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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 CBT Tools for Healthy Living app. Read: Understanding and Using the Cognitive Diary.

Son Doesn't Do What I Ask

EVENT: My son doesn't take out the trash when I ask him to.

EMOTIONS: irritated, annoyed

DISTRESS RATING: 5—moderately upset but manageable

THOUGHTS: “I told him the garbage was piling up. He should know that I want him to take it out but he is just lazy and inconsiderate. I shouldn't even have to tell him!”

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 irritated and annoyed?

The CBT Tools for Healthy Living 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 Expectations.This father is expecting his son to know what he wants without explicitly telling him. Instead, he dropped a hint without a specific request but believing that his son should know what he meant.

2) Shoulds. Not only is he expecting his son to know what he wants, but he very clearly has a demand that his son should know what he is thinking. He believes that he shouldn't have to clearly communicate. This belief is likely to lead to greater frustration and conflict.

3) Labeling. The father then labels his son as lazy and inconsiderate based upon the son not being able to read his mind and know what he wants. Is there generally evidence regarding the son being lazy or is the father making a global judgment based on a single behavior?

How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
“I wasn't very clear with my son. Next time I will tell him specifically what I want and when. Also, labeling my son as lazy and inconsiderate is not fair or accurate. He is generally considerate of others. I just can't expect him to read my mind."

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