I’ve previously written (e.g., here and here) about how people generally understand that
their Thoughts/feelings impact their Behaviour
But often fail to recognize how
their Behaviour impacts their Thoughts/feelings
In my experience, even very smart people need a lot of guidance to understand how these concepts relate to their own problems and happiness.
Here’s an example I frequently see in my practice.
Fictional client Sarah has low self esteem/worth and therefore puts her personal pleasure and self care last on her priority list.
Her thoughts and feelings (low self esteem) are influencing her behaviour. However it’s also true that Sarah’s “putting herself last” behaviour is reinforcing her low self esteem thoughts and feelings.
Behaving “as if” a dysfunctional thought were true typically strengthens the dysfunctional thought.
When Sarah is excessively self sacrificing:
– People become increasingly demanding of her.
– As hard as she tries, she can never completely please everyone. She can never win.
– Sarah’s sense of self and positive identity gets eroded because she isn’t expressing herself through her own wishes and interests.
– Sarah increasingly strongly believes that the reason people like her is because she is self sacrificing, and therefore the thought of not being self sacrificing becomes increasingly anxiety provoking.
In other words, Sarah’s behaviour is powerfully influencing her thoughts and feelings.
Take Home Message
Because of the multiple relationships between behaviour, thoughts, and feelings – the most effective way to change thoughts and feelings is a two pronged approach involving:
1. changing behaviour (Sarah can test how her behaviour is impacting on her thoughts and feelings by experimenting with new behaviour. She can experiment with putting her self care first and observe whether it leads to a lesser or greater sense of self worth.)
in addition to
2. using cognitive psychology techniques to logically evaluate dysfunctional thoughts.
DIY Psychological Detective Challenge
– Try to understand how your behavioural choices are influencing your thoughts and feelings (e.g. which of your behaviours are perpetuating thoughts/feelings you don’t like).
– This is an essential psychological skill that, once experimented with and learned, you will use time and time again when you want to change how you’re thinking or feeling.
Latest Media Mentions
– Thanks to reporter Marc Greenhill who quoted me extensively in an article called “Too Many Fingers Talking” in “The Press” Christchurch Newspaper. The article is about txting while driving. If you’re interested, you can read the full article here.
– I was also on Newstalk ZB with Mike Hosking last week talking about internet dating. Love doing radio interviews, they’re really fun.