05 Oct Challenging Our Thoughts: Is it True, yes or no?
Personality wise, we all have different thinking styles, and as a result, some of us are more predisposed to anxiety than others. Therefore, when we understand the underlying personality-based triggers and how they originate from our fears, we’re then able to put effective strategies into place to stop ruminating thoughts and anxiety.
At The Whitehaven Clinic we use a process where we identify an underlying thought and challenge it with a series of four questions, and three “turnarounds”. Therefore, allowing us to see the impact of what a specific thought is having on ourselves.
Thoughts gather momentum, much like a train setting out from a station. It takes some time for it to gather momentum, but when it does, it’s hard to slow down again. This is because once our thoughts have gathered considerable momentum, we activate our fear response.
Our fear is further activated because we cannot see the thoughts – we just keep thinking them and the story keeps growing in our head. So, the very first step to reduce and slow down our thoughts is to write down what we keep on thinking.
For example, “I am stupid”, “my mother abandoned me”, “Tracey betrayed me”, “I can’t believe that I was dumb enough to believe John”, etc.
Once we see our thoughts written down, already the anxiety starts to dissipate. When we write it down, it does something magical. It allows us to see what we’re thinking and we can start to challenge or query it.
The first question we then ask is, “Is it true? Yes or no”. This is designed to automatically cut off the story that supports the thoughts you keep having rather than continuing the momentum of our thoughts.
And notice how our brain immediately tries to go into justification mode and run through storylines about how it is true. 99% of the time when we query if it’s true, the answer is no, it’s not true.
Yet when we ask Question 2, which is, “can I absolutely know that it’s true. Am I 100% certain?“ Suddenly, we’re not so sure because logic and reason starts to set in. We can’t give the guarantee and we start to doubt the rigidity of our thought.
Now, it’s really not that important whether the thought is true or not true. And it’s definitely not a judgement about the thought. Rather, we’re looking at the impact that having that thought has on us.
So, Question 3 is then “what impact does that thought have on me?”
Usually, you will find that the thought has a negative impact and puts me into a mindset that I don’t want to be in. It may give me anxiety, make me angry, increase feelings of panic, increase my heart rate, my thoughts speed up, etc.
So, then we look at Question 4, which is, “who am I without the thought?” We start to realise that without the thought we’re a lot calmer, happier, relaxed and not angry any more. We’re more accepting and receptive and listening and grounded and we relax. In other words, we feel a lot better.
At the clinic, guided by an experienced facilitator, our clients are then guided through a turnaround process. This involves looking at different perspectives of the thought so that we can start to see what the truth actually is and how we can address it. Learning how to harness our thoughts, and slow momentum of our thoughts, is one of the most powerful transformational tools we can learn.
If you would like more information on our sessions, courses and counselling, please just get in touch.