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.