The Cognitive model

As people, we are constantly actively involved in constructing and interpreting our reality. An example of this could be how we think about, imagine, or remember a particular event. The situations we experience are colored by our interpretations, and therefore two people may experience the same event very differently. Our thoughts have great power, and through an ongoing inner dialogue, we comment on our actions and imagine alternative scenarios. If our inner dialogue primarily consists of negative thoughts, it can cause our mind to start a negative spiral toward anxiety.

In cognitive therapy, you therefore learn how to speak to yourself in a more constructive way, that lets you use your own resources. By discovering, changing and challenging your thought patterns, you can influence your emotions, and start seeing new possibilities.

Thoughts can be affected

Usually we aren’t fully conscious of our own thoughts. In order to influence our thoughts, we must therefore start by training ourselves to become more conscious of what we are thinking. It is also important to learn how your thoughts can influence other parts of your functioning, such as your emotions. The cognitive diamond is a useful tool for becoming aware of these connections between how we think (thoughts), what we feel (emotions), what happens in the body (body) and our actions (behaviours).

Example (anxiety)

To give you an example; if every time you see a dog on the street, you start thinking that the dog will attack you – and maybe even that you might die from the bites (thoughts), it can lead to anxiety and fear (emotions). These feelings will most likely lead to an increase in your heart rate (body), and you fleeing from the situation (behaviour).
As the model shows, thoughts, emotions, body and behaviour all affect each other. And it does not have to start with thoughts. It could also be that you feel your heart rate increasing, and that this leads to you thinking that you are about to have a heart attack, which then triggers feelings of anxiety and leads to you calling 112.

Example (stress)

Another example, related to stress: If you think “I will never get my work done before the deadline”, this thought will affect how you feel. It can, for example, trigger feelings of despair, powerlessness and hopelessness. You will also probably feel even more tension in your body. There is also a high probability that you will be so overwhelmed by what you have to achieve that you will have a hard time getting started. This in turn can seem like a confirmation that you can not meet your deadline, which in turn can reinforce the feeling of discouragement and stress. As the model shows, thoughts, emotions, body and behavior all affect each other. And it does not have to start with thoughts.

In addition, we are also affected by our surroundings, which includes how other people behave towards us. This way of understanding mental disorders is called a bio-psycho-social causal model. The model substantiates that the various aspects of the human being and the relationships in which we are involved are often part of a complex interplay.

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