Restructuring Dysfunctional Thoughts
Outside of our awareness we often engage an internal conversations with ourselves throughout the day. Unless we’re trained to observe these conversations, however, we don’t even realize we’re having them! For example, imagine looking in the mirror at yourself. What’s the first thing you think when you look at yourself? That thought is a part of your internal conversation. Having these kinds of conversations with yourself is perfectly normal and in fact, everybody does it. What becomes dysfunctional is when we let these conversations take on a life of their own. For example, if you think something like, “I’m stupid and lazy and nobody cares about me,” that’s an example of dysfunctional thinking. Your thoughts have taken on an unhealthy position, one that works against you instead of for you. Psychologists say that these thoughts are “irrational,” because they have little or no real basis in reality. For example, the reality is that most everyone is cared about by someone even if they’re no longer with us, and that we can certainly care about ourselves.
It is exactly these kinds of dysfunctional thoughts that you can come to observe as you go through your day. It may be helpful for you to keep a log of the thoughts, write down the day and time you had it, the thought itself, and the type of dysfunctional thought from the list of dysfunctional thinking categories already mentioned. As you learn to better identify them, you can then learn how to start answering them back with structuring statements. Using this technique, you can work to turn your internal conversation back to being healthy.