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Changing Your Thoughts Won't Change Your Life

Positive thinking has become somewhat of a fad - if you just look for the silver lining and think good thoughts, you will feel better. The problem is that this approach does not cause lasting change and can contribute to more problems by avoiding parts of reality. So why has it become so popular?

Cognitive restructuring is a fancy term used by therapists to describe the process of changing negative or distorted thinking into more positive thoughts. The belief is that if we can change the way that we think, we will change the way that we feel. This approach may be attractive to both clients and clinicians since it is relatively straight forward and caters to our rational mind. However, this type of intervention ignores the emotional processes that drive this type of thinking in the first place. We intuitively know this and can imagine this approach not being effective when we are upset and simply trying to think 'it will be fine' and 'don't worry about it'. In reality, this type of thinking may make us feel worse when we are unable to feel better despite our positive thoughts.

So, what will change our lives?

Reaching beneath our difficult thought patterns to the underlying emotional states that cause them targets the root of the problem. For example, if we have had a traumatic experience and now have thoughts such as "I can't trust anyone", trying to change this thought may not be helpful if the emotional impact of the trauma has not been resolved. Instead, processing the emotional experience which this trauma caused will help to release it so you are no longer stuck there emotionally. From here, an inner peace can develop which often results in a changed perspective, giving rise to new ways of thinking.

Neuroscientist Dr. Alan Watkins models this approach in his Ted talk below. He presents the argument that we can be at our best each and every day if we reach beneath our actions and thinking to deeper levels of our emotional experience to regulate our state of being so we can consistently perform at our potential.

If you are interested in learning more about how this approach can help you, contact me.


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