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Cognitive Diary Example


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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.

Saying "No" to My Daughter

EVENT: My daughter wants to go to a movie with her friends but we have family plans. I don't want to tell her “no” because she will be so disappointed and she'll be angry with me. But I think it is important we spend time together as a family.

EMOTIONS: guilt, uncertainty

DISTRESS RATING: 6—feeling bad

THOUGHTS: “When she gets upset with me I feel like I'm a bad parent. I shouldn't upset her because I don't want her to be sad. Her friends might not like her if she can't do things with them.”

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 guilt and uncertainty?

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) Emotional Reasoning. She is making an assumption that if she feels like a bad parent, she must be a bad parent. However, it is necessary for parents to do things their children might not like. When it is in the best interest of the child, it makes them a good parent.

2) Shoulds. She is placing an expectation on herself to not act in a way that should upset her child. This is an unreasonable demand because sometimes children will be upset. They can't always have what they want because other people have needs too. Also, trying to control childrens' emotions prevents them from learning how to manage emotions.

3) Internal Control. She is placing the responsibility for managing her child's emotions on herself. The reality is that she doesn't have the ability to manage her daughter's emotions except by giving in to her desires/demands. Such behavior over time will lead to an out-of-control child who won't know how to handle negative emotions.

4) Catastrophizing. She is making an extreme prediction about others' behavior when thinking that her daughter will lose friends. Such an assumption is unlikely.

How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
“Saying 'no' doesn't make me a bad parent even though it might feel bad. It is not good for her to always have what she wants. She needs to also learn that there are other responsibilities in life. She is not likely to lose friends just because she can't do something. Her emotions are her emotions and she will learn how to deal with them. I don't have to try and protect her from normal experiences and emotions.”

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