Irrational thoughts are at the core of understanding your mental illness, according to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT’s theory is that common mental health issues like depression are caused and maintained, in large part, by our irrational thoughts running on automatic pilot within our minds. “I messed up that project, so I must be a stupid, worthless person.” “I just argued with my boyfriend and feel horrible; he’s going to leave me now.”
We do a lot of irrational thinking in our everyday life. So much so, we may not even realize the extent of it. Luckily there’s this handy article that helps you to identify irrational thoughts. After you’ve identified such thoughts, it’s time to start keeping a daily journal. Keep it with you at all times (your smartphone is a perfect way to do this) and track whenever you have an irrational thought along with what you were doing.
Once you start identifying and tracking these kinds of thoughts throughout the day, then what? What do you actually do with all of that information or data?
The Value of Answering Your Irrational Thoughts
So now that you’ve identified your irrational thoughts or irrational beliefs, what benefit is there in refuting them? Well, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches that by refuting your irrational beliefs, you will be better able to “unblock” your emotions about your problems. It can also help you gain greater clarity about the issue, and be more productive in tackling the problem in a more productive manner. When you refute an irrational thought, it helps reduce the guilt — oftentimes unconsciously — we carry about the thought or behavior.
Refuting your irrational thoughts also helps to problem solve. It puts the thought and accompanying behavior into valuable context and perspective — is it really a life-altering issue, or is it a much smaller issue we’ve simply blown out of all proportion? By understanding context, it helps us be more authentic and realistic with ourselves. We are often our own worst critic. Worse yet, though, we often not a very fair critic to ourselves. Breaks we would gladly give to others, we rarely give to ourselves.
By answering our irrational thoughts, we become a more reasonable and fair critic of ourselves. We have value, and this process helps puts our self-worth into perspective. It allows us not only to move beyond these thoughts, but forgive ourselves for any mistakes we may have made in the process. Because, after all, we’re all just human. The sooner you learn that — and cut yourself some slack — the quicker you’ll be able to put this CBT technique into practice.
Refute Your Irrational Thoughts
Now that you have your irrational thoughts or irrational beliefs, it’s time to put them to the test. You have to test each thought’s rationality and purpose.
You can do this simply by answering the following questions about the thought or belief: