Monday, 14 March 2016

Dear Thoughts

Dear Thoughts,

I'm reading this book at the moment. It's called 'The Feeling Good Handbook' by David D. Burns. It's basically a self-help book that allows anyone who's struggling to try and help themselves. Providing a starting point to recovery from anxiety, depression, phobias, procrastination...Burns explains, in the simplest of terms, why we feel the way we do. Why our heart races and we feel slightly sick every time the teacher asks us to do that presentation in front of the class, why we haven't left the house by ourselves for the last ten years for fear or why, no matter how hard we try, we just can't seem to feel happy.

Damn those butterflies!
No matter what we do, or what we wish would happen, the world keeps spinning and sometimes we need to pause, take a deep breath and fix ourselves before we can keep spinning with it.

Now, I'm no where near finishing this book. Over 700 pages long and filled with activities and exercises, it's not exactly the best for my bedtime reading. So instead, I keep it in my bag and I read it, and work through it, during the day. As I travel on the tube I'll move through a chapter, writing down my own thoughts and testing out the theories written before me. When I'm not working and I'm curled up indoors while the sun is still up, another chapter. The evening comes and I put it down. Near my bag. Ready for tomorrow.

So, I'm not even close to the end but I think I'm starting to get the jist. Page by page, chapter by chapter, a theme is developing, one I've been aware of for many years but has been made all the more clearer by putting it down into words. The idea is this:

Our thoughts drive our emotions and behaviors.

I know. Crazy, isn't it?

CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A therapy I feel very close to and appreciative of as I'm currently taking part in it for the third time in around eight years. It takes the idea that any form of our suffering, our anxiety, our fears, our sadness is all based on problems in our thinking. It's not a therapy there to tell you that something is really wrong with you and that you're crazy but to say the opposite.

It's not your fault. I think about it, I'm writing to you, my thoughts, thoughts in general, so really, it is your fault. It's not the fault of the body that you live in though. It's you, trying to take over. Everyone has you, you're a part of everyone's mind but in certain people, people like me who worry that little bit more, you're a little more troublesome.

In his book, Burns describes how people who suffer from anxiety, do so because they have distortions in their thinking. Don't worry, I'll explain what I mean. Maybe if I do, you'll stop acting the way you do.

The idea is, that there are a range of ways in which we take our thoughts and we twist  them so that a much larger mountain is made out of a very insignificant mole hill. Examples of these twists and turns that our bodies create are:

All-or-nothing thinking: where we see everything in black and white. One tiny part of your day goes wrong and suddenly the whole day is ruined and you're a failure in life...get it? All that happened was you missed the bus but suddenly you're spiraling away with the idea that: 'My whole day is ruined, my life is ruined, I'm going to end up living along with ducks' all because of that one glitch.

Jumping to conclusions: Like it says on the tin, you've taken a situation, and how you think you feel, and, without any supporting evidence, run away with an idea and hidden behind a bush. This distortion is split into Mind-reading - where you make an assumption about how people feel or what they're thinking ('I just tripped over my shoelace and now the entire street thinks I'm stupid') and Fortune-telling - where you predict how things will go ('I'm going to fail this test and all my GCSE's, I'll never get a job and then I'll end up living with a whole bunch of ducks...or something'.)

Should statements: Where you use the word should or a sentence, putting pressure on yourself over something that really isn't that important ('I should have done those extra 2 days over the weekend that my boss asked me to do even though it was my Grandma's 105th Birthday and my wife went into I'm going to be fired, my wife is going to leave me and I'm going to have to move in with a whole load of ducks.')

Labeling: The use of a word, that isn't really a word, to describe yourself and make yourself feel bad or to blame someone else ('I'm such a loser, I spent the entire weekend indoors again with my pet ducks')...if you went to the dictionary...a proper one, not the urban one, 'Loser' would be defined as:

A person, team, nation etc., that loses

It's not a real word that can be used to describe a human being...A human being is a human being. That's all.

Getting the drift? There are more but I'll end up going on forever if I type each one out. The point is, these are all examples of how people take, you, thoughts, and re-mold you into a new shape. For certain people, every little thing that happens is magnified into a huge, mind-bedding, horrific, catastrophic, world-destroying, meteor-striking-earth level disaster. Someone takes the last chocolate biscuit and suddenly they're a Jerk, your whole week is ruined and you're not going to get that job you applied for. See? When you think about it, it sounds really silly, but when you're part of that world and that mind set, you can't see the thought for the distortion...or something.

Burns takes this idea, however, and shows the reader ways of dealing with these troubles and trying to help. By writing down each thought, he shows how the distortions can be eeked out and you, dear thoughts, can be dismissed before you start creating emotions and physical symptons etc. If we let that happen, you see, that's when real crisis' occur with people believing their thoughts, their thoughts which have created anxiety, their anxiety that has increased their heart rate and is making them feel sick leaving them now believing that they're ill, possibly dying when really, dear thoughts it's just you. having a bit of a laff.

Well, we can just laugh right back because, with every little bit of psychological research, every white coat and meeting between that counselor and his or her patient, us humans (not jerks, or arseholes or idiots but humans!) are being taught, step by step how to answer you back. How to tell you that you're just a bunch of blunders, of distortions in our minds and that we're not to blame. We're not to blame for feeling fluttery and anxious or teary and sad because it's just you, trying to take control but guess what?

You don't drive this body, dear thoughts.

So we're taking back the keys.

Have a nice walk, Yours Sincerely,


  1. I would definitely be interested in reading that book! :-)

    1. It's really great! \useful exercises and information about all sorts of mental health issues people might suffer from! :) x