How to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to level up
I spent several years working through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a teenager and a young adult. I suffered from a lot of depression around my work, my businesses and my creative life, and the experiences I had with it were immensely important to who I am today. I’ve been studying the concepts ever since I first noted the changes in my life and in the way I saw and understood myself, and I want to share what I’ve learned. I recently wrote a microbook called No You Don’t Suck: Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to Level Up. You’ll be able to access it through Creatomic in the next few weeks, but I hope you enjoy this snippet…
How many times have you told yourself that you suck? And I’m talking honestly here — looking in the mirror, thinking about an upcoming birthday, reflecting on what you’ve achieved and what you failed to achieve, the shots you made and the ones you missed.
How many times have you looked yourself in the eye and said, “you suck!”
I’ll bet more than once.
I’ll bet more than once this week. We put ourselves down more than we would like to admit, and not always because of feeling depression (although that can be a huge factor), but just because we have trained ourselves into patterns of negative thought, through negative cognitive behaviour.
In my experience as a coach, and a writer I have worked with hundreds of people to examine their patterns and their perceptions of themselves; I can tell you candidly that these patterns occur in the lives of most people, regardless of their actual successes and failures, regardless of what external achievements they have that we see as being valuable.
The software millionaire. The award-winning screen writer. The school captain, the athlete, the thinker, the published author with a body of work spanning two decades, the rock star with a platinum album under their belt — they have all expressed these negative patterns either consciously or subconsciously.
The language that we use, the way we choose to talk about ourselves, and the way we portray who and what we are to ourselves and other people can be dangerously negative, and become a limiting and self-fulfilling prophecy. When you’re writing the end to every single story before it’s begun by defining yourself by the outcomes that you see as being probable, there can’t be a happy ending.
What does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy mean for you?
Realizing that our actions, feelings and behaviour are the result of our own images and beliefs gives us the level that psychology has always needed for changing personality.
- Maxwell Maltz
Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques and applying them personally can play a huge part in changing the way you work, the way you live, and the way you handle your emotional life and your business. Let’s break that down; what exactly am I talking about here?
Here’s how Peter McEvoy from Curtin University talks about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:
The cognitive element of CBT refers to our thoughts, mental images, self-talk and core beliefs about ourselves (I’m ok, or I’m not), other people (they are generally friendly or they’re not) and the world around us (the future is bright or it’s not).
The more threatening our thoughts (I’m going to be criticised), the more anxious we will feel. The more hopeless we believe the future is (there’s no point), the more depressed we will feel. The more strongly we believe things should be different (the world must not be this way!), the more frustrated and angry we will feel.
The way we think is guided by what we pay attention to (a tendency to focus on negative things?), the way we interpret what is happening around us (seeing the glass half-full?) and the experiences we are most likely to remember (such as the times things went bad rather than the times things went well).
Mental images. Self-talk. Core beliefs. The way we refer to ourselves and build up our belief systems about who we are. When these are negative, when our cognitive behaviours — the behaviours around how we understand ourselves — are negative, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, when I was at my lowest point, my cognitive behaviour was based around my understanding of myself as being:
- Somebody who was a loser who couldn’t ever ~win
- Somebody who was unable to commit
- Somebody who did not have the ability to focus
- Somebody who did not have a personality, just a collection of ideas I’d stolen from other people
These negative ideas about myself were enhanced and deepened by the way I spoke about who I was, both internally and externally. When I spoke to other people, I would let this behaviour influence everything I said. How had I been feeling lately? Just okay. How was my business doing? Yeah, it was fine. What was new? Nothing really. All of these negative, passive commentaries and responses were based on these negative ideas about myself.
The CBT techniques I’m going to get into right here were first applied, with me, by my own therapist and coach, which helped me to take a step back from the way I discussed myself (with myself and others). Let’s dive in.
I’m going to talk about some of the CBT work that you can work on applying personally, in your own business and life. But I want to begin by getting into the greatest danger that unhelpful thoughts and the cognitive dissonance that go with them can present. This is from the Psychologist Richard G. Moore in his book on CBT:
Many acutely depressed patients spend significant stretches of time doing little other than sitting thinking about their problems. Inactivity and reduced levels of motivation in acute depression are important targets for cognitive therapy.
In the cognitive model of depression), reduced levels of activity are assumed to exist in a vicious circle with low mood and negative biases in the patient’s thinking. When the patient’s mood is low, their thinking about any endeavour becomes dominated by negative expectations, and they are put off from engaging in activities that were previously satisfying.
As the patient ceases to do things that they previously found rewarding, the reduction in levels of satisfaction or positive reinforcement directly contributes to low mood. Moreover, reductions in activity can then provide fodder for more negative thinking: as patients reflect on how little they are doing, they criticise themselves for their ‘laziness’ or worry about their apparent incapacity. The negative thoughts triggered by inactivity can then result in a further lowering of mood and motivation, which limits activity levels still further.
The book is something I’m proud of. It’s been a journey writing it, and living it and it’s going live on August 1. The book will be released right here on Creatomic! Follow me here and follow the publication and you’ll be notified as soon as it’s live…I hope you like it so far :)