Notes to Self

Thoughts on psychology, spirituality and soft skill development for personal improvement


Cognitive Therapy - 2

Why do we feel the way we do? While Cognitive Therapy - 1 explained how our perceptions and thoughts are largely responsible for our moods and actions, it helps to be aware that all our emotions have a common thought pattern or cognitive model or theme. Learning to recognize our personal thought patterns that trigger our emotions is necessary to break out of a bad mood:

  1. Anxiety, worry, fear, nervousness or panic occur when we believe we are in danger and or perceive something bad is about to happen - "What if she laughs at me?", "What if this lump is a sign of cancer?"

  2. Anger, irritation or resentment is felt when we think that someone is treating us unfairly or trying to take advantage of us in someway.

  3. Frustration results from unfulfilled expectation. We insist things should be different - either with our own performance ("I should have been more careful"), someone else ("Why can't he wash the dishes immediately") or an event ("Why does it only rain when I don't have an umbrella?").

  4. Sadness results from thoughts of some loss - we believe we have lost something important and dear to us - failure to achieve some goal, romantic rejection etc.

  5. Guilt or shame: Guilt results from thoughts of self-condemnation ("I did a bad thing", "I should have helped" etc). Shame involves the fear that somebody might find out about what you did and look down upon you.

  6. Inferiority or inadequacy genrally result when we compare ourselves and think that we are not as good in comparison with others. "He's smart and rich. I'm just average. There's nothing special about me."

  7. Loneliness is felt when we tell ourself that we are bound to feel unhappy because we are alone and aren't getting enough love and attention from others.

  8. Hopelessness or discouragement occurs when we convince ourselves that our problems will go on forever and things will never improve. "I'll never find a good job" or "I'll always be alone".

One of the greatest misconception about cognitive therapy is that you should continuously analyze your moods and try to feel happy all the time.

There will be many occasions when negative emotions and feelings are healthy and appropriate. For example, when a loved one is ill, it is but natural to feel concerned; or to feel dejected when we lose a job, and so on. In such cases, it is often better to reach out to people for empathy and understanding.

Recognizing when a feeling is appropriate and healthy is as important as learning to change our distorted thinking.

(This article is incomplete and a work in progress.)