How do we diagnose the causes of our painful thinking? A good first step is just writing done what is bothering us. We can then identify which of the core painful thoughts we are thinking and come up with a more appropriate thought.
The following is an example of how I use the core painful thought list (see the Introduction to Self Help Page for the list) for self diagnosis. One morning I woke up and felt depressed and didn't know why. I asked myself, "Am I feeling low self concept?" The answer was yes. "Why am I feeling low self concept?" I asked myself. "Because I am not achieving what I should be achieving" was the answer that came to mind. "Am I feeling paranoia?". "Yes, because I think I'm going to be fired from my job because I'm not accomplishing what I should accomplish." "Do I feel pessimism?" "Of course, I am pessimistic that I'll lose my job." Before using the core thought list I didn't know what was bothering me I just knew that I was depressed.
I read about another approach to diagnosis in Aaron Beck's book Prisoners of Hate in which he writes about how he was able to understand a problem in marital relationship. He writes about a couple, Gary and Beverly. One day Beverly said to Gary:
By the way, I called Girardo's (a private trash collector), and they will remove all the trash from the garage.
Gary reacted by striking Beverly in the mouth. Aaron Beck writes that Gary's reaction seemed inexplicable. Dr. Beck knew he had to find out what Beverly and Gary were thinking during the fight. In order to find out he had them replay the fight. He asked Beverly to give the background and then to repeat her statement to Gary. Dr. Beck writes:
As he heard her words, his face flushed, he began to breathe heavily, and he clenched his fists. He looked as though he were going to hit her again. At this point, I intervened and asked him the fundamental question of cognitive therapy: "What is going though your mind right now?" Still shaking with fury, he responded, "She's always needling me. She's trying to show me up. She knows she drives me up the wall. Why doesn't she just come out and say what she's thinking--that she's such a saint and I'm no good?"
Replaying an event that is upsetting oneself and then asking oneself what one thought at the time may be a good method of self diagnosis. It may be a good way to understand conflicts one has with one's girlfriend or wife as well.
If you feel emotions such as hostility, hate, paranoia and so on and can't diagnose why the next step is to try and reduce or displace the emotions.
c o p y r i g h t ( c ) 1 9 9 9 -2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises. All rights reserved
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