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?
What’s your relationship with perfectionism like?
Does it sometimes storm in wielding a red pen?
Does it make it hard for you to even begin things sometimes, knowing that it’s waiting to judge you?
Or have you learned to negotiate with it?
There’s something that’s always struck me as a little strange about perfectionism. It assumes completion – that a thing can be finished. Whole. Over. Done. So in a world where it seems that ‘the only constant is change’, perfectionism demands a static ending.
It wants the destination over the journey…
That’s so different from this little handwritten note on an otherwise blank noticeboard in a stiflingly, clinically (‘perfectly’) refurbished waiting room:
“I’m a work in progress”
So how do you want to approach your life?
‘The Truth,’ we’re told, is ‘out there.’
But what if it’s more complex than that?
What if there are multiple truths in our lives? Multiple versions of our stories, many ways of seeing ourselves (and others), myriad points of view, and countless ways of understanding events?
And what if we don’t even have to choose ‘the right one’ among them?