social, or spiritual, we can create a great and wonderful vision and a plan, and we have the ability to hold onto it.  But it may require effort and only we can choose whether we have the right stuff to ensure right thoughts are the ethos we live by.

And of course, as we look to the world there seems to be so many problems that are overwhelming in their magnitude and complexity. We may become disheartened and think what’s the point, what can my little-self do to change things, the world is a mess I may as well join it.

Changing Ourself Not the World

However, we are not talking about changing the world we are talking about changing ourselves. Like each brick that creates the building, if we work at right thoughts, we ensure our particular brick is strong and secure. Our part of the tower will be safe. We will continue to influence the surrounding bricks with our right thinking. Eventually more and more bricks become safe as their quality is good and eventually, we have a solid tower that will stand for centuries because it has been created with the right stuff and is of good quality.

Are we prepared to work towards those solutions? Are we prepared to attempt to do what can be done with our own way of thinking? Are we able to think clearly and critical? Can we think in a detached way and with discernment? Are we willing to support other people, with our thoughts and speech? Will we work with them? There is so much to be done on the personal level. But the good news is this work we do at a personal level is already changing the world for the better.

We need to reclaim our thoughts and eradicate the criticism, fear and judgements that cloud our vision and minds.  We do that through focusing our intention on right thinking and awakening the mind to clear thoughts that are free of judgment. We do not need to meditate to do this, although meditation is a good training ground.

No-one else can do this for us, it requires our daily effort and endeavour to change ourselves. “This will not be accomplished by someone else, somewhere else, nor by any one leader or nation.”[i]

People believe the problems are too great and they ask, “What can we do?” The answer is simple, start thinking right thoughts and training the mind and the heart to think rightly. This is something we all can do, and we really must do if we want to live in a better world or more importantly leave a habitable world for our children and the generations that follow.

I will close with the wonderful words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

The idea for this article came from the Lucis Trust global Triangles Meditation program to heal the world.

[i] Talk given by Alex Ratcliffe: Right Thinking: August 7, 2019. Retrieved from URL:

Grieving the Loss of a Mother

Grieving the Loss of a Mother

With Mother’s Day approaching at the time of writing, this article addresses the deeply emotional and painfully challenging experience of losing one’s mother. Also, many people suffer from the profound feelings of grief that often arise on poignant occasions such as Mother’s Day.

Grieving the Loss of a Mother

It is, of course, normal to experience such pain when you consider the special relationship that you shared. But there are ways that you can alleviate and help to resolve this grief.

The renowned psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, proposed 5 stages of grief (Kubler-Ross Model) as:

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Just understanding and acknowledging the process that you are going through can be a large step towards acceptance – the sort of acceptance that says, “my mother has died but I will be okay’. While the order of the stages may seem logical, not everyone will follow exactly this order or experience all of the stages. But, these are the most commonly observed.

As the day approaches and you begin to feel dread at the prospect of a miserable resurgence of grief, be proactive and plan ahead with these ideas to:

Honour your Mum on Mother’s Day:

  1. Write a letter where you reminisce about good times you shared and tell her your life stories since her death.
  2. Tell your own children stories about your mum.
  3. Spend quality time with your own family on Mother’s Day.
  4. Reminisce with brothers and sisters.
  5. Be brave and get out the photo album and celebrate the memories.
  6. Donate to a charity in your mother’s name – ideally one that she supported.
  7. Volunteer and do something for others in need on Mother’s Day.

There is no short way to get over the loss of your mother, but you will ease the way by understanding the process and honouring her memory. And, while the old adage that ‘time heals’ is not completely true, the pain will definitely become more bearable with time.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is a modality that has evolved from Cognitive and Behavioural therapy. CBT has been shown to be a very effective way of treating depression and anxiety. It’s success has been demonstrated through all age groups. CBT has many tried and tested methods which the patient and therapist work with to bring about an effective treatment.

CBT basically works with how a person thinks. In CBT it is believed that it is the thinking that influences a person’s mood and behaviour. By learning to evaluate their thinking the patient can adapt their way of behaving and experience improved emotional and mental wellbeing.

