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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.

Best Friend Dating My Ex

EVENT: My best friend started dating my boyfriend after I broke up with him.

EMOTIONS: hurt, angry

DISTRESS RATING: 8—high level of distress

THOUGHTS: “How can she be so inconsiderate? She should know that would hurt me. I would never do that to her! I know she asked if it was okay but I was so shocked by it I said it was okay. But how could someone even ask that? You just don't do it. Maybe it is me--I must not be a very good friend to her.”

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 hurt and angry?

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.


First, part of this reaction is rational so you can't completely get rid of the feelings of hurt and anger. This person was probably already grieving the loss of the relationship with her boyfriend. Now she is also grieving that her friendship with her best friend isn't what she thought it was. Normal emotions with grief include hurt and anger.

However, during grief the reason for some of the emotions may be irrational and it is best to challenge the irrational thoughts so that the emotions of grief can be processed better.

Irrational Beliefs:
1) Mind-Reading Expectations. She is expecting her friend to know what she is thinking even though she told her the direct opposite. This is a common irrational belief in relationships in which a person says they are okay even when they are not but they still expect the other person to know how they are feeling. It is best to be direct about how you are feeling because other people, even those very close to you, can't read your mind.

2) Shoulds. She is demanding that her friend view the world in the same way she does. She believes that a friend doesn't date a friend's ex and she expects her friend should have this same belief. However, people have all sorts of different beliefs that are valid. This difference doesn't mean that her friend wants to hurt her; in fact, her friend asked if it was okay. However, we can't assume that our worldview is the correct one which is what this expectation or "should" indicates.

3) Blaming. She is blaming both her friend and herself. The blame of her friend is due to the belief that only one correct explanation for her friend's behavior exists. Then she's blaming herself for her friend's apparent desire to hurt her believing that if she was a better friend her friend wouldn't behave this way.

How Can This Thinking Be Changed?
“I can't expect my friend to think the same way I do especially when I tell her differently. I need to be clear with her about what I want. I can't blame her for her behavior because I told her it was okay. I also can't blame myself because this was just a misunderstanding. It is okay if I feel hurt and anger about her even considering dating my ex but I need to let her know how I feel about it."

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