It’s day four and I am flagging a bit, which isn’t surprising really as I have started many things in the past which I haven’t completed. I haven’t been near a scanner so I can’t scan in my Becks Anxiety Index, I will scan it in tomorrow, but as this blog is called ‘Therapy Everyday’, and the purpose is to show myself that I can use therapeutic tools on a daily basis and reap the benefits of this change, then I guess this is a great opportunity to use a simple tool that anyone can benefit from.
Let’s look at what I am doing right now, which is writing this blog post. Five minutes ago I really couldn’t be arsed and didn’t want to do it. In CBT therapy we try to look at situation s such as this as if we break it down into constituent parts, we can learn a lot about a person’s experience and possibly uncover maladaptive thoughts and/or behaviour. We call this situational analysis when looking at a longer timeline, but when examining something over a short or instant time line we can use a Five Factor Model. An example of this can be found below. Firstly, we describe the situation, capturing the specific timeline as closely as possible.
Situation: It’s late on a Sunday night, 21:30 (this is late for me on a Sunday night, rock’n’roll!) and I want to go to bed, but I haven’t completed my blog entry for today. I am at home, and about to go to bed.
Next up we capture my thoughts, feelings, behaviour and physical sensations.
Thoughts: “I can’t be arsed” “it’s no big deal” “if I start it will take ages” “I am too tired” “nobody will notice if I don’t do it” “I don’t really care” “This is typical of me” “I always start things and never finish them” “I have only been doing this experiment a couple of days and I am already it up!
Behaviour: stomping about, sighing, petulant
Feelings/Mood: Pissed off 4/10, disappointed 5/10, annoyed 7/10, angry 4/10
Physical Sensation: Tired, legs sore, hot, stomach a bit ‘churny’, thumb sore
There we have it; I have completed my five factor model. The next thing I would do with a client is ask the client to look at what we have captured and see if anything stands out as being important or noteworthy. When I look at mine, I am discounting most of the physical sensations as I am genuinely tired, my legs are sore from a Spin class earlier, my thumb is sore because I accidentally sliced it open with a razor blade this morning, but the stomach feeling is noteworthy because when my stomach isn’t right, it means I am not right. Whenever I am unsettled about something, I can tell because my stomach tells me. This is something I have learned about myself from attending therapy in the past and practicing being mindful and present in situations, and learning about myself over the past decade.
My behaviour is a huge signal that something isn’t right; stomping about and being petulant is a giveaway because I am not behaving like an adult, I am behaving like a child (something I am sure we will explore in future as I can be very childish!) My feelings are not alarming, but the feeling of annoyance stands out as it is clearly the strongest emotion I am experiencing at the moment, which leads to the thoughts.
There are a number of therapeutic tools for exploring each of the thoughts I have noted above, and most of the tools will involve disputing the thoughts in simple ways by asking questions like; is there any evidence for this? Or by simply changing the thought into a question, for example “It’s no big deal” would become, “is it really not a big deal?” or “How important is this to me?”
Using my thoughts above, and following my own instructions to pick out anything that really stands out for me, when I look at the thoughts I experienced earlier the one which really makes me want to slap myself in the face is “I always start things and never finish them” so I can think of no better place to start. A simple question I am asking myself when I read this (or when the voice in my head says this) is, does any evidence exist which would prove this statement is true? The answer of course is not. There is no evidence for this. I start things and finish them all of the time, actually on a daily basis. There have been important things which I have cared about in the past which I didn’t finish, and there will probably be things in future which I start but don’t finish, but it is factually untrue to say that I always start things and never finish them. If this is the case, and this is the thought which really stands out for me, sometimes known as the hot thought, this may mean that I am getting annoyed, my stomach is churning and I am stomping about being petulant based on a premise that is entirely false! This is not rational, and now I am going to give myself a choice.
- Do I want to continue to be physically and emotionally affected by a thought which patently is not true?
- Am I going to chill out and give myself a break?
The answer is I choose (chose) b. I went to the kitchen, got two ginger snap biscuits, grabbed my laptop, came downstairs to bed and I have now written this blog post. My behaviour now is relaxed, emotionally I feel pretty calm, although still a bit annoyed with myself (I mean, I know this stuff, how annoying is it that I am still able to bother myself even when I realise I being annoying for no reason!), but overall I feel happy that I completed my task and I am still keeping to my goal. In other words, in the 30 minutes it has taken me to write this I am thinking, feeling and behaving completely differently, and all I did was write some stuff down and try to be a bit more rational.