Cognitive Restructuring

This is a post from 2011!  Or rather, there was an outline in 2011 and I turned it into sentences last weekend, 10 years later.  I was militantly happy back in 2011, and without a pandemic or incipient fascism and with Obama etc. things were looking up for the better, yet I was on a mommy forum local to a paradise where some highly privileged people seemed determined to be unhappy.


I like being happy.

Sometimes there’s no choice about how to take things because some things are genuinely bad.  For us, that kind of thing leads to grumpy rumbling.

And sometimes you know you *could* fight being unhappy but you also know that the occasional sulk is good for the soul so you indulge.

But for the many things, there’s a choice on how to view what’s going on, especially if your basic needs and then some are being met.

Happy people aren’t necessarily the luckiest, but they’re good at taking things as they are.

For example:  Rejection sucks and often it is unfair.  But, as they say in LA, when a door closes, open a window.  Take what you can from the rejection to learn, using your growth Mindset (all amazon links are affiliate), make your paper better, and submit it someplace else.

How to cognitively restructure:

  1. Fold a piece of paper in half length-wise.
  2. On the left, write down the negative thing that you keep telling yourself.  On the right, write down the thing that is actually true.  (Not Stuart Smalley, but what is actually true.)  So when I was in graduate school, on the left I had, “I’m going to flunk out of graduate school” and on the right I had “Nobody flunks out of this program, they just graduate you and make sure you don’t get an academic job so you make more money as a consultant.”  This is a technique from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  Two good books on CBT are Mind over Mood and The Thoughts and Feelings Workbook.
  3. If you don’t know what is actually true, you can tell yourself the best possible story.  For example, I have massive social anxiety and it is important to remind myself that no, actually, most people are too caught up in themselves to be concerned about or even notice my own awkwardness.  Often what can be attributed to malice can also be attributed to incompetence.  Sometimes you can convince the other person of your story by coming up with a face-saving (for them) story if you repeat it often enough.  There’s a lot more about these techniques in the book Crucial Conversations.

Do you ever cognitively restructure?


11 Responses to “Cognitive Restructuring”

  1. Omdg Says:

    There is definitely something to be said for cognitive restructuring, and learning to do this while young, I suspect, will be helpful as we get older and the proportion of really horrible things happening to you starts to go up.

  2. geochick1 Says:

    I do this. Not the exercise you illustrated, more of a look at my energy around triggers. Sometimes I have to get the energy out (usually anger/frustration) before I’m able to pull back and say “what’s happening in reality?” It’s a practice. I wish I wasn’t so reactive (still, even after years of therapy and coaching), but that’s a practice too.

    p.s. love the restructure on your example!

  3. CG Says:

    I definitely work hard in many ways to look on the bright side. I have practiced positive self talk (“Is it logical to think that your friends all hate you? No, and there’s lots of evidence they don’t.”) for many years. Recent events have taxed my ability to shore myself up. I hope it gets easier again.

  4. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    My therapist encourages me to try and think of the thing that is real or true in opposition to the thoughts that are driving the worst feelings and it’s a real exercise for me so far. I need a lot more practice, I think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: