You are what you think. This refers to every second of your existence. This can also refer to your self-fulfilling prophecy, which occurs when you shape your identity, beliefs, and/or actions to conform to what others want or to how others perceive you. Cognitive Restructuring allows you to view a self-fulfilling prophecy which occurs when your expectations cause you to behave and think in either productive or self-defeating ways. Your perceptions about YOU will always affect your relationships, behaviors, career or academic choices, life goals, learning acceptance, feelings of fear, emotional states. Your thoughts can create immense joy, strength, hope, and compassion, or they can create sadness, anger, resentment, insecurity, and guilt. Positive perceptions and expectations can lead to positive results, and negative perceptions and expectations can often create very damaging results.
Gaining awareness and learning acceptance of your true self requires stepping into the unknown while continuing to move forward, embracing all emotions and thoughts which arise. However, fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to your true self. The good news is that your fears can transform into your strengths, but only after a gradual introspective process by overcoming self-defeating behaviors. Your thoughts have the power to create joy and hope or to create sadness and fear. When you can learn to observe each and every life experience, positive and negative, you will find that you become the wise observer and not the fearful reactor. You are capable of developing and maintaining the following characteristics which help you to live as your true self: hope, wisdom, creativity, future-mindedness, courage, spirituality, and personal responsibility. This is your true self. Your true self is continually available for use in your relationships, career, stress management, negative thoughts, self-defeating actions, and maintenance of your life purpose.
WHAT IS SELF?
The concept of the self was explored by Buddhist philosophers, dating back to the first century B.C., who believed that one’s sem consists of a stream of thoughts which provide and reinforce a stable sense of being in the material world and of an eternal stream of energy which persists throughout the spiritual world. Early Greek philosophers were also very intrigued by the concept of the self, to which they referred as the soul. Homer, during the fifth century B.C., depicted the soul as simply a representation of being alive on a physical human level. Plato, during the third century B.C., and Aristotle, during the fifth century B.C., viewed the soul as being a more complex representation of all living things, material and immaterial. Harmony, love, strife, morality, learning acceptance, and reason were, according to Aristotle, the elements of human bodily existence which perpetuated individuals toward particular social systems, which, in turn, redefined these elements of the self. Both Plato and Aristotle proposed that individual thinkers cannot be truly understood apart from the social and political systems within which they live and to which they react.
Such early philosophical concepts of the soul can be seen in modern developmental contextualist theories which view the self as both acting in a purposeful manner upon others and being influenced by others in one’s social environment. As early as infancy, your sense of self is influenced heavily by how others treat you, by the life experiences which have created both pride and insecurity, and by the hopes and goals which you have for your present and your future which can influence self-defeating actions. Your social self, or looking-glass self, is the part of the self which acts with reference to others and is immediately conscious of others’ reactions to you. Your social self can have a great impact upon your overall sense of self and learning acceptance, in that your perceived worth or credibility is often shaped by the verbal and nonverbal responses from others and can become internalized into your sense of “who I am.”
First, the Holistic-Dynamic approach assists you in clarifying goals in various aspects of your life and in building up your internal motivation to fulfill different needs aimed at personal well-being and the pursuit of your true self. Holisticrefers to understanding yourself as a combination of many aspects: thoughts, feelings, actions, and experiences with others. Dynamic refers to your capacity for ongoing change and growth. According to this approach, your motivation can only be understood by deeply exploring several key aspects of your life history and current functioning patterns. These key aspects are your past experiences, your family relationships, your peer relationships, your romantic relationships, you career goals and current satisfaction with your work environment, your primary values, your mood states, your coping skills, your positive and negative behavioral patterns, and your predominant thoughts which guide your behaviors.
Secondly, Cognitive Restructuring is another effective therapeutic technique, which can be used alone or in conjunction with medication therapy. Through this process, you learn how to navigate through anxiety-provoking or emotionally painful memories and thoughts to move forward with increased self-awareness and self-acceptance. You can gain a sense of empowerment over your ruminating thoughts and the debilitating emotions caused by these thoughts. While this process requires motivation and perseverance, it can help you to develop valuable skills which provide resilience when confronted with life’s challenges. Cognitive Restructuring focuses on revising self-defeating thoughts and creating and following a structured and proactive behavioral plan. This approach also teaches thought-replacement strategies for managing anxiety and encourages the use of a daily journal between therapy sessions as a tool for your individual growth. Most importantly, the lifelong payoff of this approach is your movement toward more accurate, balanced thoughts and beliefs in relation to any stressful external events.
Negative thoughts and emotions have historically been construed as parts of our personality to avoid, deny, or hide. Negative thoughts which create disrupting emotions, such as shame, self-defeating thoughts, regret, guilt, inadequacy, disappointment, anger, frustration, and fear can be transformed into more rational, empowering, and managed thoughts. You can do this simply by acknowledging all of your thoughts and emotions as real and valid but also as often counterproductive to completing daily tasks, wasteful of your daily mental energy, and damaging to your interpersonal and work relationships. By not trying to escape from your insecurities and fears, you will gradually gain a sense of freedom from past traumas and other negative life experiences with the help of Cognitive Restructuring.
Written by New Age Psychiatry’s Compassionate Therapist: Rebecca Wang-Harris PhD
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