At a deeper level CBT can work with the core beliefs that a person may have, these core beliefs may have developed from childhood. By modifying the way a person thinks CBT can modify how a person thinks. For example, a core belief of; “I am useless at everything’ can be adjusted so the patient develops a more positive view on their abilities. CBT has been extensively researched and its effectiveness has been proven throughout the medical world.

If you would like to know more, Liz McCaughey has been trained in CBT.

Or you can make an appointment online.

Coping with Grief at Christmas

Coping with Grief at Christmas

Coping with Grief at Christmas

During the festive season, it is not unusual to feel increased sadness when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. It is during major festivals that people get together and being with family and friends is a part of the celebration. As a result, when you have lost someone, the loss is accentuated during this period.  It is not unusual to feel sad at this time and allowing yourself to feel the grief is a part of the healing process.

Change your Thinking

However you can also engage in other ways to help you cope. By doing this you will be helping yourself, those around you and the family & friends who are trying to help you cope.  It may be difficult for you to celebrate while missing a person you loved dearly. Indeed, you may feel guilty as you believe it is not correct for you to be happy at this time.  However, that may not be the correct way to think: being happy does not mean you miss a person less. Of course you miss them terribly but that does not preclude you from enjoying, for example, a Christmas celebration with other family members or friends. Getting together with family and friends may be the perfect time to remember the good times and to laugh as you recall happy memories of the one you have lost.

Other things to do that might help:

  • Spend some time reflecting on the happy times you had together.
  • Visit a favourite place that you enjoyed going to.
  • Talk about these happy times with other people.
  • Look at photographs and remember the person with love and joy.
  • Write a letter to the person, letting them know how you feel.

Do not Deny What you are Feeling

The main thing is that you do not deny how you are feeling. Just accept the feelings and emotions that may be causing you the increased feelings of sadness. If you need to cry, then cry. If you find yourself laughing then laugh.  Just give yourself permission to grieve the way that suits you best.  Your family and friends will understand and so will the one you mourn. In fact if you could ask them, they would encourage you. Grief is not something that can be set aside to suit the time of year.  It is real and you have to allow yourself to experience it, in whatever way suits you.  If that means you find yourself celebrating with family and friends and enjoying the festive period as you celebrate and remember the great times past, then go for it.  It may also result in you crying at times, then that is acceptable as well. 

Remember, other people will understand the pain you are dealing with and will be there to support you. Don’t turn away – take their helping hand and allow yourself to be a part of the celebration in the way that suits you best.  People that love and care for you will understand and help during this  time of year.

Dark Thoughts of the Mind

Dark Thoughts of the Mind

Dark Thoughts of the Mind

We all know what it’s like to be depressed, but having a major depressive disorder (MDD) is a different beast altogether. Depression, in the clinical sense, is a deeply debilitating condition that features a number of serious symptoms. Physically, depression can severely impair our energy levels, making it difficult to complete routine activities. The psychological toll of depression can be understandably immense, as people find themselves trapped in an abyss of dark thoughts and emotions for extended periods of time. It can be an extremely daunting condition, but there is always the hope of finding an effective treatment.

Identifying Depression

Many people aren’t clear on the difference between being depressed and having depression. This creates multiple complications, as it can promote a lack of empathy toward the depressed while also preventing people from seeking treatment. MDD is diagnosed by the persistent presence of multiple symptoms for a period of at least two weeks. A depressed mood is one of the primary signs, but it is far from alone. Other symptoms include disordered sleep, diminished interest in usual activities, a lack of energy, a sense of worthlessness, and suicidal ideation. A professional diagnosis is required to accurately identify MDD, primarily because people suffering from the disorder often experience impairments in self-awareness.

Treatment Options

There are many ways to approach the treatment of depression. Medications are often involved, though it may take several changes in type and/or dosage before an ideal effect is found. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is also a common and often effective treatment for depression. CBT involves changing the way we think about things and is guided by a therapist using proven methods. Mind-calming exercises like mindful meditation can help us deal with dark thoughts by teaching us to move our focus away from bad memories and worries about the future. The best treatment option for many patients is usually a combination of methods, as determined through regular professional consultations.