Sunday, November 1, 2015
"Putting the Lie" to a Negative Thought
If I don't "put the lie" to some of these negative thoughts won't they keep returning? Don't they need looking at? Isn't there any benefit to answering back? Or do we just say "hi thought, I am not going to pay attention to you"? I ask because I used to do these exercises that David Burns recommends: take the thought, write it down and then categorize it under one of his ten categories of irrational thoughts and "put the lie to it.”
Any attention you give a negative thought makes it stronger.
The exercise that David Burns uses is a good example of cognitive therapy, changing rational thinking for irrational, emotional thinking. But "putting the lie" to an irrational thought can never erase it. All you can do is keep doing the exercise when the thought pops up. Once you think a thought, it is forever in your memory banks. However, the less you think any thought, the less powerful it is.
David Burns' exercise is good because doing the "putting the lie" exercise is certainly better than thinking the negative thought. But once you understand how the mind works you can see that the exercise is, in a way, just going around in circles. Once you decide that any negative thought is no longer an option, you needn't put the lie to it (which, because the brain works by learned association, can even make the negative thought stronger). The most efficient thing to do is simply turn away from the negative thought, give it no more energy and proceed to think a different, more positive, objective, or productive thought which sets you going ahead in the right way with your day. Even a nonsense thought keeps you from thinking a negative thought. And from the nonsense thought you can move on to more productive thinking.