Question:What’s a green thought for a kid who has a Cognitive Distortion and thinks everything needs to be fair?Thanks so much,Life is Unfair
Dear Life is Unfair,
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), we teach children and teens (and their parents) about Cognitive Distortions or Unhelpful Thinking Styles. For kids, I explain it as Brain Tricks. In other words, our brain tricks us into thinking that certain thoughts are true when they’re not true, and these thoughts are very unhelpful. Why? Because they make us feel sad, angry, hurt, suspicious, dejected, and so forth, when it doesn’t have to be that way.
So how do we change that thought, specifically, when a child says, “Life is not fair?” In essence, the child is saying, “This shouldn’t be happening to me.”
Step #1: Recognize which brain trick the brain is using. In this case, the brain is using the red “Should/Must/Ought” trick. It’s telling us that life should, must, or ought to be a certain way or else life is not fair.
Step #2: Challenge the Brain Trick and tell the brain a more helpful or rational thought. For example, the green thought might be, “There are no shoulds and musts. Life will be the way it is.”
Step #3: Keep catching the brain tricks and practicing to change the thought. Over time and with lots of practice, the new helpful thought will become the natural way one thinks.
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