Thought stopping is a common technique used in sport psychology to help athletes refocus by eliminating negative thoughts, but have you ever considered using this method throughout your everyday life? I hadn’t. It wasn’t until about three years after I initially learned about this technique that I realized it could help me in other situations, like my social, romantic, and educational aspects of life. It all clicked during a lecture on Cognitive Behavior Therapy in my Psychology of Counseling Class this last spring.
In Cognitive Behavior therapy they break down a persons reactions into a thought process following an activating event. It looks something like this.
First a person must encounter an event to activate a response, hence the term “activating event”. Let’s say for example, you are walking through a school or work common area and a friend passes you without acknowledging you. This is the activating event. Most peoples’s immediate belief, or thought process, would be; “They must not like me, or they are avoiding me.” Then we react due to our belief and we suffer the consequence of a change in mood or even a physical behavior in some situations.
In order to change the consequence outcome we must stop the original belief thought process and replace it with a new one. This is the disputing intervention. Let’s go through the scenario again using a disputing intervention. This time we pass our friend in the hallway, and again they don’t acknowledge us. First, notice your instinctual thought. (They must not like me, or they are avoiding me.) This is where the thought stopping technique comes in handy. Acknowledge the thought, and then think of a trigger word or action to cease the thoughts. Simply saying “stop” out loud can work, or try swiping your foot across the ground as if you are brushing away the negative thoughts.
Now start to develop an effective philosophy. Think logically of other reasons that could have caused your friend to pass by without greeting you. Maybe they are distraught over a situation that happened earlier in the day… Maybe they are extremely busy and while running through their “To-Do List” for the day they didn’t even notice you had passed…Maybe they just simply didn’t realize it was you.
Now take these new thoughts and intertwine them into your perception of yourself, relating it not only to the initial situation but your whole persona. In this situation I would think, “I am a good friend. I am caring, loyal, and go out of my way to do things for others.” Now I can let go of the negative belief and dismiss the incident as a misunderstanding and allow myself to relish in my new positive feeling. Worthy of friendship.
As human beings we take in so many incidences and allow them to serve as evidence for reasons why we should diminish our self-worth. We play them over and over in our heads and damage the image we have of ourselves. These thoughts we recite as we re-play the negative evidence become our beliefs.The more we say something to ourselves the more we believe it. Think of all the things in a day that you employ as evidence to your negative thoughts. We ingrain them into our values as we recite them over and over again. Our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, our actions become our habits, our habits become our character, and our character becomes our destiny. But thats the beauty in it, we can control our thoughts, and in turn decide our destiny.
Quote of the Day:
Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. – Frank Outlaw.