Have you ever tried to make up your mind about something and then found yourself lost in a never-ending argument of pros and cons? Looking for “the right” answer… Where you catch yourself thinking: “On this hand…” and “On the other hand…” until it’s all completely out of hand?
And now you’re feeling even more lost than when you started. Swamped. Confused.
I know I have.
Yet maybe there’s another way through all of this. For if world class thinking theorist Edward de Bono is right, the way you explore an issue is key. In fact, he thinks that:
“If you explore well, a decision makes itself.”
(And how handy would that be?)
So what’s he actually on about? And how might you be able to try some of it out?
I have a love-hate relationship with one of the major therapies endorsed by psychology today: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Both as a therapist, and as a client, I know it can work. It can bring fast relief in acute times. So it’s a good thing to have in your inner toolbox when you’re working with the challenges life can throw you.
In a (very small) nutshell, CBT asks you to question your thoughts, and the beliefs that underpin them. It asks you to have another look at the way you’ve got things set up in your mind. To see if the conclusions that it’s so easy to jump to in the heat of the moment are actually even real or right. To renovate the interior of your inner-most home. And it has a few user-friendly formulas to do it with.
Which all sounds great, right?
But something about CBT also irritates me. Because it seems a bit patronising, sometimes, to be sort of “taught” to “un-think” or un-learn your so-called “negative thoughts.” To sort of shuffle things around in your skull to just think a little differently.
Sometimes that seems a bit fake. A bit try-hard. A bit rose-tinted glasses goody-two-shoes to suggest that there are “right ways” and “wrong” ways to think.
But then I have to remind myself that there’s also a whole lot more to CBT than just hoodwinking yourself with word games and tricky thinking. For at another level, this seemingly formulaic therapy can also reflect elements of much deeper, much older wisdoms such as:
“You are not your thoughts”
(which I once heard spoken by a Buddhist monk on the radio).
What do you think about that idea?
How will you know that you’re ready to start? Once you’ve planned and perfected and plotted all your goals on a graph, like we’re so often encouraged to do. How will you know you’re ready?
It’s an important question, whatever change or dream or hope you might be facing. (And, life being what it is, it’s pretty rare not to be facing one of these sorts of things…)
So how will you know you’ve done enough preparing and perfecting of the plan - and when it’s time to just take the plunge?
Does the perfecting have a use-by date?
Or is it something you could get lost in the safety of and languish in forever if you wanted to?
Something comfortable, even?
Something that perhaps beguiles you with the promise of being able to predict and resolve almost any problem that may arise – before they appear, of course. (And in a universe of potentially infinite possibilities and permutations, is that even possible?)