A crucial part of CBT is called Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitions include our thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions.

Sometimes we need help sorting out our underlying beliefs and assumptions, which affect our behaviour and responses. This is because we are often not fully aware of our thoughts, beliefs and assumptions. The goal of CBT is to help us become more aware of our thoughts (beliefs & assumptions), which include the stories we tell ourselves and explanations we give to events or interactions. We need to check our thoughts against reality and adopt healthier, more realistic ones. 

By identifying automatic thoughts that go through our heads when 'triggered,' we can understand how these thoughts affect our emotions and behaviour.   

According to Healthline, "In mental health terms, a trigger refers to something that affects your emotional state, often significantly, by causing extreme feelings of overwhelm or distress. A trigger affects your ability to remain present in the moment. It may bring up specific thought patterns or influence your behaviour." 

A trigger could be a situation, a memory or scene that causes us to feel panic or anger or some other overwhelming emotion. For example, a crowded room could trigger anxiety in someone with social anxiety. Hearing sirens could trigger someone who was in a bad car accident.

Once these triggers and the thoughts that go with them are identified, the thoughts can be evaluated and exchanged for healthier and more useful thoughts. This is called Cognitive Restructuring, which has been shown to help shift emotions and behaviours from ones that are not helpful to ones that are. 

Consider the fact that people with anxiety tend to overestimate threats. Someone with social anxiety will tend to overestimate the likelihood that others will scrutinize their behaviour and judge them negatively. They also tend to underestimate their ability to cope in situations that cause them anxiety. By shifting their estimation of the threat, how likely it is that people will judge them; then their emotions and behaviours will shift accordingly.

Questions to Ask Yourself

What are my triggers? What situations, types of interactions, memories etc., tend to cause me to feel overwhelmed and distressed?

How do I behave in those situations where I'm triggered?

How would I prefer to behave in those situations?

What do I believe in those situations? What thoughts are running through my head?

What would be healthier, more realistic ways to think in a situation like that?

Foundation CBT Part 2