In our mind, thought against a situation or event first appears, thought creates emotion, and emotion creates a physiological effect in the body. At the end of all this, behaviour, reaction occurs. In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, this is called the ABC Model. In other words, the event or situation does not determine people’s feelings or behaviour, but the thought that appears in the mind against this event or situation determines our feelings and reactions. Therefore, our thoughts are very important.
Automatic thoughts, on the other hand, are thoughts that arise suddenly without being questioned, based on generalizations. It is even more difficult for us to keep track of them. Even if we realize these, we believe in their reality so much that we accept it without questioning, since these are thoughts based on the basic beliefs of “unworthiness, not being good enough or unlovable” that have deeply settled in the mind during childhood or because of previous traumas we had.
For example, if the belief of inadequacy is active, even if you receive a promotion from your employer or superior, the thought “I did not deserve this” accompanies the body sensation of tightness in the shoulder, and following behaviour; “your head leans forward as a behaviour against this good news and you leave the room”. Another example; you have a project to finish in a week, the underlying “I am incompetent” belief is active, your first attitude would be; “It’s too bad to ruin everything, I can’t manage this”, thought is “it is best to give up, I won’t succeed”, behaviour“ postpone starting the project, and tell yourself that you will relax if you don’t think”. Another example is that the basic belief of unlovable is active, you will have dinner with your boy/girlfriend and s/he is late to the place where you will meet, the first thought that suddenly appears in this situation might be “s/he is interested in others, s/he does not care enough for me, that’s why s/he is being late”, the feeling that follows; “Anger”, body sensations; “Tight shoulders or headache”, behaviour or impulses; It could be “constantly texting him/her, showering with questions”. As a result of all this, we are left alone with malaise, restlessness and not being able to live with satisfaction. Instead of looking at the situation objectively and acting wisely, we think automatic thoughts are real and we drift in the same loop.
We know that the beliefs that gave birth to all these thoughts, “It emerged when I was a child, it happened beyond my control, now I am suffering” and we know that mourning is not the solution. Our parents are nor perfect as they are human beings too, also both our family and our social environment may have contributed to the formation of these beliefs. Instead of looking for the guilty and getting angry, embarrassed or blamed, you can get out of the prison of these negative thoughts or core beliefs and experience satisfaction in your relationships and success in your job.
The shortest way to do this is to change your core negative beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs are
the source of the automatic negative thoughts or attitudes that come to the surface. The other way is to observe, recognize and transform negative automatic thoughts into more objective ones. Either way is possible with awareness.
Mindfulness is extremely effective in transforming these basic beliefs and automatic negative thoughts. Because when you develop awareness, you can transform these thoughts.
You can change these core beliefs by positive self-affirmation, self-loving, self-compassion. You start telling your inner child positive self-affirmative words. When you hear the judging thoughts in your mind while you are telling yourself how much you love yourself or any other healing words that you need to hear, you can repeat that it is not real and let it go. You can make positive self-affirmation by focusing on your breath in a calm and quiet environment, feeling one hand with the other, or placing your hand on your heart. Adding to the affirmations how valuable you are, despite your mistakes and weaknesses and remind yourself your unconditional lovability with all your aspects, or that you are good enough in business, education or any field, that you can easily realize your potential, that you do your best under the conditions of that day by repeating it systematically. In the meantime, please don’t be surprised if you have sabotaging judgmental thoughts against these affirmations. These thoughts that have been there for a long time and are not real, you or fact. As you make these affirmations, the sabotaging thoughts will disappear in time. Repeat these affirmations for at least 21 days. These affirmations are more effective when done through meditation. You don’t have to meditate. If you are not, you can gently make these affirmations and give yourself a big hug at the end of it. The change in your feelings will manifest itself over time.Take Care of Yourself
Take care of yourself, your body, your physical needs, and your emotional needs first. This is not being selfish. It is not wrong to set your boundaries, or share your emotional needs kindly with your loved ones. Likewise, try to stop postponing your physical needs during the day just for fear of pleasing others or fear of losing. Do not postpone them when you are hungry, eat; when you need sleep, just sleep. When you take care of these needs and change the basic beliefs over time with positive affirmations or when you start loving yourself, you will have enough love and compassion that can be shared with others. As you cannot share something that you do not have. On other hand if you become dependent on external resources such as your partner, friends etc. by trying to feed your need of being loved, you might feel alone or unlovable when they are all gone. The inner source is the most permanent and healthy one. The more you love yourself, the more people will feel your warm hearth and wish to spend time with you.Notice Automatic Thoughts, Step Back, Take Free Choice
Most thoughts are just thoughts and not facts. For example, you think that you must pay the bill today, and you believe in it so much so when you fail to do it you might feel guilty or upset. However, when such thoughts come, it is possible to take a step back, observe them as they are, and step back from the reality they create and make free choices. You might also think that “I couldn’t pay today, but I’ll do it tomorrow, let’s take a note so I don’t forget it”. This is a much more realistic and solution-oriented thinking. This thought will not lower your mood either.
Seeing that the thought that comes to the mind at a time is just a thought, and focusing on your breath again keep the mind calm, this also increases the ability to live with awareness. We don’t have to fight our thoughts and try to change them or judge them. When we get to know how our minds work, what patterns of thinking we have, we might begin to accept ourselves as we are without judging. Also we do not immediately get caught up by negative thoughts which makes us angry.Experience Calendar
You have seen how thoughts are effective in our daily life. Therefore, it is possible to realize that every thought is just passing like clouds and not facts. In any unpleasant situation, take notes about your thoughts, body sensations and impulses against the situation daily. You will notice that some thoughts always come automatically. Next time in a similar situation you will be familiar with this thought and might be able to say “Here it is, critical thought, angry thought, welcome and goodbye”. Observe and let it go without judging will make it easier for you to take a step back after a while. When you take a step back, you will be able to evaluate the situation more objectively and respond wisely instead of reacting. This will also prevent you from wasting your energy for dealing with possible problems that would arise if you reacted. Also, reacting will not create a long-term solution. It will relax you for a short time, but a constant state of thinking judgmentally will continue in the mind.
When you see thoughts, you can label them, like anxious thoughts, negative thoughts, judgmental thoughts, etc. Think of these negative thoughts as a bus, are you sure you want to stop and get into this passing bus and travel with negative thoughts; your life will take shape accordingly!
It is again thoughts that affect our response against the situations we experience and our feelings. What thought do we choose to invest in and shape our lives? Observe, notice, step back and make a free choice. Choose to respond wisely rather than react. Remember, what angers you is also controls you. If you are in control, you are not free.
When you do these mindfulness exercises with discipline, the transformations will be great. The life you want is waiting for you. For this, you must first be able to make free choices. So start over with
every breath and let your negative thoughts go, because they are not facts.