Challenging the Way You Think with CBT

Challenging the Way You Think with CBT
Challenging the Way You Think with CBT
Unfortunately, negative life experiences, stress and mental health struggles can distort the way we think and act. Below are examples of common thinking styles exemplified by those with mental health struggles.

We all process information slightly differently. Some like to heavily consider their options before making the next move. Others like to trust their instincts and go with their gut. And many fall somewhere in between. There is no right way of thinking - these differences are just another thing that makes each of us unique. 

Unfortunately, negative life experiences, stress, and mental health struggles can distort the way we think and act. Below are examples of common thinking styles exemplified by those with mental health struggles. By recognizing which style you relate most with can be extremely beneficial in becoming more open to other, more helpful conclusions about life.  

1. Kangaroo Thinking

  • Jumping to conclusions before gathering all the facts - often letting emotions get the best of you

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • Seek truth and check your conclusions.
  • Take a few minutes to process the situation. Ask yourself probing questions, such as:
    • "Why do I feel the way I do?"
    • "What events lead to this moment?"
    • "What facts do I have to justify how I feel?"
    • "Looking back, is there anything I would have done differently?"

2. Elephant Thinking

  • Small, innocent events can feel like something much more severe
  • Small emotions can very quickly become enormous

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • Take time to question what and why you are feeling the way you do
  • Asking yourself if the situation is truly as bad as you think it is and check your conclusions

3. Dog and Bone Thinking

  • When something negative happens, you keep "chewing" on it over and over (over-analysis)
  • This gives the negative thought more and more energy, creating even more distressing feelings about what has happened

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • Grant yourself the permission to let go of the past - show yourself compassion
  • Take time to reflect on your assumptions - asking yourself questions such as:
    • "Is there anything I can do to change the situation?"
    • "How does the way I feel now change the situation?"
    • "What did I learn from the situation?"

4. The Pack Mule

  • You often weigh yourself down with "shoulds" and "woulds"
  • Take on more than you can handle, often creating anger and resentment towards others and/or yourself 

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • Allow others to help you
  • Ask yourself questions like:
    • "Do I really need to take on something else right now?"
    • "Is there someone else who can help?"
    • "What would happen if I say no?"

5. Zebra Thinking

  • The world is black and white - believe things simply are the way they are
  • Don't often question things
  • This can make forging relationships and trust very difficult

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • Remind yourself that not everything is simply good or bad - maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle
  • Allow yourself to question your assumption - give others (and yourself) and chance to explain 

6. Turtle Thinking

  • Your innate response is to believe conflict is wrong - your fixed belief tells you that conflict is to be avoided at all cost
  • Often causes you to retreat into your shell and not express your opinions

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • Allow yourself to engage with conflict
  • Set your own rules for what you find acceptable for a healthy conversation

7. Porcupine Thinking

  • Old emotional wounds have left a lasting impression - often thinking about those moments
  • Often distrustful of others, leading to you pushing people away

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • When you feel yourself pushing others away, take time to stop and reflect as to why
  • Is this person showing you kindess and compassion? Do they appear to be trying to help you? 
    • if the answer is yes, remind yourself that they are not your past - they are not trying to hurt you
  • Define your boundaries and discuss them with your support system 

8. Chameleon Thinking

  • You believe that in order to fit in, you need to become what others think you should be
  • You waffle on giving your opinion out of fear of being rejected or not sharing the same thoughts as others

How to challenge this thinking type:

  • Remind yourself that everyone is different - it's what makes us unique 
  • Journal about what makes you who you are - your interests, likes/dislikes, personality traits, etc - help learn who you are and being proud of it
  • Find someone you trust and practice sharing your honest thoughts with them


Adapted from CBT Session 4 - Nicola Wright © 2010

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