Automatic Thoughts

I got a sheet about automatic thoughts from my therapist yesterday and I wanted to share it. Our thoughts are created by our mind. They are trying to help us see and understand the world around us helping us to make sense of the sounds, sights, smells, events and feelings. With an event; we give meaning to the event and that leads to an emotion. We interpret these based on previous experiences, upbringing, culture, religious beliefs and family values. These interpretations and meanings we give events and situations can result in physical and emotional feelings.

If we think that we are in danger and won’t be able to cope with it, it triggers Anxiety and Fear. If we think that we are being treated unfairly and won’t stand for that; Anger and Frustration are triggered. And if we think everything is hopeless (I’m totally worthless, no – one likes me, and nothing can change) then Depression is triggered.

Automatic thoughts….

  • Can be words, an image, a memory, a physical sensation, an imagined sound, or based on “intuition” (a sense of just “knowing”)
  • Believable – we tend to automatically believe our thoughts, usually not stopping to question their validity. Thoughts are not necessarily true, accurate or helpful. They are often based on emotion (rather than facts), which drives our opinion.
  • Are automatic; they just happen, popping into our head and we often don’t even notice them.
  • Our thoughts are ours – they can be quite specific to us (because of our present/past experiences, knowledge, values and culture or for just no good reason at all) and out of keeping with those things, we make them seem all the more distressing.
  • Habitual and persistent. Our thoughts seem to repeat over and over, and the more they repeat, the more believable they seem, then they set off a whole chain of new related thoughts that lead us to feel worse and worse. They can follow themes, for short periods, or very often, throughout years and decades.

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