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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.

Husband Says "I Don't Care"

EVENT: I asked my husband if he wanted to go out this weekend for a dinner and a movie and he answered “I don't care.”

EMOTIONS: disappointment, hurt

DISTRESS RATING: 6—feeling bad

THOUGHTS: “He's not showing any excitement about going out with me so he must not really want to. He probably has other things he would rather do. Maybe he's not attracted to me. He must not love me the way he used to. What a jerk!”

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 disappointment and hurt?

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) Mind-reading Others. This wife is making numerous assumptions related to how her husband answered her. As many men do, he answered in a matter-of-fact manner with the intention of letting her know that it didn't effect any other plans. His feelings about his marital relationship were probably the furthest thing from his mind.

2) Catastrophizing. Not only did she make assumptions about his statement, but then she jumped to catastrophic conclusions about his feelings for her and their relationship. It is not likely that the fate of their relationship hinges on how he responds to her invitation. If there are problems in the relationship, many other signs would be present.

3) Labeling Others. She labeled her husband a jerk based on assumptions she made about his thinking. All he did was agree to go out with her but used words that weren't acceptable to her. So, unless there is a lot of other evidence that he is a jerk, then this label is irrational. If there is a lot of other evidence, then she might need to reconsider her relationship with him.

How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
“He's agreeing to go out with me. I don't need to be critical of how he agrees. He generally doesn't get overly excited about things so this is just his personality and has nothing to do with our relationship. In fact, he usually is agreeable and attentive. So what if he doesn't use the words I want to hear? I certainly don't need to be labeling him so negatively.”

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