Your Thinking Precedes Your Feelings
Over the past half-century, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has emerged as the most widely used approach to psychotherapy. There are a few variations of it – with each tracing its lineage to a practitioner who was likely influenced by Albert Ellis or Aaron Beck – or both.
The big reasons for its popularity include the relatively short time that it takes to achieve behavioral change and the fact that is a strong body of research that documents its effectiveness. It has been efficacious in the treatment of depression, anxiety, pain, and substance abuse as well as a variety of other issues.
The basic principle that underlies CBT approaches is that one’s thoughts precede one’s feelings. Historically and even today, it is common for many people to blame an event or another person’s actions as being the reason for why we feel the way that we do. This can be seen in statements such as, “He made me feel guilty,” “She stresses me out,” and “Whenever we get together, they make me angry”.
When you hear yourself saying sentences such as these, it is important to notice what you are telling yourself that is creating those feelings. Rather than blaming the other person or a particular event for causing you to feel the way that you do, it is important to recognize and identify your specific thought pattern that leads you to feel that way. While that may initially be hard to do because the process occurs so quickly, which is why therapy is important for people who are very limited by their thinking, it is also a very positive way of looking at things. When you recognize that nobody else is responsible for making you feel good except yourself, and you begin to interrupt self-defeating thought patterns, you can start thinking differently in ways that can enable you to feel better about yourself and act better toward yourself.
If you leave home without an umbrella and get caught in the rain, you can blame the event – the change in weather – for getting you soaked. But when you feel guilty or angry or nervous or depressed or stressed out or upset, you can be pretty confident that your thoughts are a major contributor to that feeling.