Introducing Mrs. Lonely: How her core beliefs set her up for feeling badly and how she changed it.
In my counseling work I often ask clients to fill out worksheets using Cognitive techniques. The worksheets help clients develop greater insight. Often, what we think about life is deeply ingrained in us from early experiences. It is called internalization which I often describe as a process of absorbing messages that influence us throughout our lifetime. Children especially are like sponges soaking in every word and every attitude that comes their way. If our early experiences are mostly negative we often develop negative thinking patterns. Breaking those patterns is part of how therapy helps us move forward.
One of my worksheets asks the following questions. You can fill it out here (I will use mrs. Lonely as a sample):
- Situation (write out a situation that triggers negative thoughts and feelings):
Mrs. Lonely: A friend called to cancel meeting for lunch and didn’t reschedule.
- Feelings (what feelings surface within you in response to the trigger?):
Mrs. Lonely: Sad, lonely, hurt, rejected
- Bodily Sensations: (What do you feel in your body?)
Mrs. Lonely: Butterflies in tummy, heart racing, difficulty swallowing
- Behaviors: (what do you do in response?)
Mrs. Lonely: Eats a bag of potato chips, turns off phone, cries
- Thoughts: (What are you thinking about the situation or yourself?)
Mrs. Lonely: “I am a loser” (negative labeling).
“I feel sad and lonely therefore I will always be abandoned because nobody wants me” (Overgeneralization/Emotional Reasoning).
“Nothing good ever happens to me, so I know if I go to this party I am invited to no-one will be interested in me.” (Overgeneralizing/ Disqualifying the Positive).
- Core Belief: (What do you believe about yourself?)
Mrs. Lonely: I am rejectable
Completing this exercise can help you to gain insight into your triggers and responses within your psyche. If we believe certain things about ourself that is based on a mistruth then we inadvertently live out that belief with our choices. If she goes to the party she might sit in the corner looking at her feet and then leave when no one talks to her. This behavior will prove to herself that she is right about being rejectable. However, with insight comes the power to change. The next step is changing your internal dialogue (self talk) into something more positive (but not over the top). For example;
“Possibly my friend genuinely had a time conflict and it isn’t a rejection of me.”
“I can think of other times friends made me feel wanted.”
“I feel sad but it’s just because I am disappointed, It’s not the end of the world.”
“I am not a loser. I am a good friend."
No negative labeling allowed! You are awesome!