Thursday, March 20, 2008
Therapy Is Awesome
I often get praised for my optimism and positive attitude by people who meet me, but it wasn't always like this. I had to work VERY hard with a therapist to break some nasty habits and emotional disturbances that emerged when my health problems first started to occur. Through a therapeutic relationship with a licensed social worker, I learned specific tools that contributed to my current optimism, such as cognitive restructuring and thought stopping.
Cognitive restructuring is the process of learning to combat cognitive distortions, faulty thinking, with the ultimate goal of replacing the false, irrational thoughts with more accurate, healthy and beneficial thoughts. Pretty much, it is changing the way you think about yourself or your situation when dealing with a chronic illness. First, you must be aware of your unhealthy thoughts before you can restructure your thinking patterns.
Thought stopping is the substitution of a healthy thought for an unhealthy thought. If I said to myself, "I will never get better," then it was my job to recognize that thought as it was occurring and replace it with a healthy thought, such as, "I will get better because I am doing all the right things to achieve remission." A very useful tool.
I still have moments where I struggle tremendously, but those moments are where the tools and strategies I learned in therapy come in handy. Practice makes perfect. Don't be discouraged if this does not come naturally to you. As my therapist would say, "Fake it until you make it." Soon enough, it won't be such a struggle to employ these techniques. Reforming the self is not an easy task, but if you want healthiness and happiness bad enough, you will work hard to make these techniques becomes habits just as I did.