The following example is to help learn to identify and change irrational thinking. It uses the format of the Cognitive Diary CBT Self-help app.
Event: Starting a new job and wanting to be shown respect.
Emotions: resentful, hostile, revengeful
Distress Rating: 9--Feeling Desperate
Thoughts: Every place I work it is always the same. I work hard and contribute more to the company I work for than anyone else. Yet, at every job I've had the other employees don't respond to my requests and then laugh at me behind my back. My bosses never recognize my accomplishments. They should show me respect because I have more talent than all of them put together. I will make their lives miserable until they show me the proper respect!
Can You Identify the Irrational Thinking in this Example? There are at least 3 irrational beliefs.
How Can You Change the Thinking? What is another way of thinking about the situation that won't cause the feelings of resentment, hostility, and vengefulness?
1) Generalizing. This person assumes that this new job will be the same as every other work experience he's had. The problem with such expectations is that the expectation creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that is likely to create the same outcome. By making these assumptions, this person doesn't give others a chance, becomes angry about future behavior that hasn't occurred, and then projects undeserved hostility towards others.
Naturally, others are likely to respond to him in a negative way when he is already treating them as if they were the ones who caused him trouble in his previous jobs. By generalizing previous experiences to current experiences he creates the negative work environment that causes his resentment and anger.
2) Negative evaluation of others. However, instead of recognizing his role in creating the situation, he focuses on others' behavior. Due to his fear of being mistreated and not respected by others, this person views others in a negative way and is likely to misperceive others' behavior in a negative way. For instance, if he sees someone laughing with another co-worker, he believes they are laughing about him. As a result, his negative viewpoint becomes self-sustaining and causes him to become highly critical and angry towards others.
3) Blaming. Instead of recognizing that his expectations and demands are at the root of the job problems he has had, he blames others for his failures. He believes that their refusal to treat him with respect is the source of the problem. By focusing his blame on others, he maintains his fragile ego at the cost of better relationships. In this way he doesn't have to admit he has a problem. Instead, everyone else is causing him problems.
As a result of blaming others and seeing them as the source of his unhappiness and dissatisfaction, he becomes angry and wants to retaliate. Unfortunately, this is likely to perpetuate the cycle of his expectations so that this job becomes like every other job he as had. Instead of getting respect, others avoid him, dislike him, and some may become retaliatory in return.
How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
"I need to recognize that when I approach others with hostility I am setting myself up to be treated poorly. My negative expectations are repeatedly creating the problems that I am having. It is up to me to create more positive interactions with others."