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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 Wants Me to Attend Work Event

EVENT: My husband wants me to attend a work event with him but I don't want to. I don't know anyone there that well and really don't enjoy it. He said I didn't have to go but I know he wants me to.

EMOTIONS: conflicted, annoyed

DISTRESS RATING: 7—feeling distressed, less in control

THOUGHTS: “I should go to the event because I want to make him happy. He will be upset with me if I'm not there to support him. Why should I have to go? He doesn't do things that are important to me. Last week he didn't go to my family dinner with me--he should have known how important it was to me.”

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 conflicted and annoyed?

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) Shoulds. This wife places a demand on herself that she “should” make her husband happy by doing the things that he wants. However, this “should” is a demand that she is expecting of herself and isn't coming from her husband. It is also a “should” that is impossible to maintain in life. In relationships, the individual's needs will come in conflict with one another at times. Therefore, this demand would require the wife to ignore her own needs to meet her husband's needs. Over time, this is likely to lead to dissatisfaction and resentment.

2) Mind-reading Others. She is making a huge assumption to think that he will be upset with her when he told her she didn't have to go. In other words, she is ignoring what he stated and choosing to believe that he is thinking something else. Such a belief can potentially lead to misunderstandings and conflict.

3) Mind-reading Expectations. Although it may not be as obvious, she also seems to have the expectation that he read her mind. Instead of telling him how important it was for him to go to dinner with her, she expected him to “know.” Again, this can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. It is best to state needs than to expect others to know what you need or want.

How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
“I'm putting a demand on myself. I don't even have evidence that my husband will be upset with me if I don't go. It is up to him to tell me how he feels so I need to believe him when he says it is okay if I don't go. Besides, it is possible for people to have more than one feeling at a time—he might want me to go but still be okay with it if I don't. Also, instead of getting resentful, I need to tell him how I feel about things and not just expect him to know how I feel. If something is important to me, I need to tell him.”

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