The Thought Model

What if you possessed the ability to completely control your emotions by shifting your perceptions? 

Just Imagine the limitless possibilities if you were able to free yourself from unnecessary burdensome thoughts.  Sounds like something straight out of Jedi training or Hogwarts curriculum?  Well, this power has a name, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and it is much more achievable than you may think.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an amazing tool because you can learn it once, utilize it an infinite number of times, and it will NEVER stop working.  CBT involves identifying thoughts that are causing you to feel a certain way.  From here, we can evaluate how this feeling is driving us to act in a certain way, which ultimately gives us our result.


Anything that is causing us to have a thought is a circumstance.  A circumstance can be a pretty much anything.  It can be a person, a place, a thing, a phrase, etc.  The thought that we generate regarding the circumstance creates our feeling.  Our feeling drives our action or inaction, and our action gives us our result. We often call the interaction between Thoughts, Feelings, and Actions/Behaviors the Cognitive Triangle.


Once we can understand the basis for this thought model, we can then use it in so many ways.  When I start working with a client, one of the first things that I recommend is for them to download their thoughts on a daily basis.  I encourage them to write or type for 5-10 minutes each day without holding back.  A thought download can be thought of like a brain cleanse.  We are getting all of the junk out.  From our thought download, we can identify circumstances that are creating thoughts that need to be evaluated. 


A bit more on circumstances.  Circumstances are neutral- plain and simple.  It is our thoughts around the circumstance that are not neutral.  I will say this again.  A circumstance is neutral no matter what.  Some clients are shocked when they learn that their recent divorce is a NEUTRAL circumstance.  Do you see?  The circumstance is 100% neutral, it is up to us to decide how we want to think about it. 


Thoughts are what create our feelings.  We can easily generate automatic negative thoughts that cause us to have uncomfortable feelings.  Let’s be honest, we do not like uncomfortable feelings.  Most of us are not taught to process these feelings.  Instead of being told, “it’s ok to feel this way.”  We may have been told things like, “it can always be worse.” 


When we don’t know how to process a negative emotion, we often turn towards bad habits in order to make ourselves feel better.  We use food, alcohol, excessive shopping, and other activities to buffer the negative feeling.  This is where the downward spiral begins. 


In the moment, a buffering behavior relieves our uncomfortable feeling because typically it causes a big dopamine hit.  Dopamine makes us feel good.  The problem is that our brains develop strong neuroplasticity which trains us to adopt a bad habit to counter a negative emotion. 


Overtime, when we feel a negative emotion, our brain knows what to eat or drink or buy to give us some dopamine. We are then numb from the negative emotion temporarily, but as soon as the dopamine surge is complete, we return right back to square one. 


Now, we have our initial negative emotion plus additional negative emotions from the negative self talk for scolding ourselves of repeating a bad behavior.  Make sense?


Here is the punch line.  If we do not learn to process and sit with our negative emotions, then we will likely use buffering behaviors, and we will keep getting the same results.  Overeating is a classic example. 


My client Sandy often feels restless.  She finds this feeling to be unbearable.  She chooses not to feel this feeling and instead eats 12 donuts.  The restlessness is numbed ever so briefly….then she goes back to feeling restless, but now disappointed and hopeless are added.  She may even choose to eat 12 more donuts to now get rid of disappointed and hopeless.  Do you see the cycle?


What it truly comes down to is if you are willing to feel any feeling, then you have complete power to obtain any result you want.  Life is a series of results.  Results that we have a lot of control over.


To get started all you have to do is be willing to admit that any circumstance in your life is neutral.  When we commit to this, we take back the power by eliminating our role as the victim.  A circumstance isn’t something that created unhappiness for example, it is our thought around the circumstance that did.  And we get to choose how we think, feel, and live. 


When I discovered that I had the power to create the life that I desired by changing my thought, I was forever changed.  I am happier, healthier, calmer, more understanding, more productive….the list goes on.  I am creating what I want.  I had the power all along. 


If you are a professional woman who has spent years achieving your goals, but somehow you feel empty and are too ashamed to admit that you have so much but you want more, consider learning more about cognitive behavioral coaching.  This tool can be learned once and utilized infinitely for a lifetime.