Excel At Life--Dedicated to the Pursuit of Excellence in Life, Relationships, Sports and Career
CBT Jealousy Depression Relationships Conflict Self-efficacy Happiness Goal-setting Motivation Wellness Sport Psych

Popular Articles

Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

Popular Audios

Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

Cognitive Diary Example


Previous        Next


The following is an example to help learn how to identify and change irrational thinking. It is best to read the articles defining the irrational styles of thinking prior to trying to identifying the styles in the example. It uses the format of the COGNITIVE DIARY CBT SELF-HELP app. Read: Understanding and Using the Cognitive Diary.

Toxic Family and Holiday Visits

EVENT: Don't want to visit family on Father's Day.

EMOTIONS: anxious, discouraged, hopeless

DISTRESS RATING: 8--High level of distress

THOUGHTS: “My family is always mean to me. I can't stand going to family events. They put me down and ignore my children. They're probably right about me. I am a loser. My friend says I don't need to go and put up with such treatment. But if I don't go, it will make things even worse. They will talk about me and my parents will be angry with me. They are my family. I should love and respect them. I should go to keep the peace. It's only one day. I'll just take extra medication and I'll get through it.”

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE IRRATIONAL THINKING IN THIS EXAMPLE? There are at least 4 irrational beliefs.

HOW CAN YOU CHANGE THE THINKING? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of anxiety, discouragement, and hopelessness?

The Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help app helps you to determine some ways to challenge the irrational thinking. Once you have done that, it is important to read the rational challenges frequently until they automatically come to mind rather than the irrational thinking.


Irrational Beliefs:
1) Labeling Self. This person has been listening to her family's criticism, blame, and labels of her for so long that she has come to believe them. She has been brainwashed by frequent repetition throughout her life of negative descriptions about her until she also labels herself as a "loser" and probably other negative statements about herself. As a result, she believes that she deserves this type of treatment and can't imagine anything else.

To manage this situation, this woman needs to change her self-concept. She needs to recognize that her beliefs about herself were instilled in her through toxic parenting. As such, these beliefs are not true. She needs to fight these beliefs with every ounce of her being.

2) Catastrophizing. When her friend suggests that she doesn't go, she catastrophizes that it would get worse. However, when you are already being abused, how much worse can it get? Especially if you refuse to be a party to it. What can her family really do to her? Is anything worth continuing to allow such treatment? Even if they do become angry with her she won't be around to listen to it.

3) Shoulds. I find it interesting as a therapist that the only time I hear the words "I SHOULD love and respect my family" is from people who have dysfunctional families. Love and respect cannot be a should. Love and respect is earned through treating others with consideration, love, and respect. However, dysfunctional families emotionally (and sometimes physically) beat this concept into their children: "You WILL love and respect me. I am your father (or mother)!" As adults, these individuals believe they should adhere to the family rules and expectations for no other reason than this demand. They don't even realize they have a choice. And may not even understand what real love and respect is. A loving parent respects the child's choices even if it means sometimes the child may not spend holidays with the family. A toxic parent expects the child will always do what he or she demands.

4) External Control. This woman has given up control over her life. She doesn't believe she has a choice so she uses an external agent (medication) to cope. She sees taking a stand against her parents as making the situation worse which means she is the bad person. As a result, she doesn't have any choices open to her.

Instead, she needs to recognize that she has choices as her friend pointed out to her. The choices may sometimes be difficult because she needs to go against all the brainwashing from her family throughout her life. But she doesn't need to continue to give up her control to them. In the long run she will feel more in control of her life and better about herself.

How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
"My family is wrong! I am a loving person deserving of better treatment. I will not put up with being treated this way. If I don't go there is nothing they can do to me. So what if they are angry and talk behind my back? It is better than listening to them put me down and mistreat me. I don't have to love and respect them because they have done nothing to earn that love and respect."



Share a Situation to be Used For Future Examples.
Please provide it in the format used above: describe event, feelings, and how you were thinking in the situation. Any comments or information you share may be used for future articles or examples.  However, identifying information will not be used:

Message.  Provide an example of a situtation you have had so suggestions can be provided on this site regarding how to identify irrational thinking and challenge it. It is important to provide details regarding the thoughts you had about the situation.

Enter email address (optional) to contact you if we need further info.
Your email address will not be shared or used in any way other than how you specify:

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank

Recent Articles

Analyzing Your Moods, Symptoms, and Events with Excel At Life's Mood Log

Why You Get Anxious When You Don't Want To

Why People Feel Grief at the Loss of an Abusive Spouse or Parent

“Are You Depressed?”: Understanding Diagnosis and Treatment

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Beyond Tolerating Emotions: Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

Newest Audios

Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training