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Changing Perception

PFR Notes January 23, 2010

According to the Cognitive Model, our perception influences our emotions and behavior. Therefore, you could argue that there is no such thing as reality, only what we are experiencing. This means that the same situation has no finite definition. Each individual could perceive the same reality in any moment differently, thus creating many realities for the same experience.

A professor announces a pop quiz, Student A hears the professor as encouraging and supportive. Student A (her) is confident and looks forward to taking the quiz. Student B (he) hears the professor as threatening and angry, Student B fears the quiz. There are endless scenarios in-between, all based on perceptions, not what is actually happening in the outside world, but created from what is happening inside ourselves.

The perceptions that we experience are experienced by automatic thoughts that we have when confronted by situations we encounter throughout the day. When a situation presents itself we will form automatic thoughts as a result of our core beliefs. Let’s take a look at core beliefs of Student A and Student B.

Student A B
Core belief I am competent I am incompetent
Intermediate belief I can always do well I never do well
Situation Pop Quiz Pop Quiz
Automatic Thought I will pass I will fail
Emotional Happiness Sadness / Nervous
Behavioral Focus, calm, eager Loss of focus, Anxiety, wanting to leave/quit
Physical Relaxed Tightness stomach, heart rate accelerates, clammy

Our core beliefs trigger our automatic thoughts that then create our perception of the situation that translates to our emotion and behavior. However, if we were working with Student B, we might ask what evidence he has that he would fail? Has he ever passed a pop quiz before? Isn’t it possible that he might pass? What would be the worst outcome if he did fail? The answers might come back as, I have no evidence that I will fail, I have passed pop quizzes before, I very well might pass. If I fail, I am sure I could study more and take a makeup quiz, or do better the next time.

We would then translate this into taking over the automatic thought and creating a new thought. Over time, the core belief can shift to I am competent, and catching the negative automatic thoughts can come quicker and easier. This is a very general beginning basic explanation of an entry level of cognitive therapy. To further examine how to understand automatic thoughts we would have to delve into feelings and images that create mood shifts and find the thought behind them. Then we would also examine how the core beliefs developed. The work is very effective and is a fundamental part of many of the exercises in Tools To Life.

Right now, as we are using affirmations, we are creating a shift in beliefs and emotional responses to situations we encounter. We will further examine why we State Out Loud, and then we will go into triggers. Triggers are what we define as automatic thoughts that we continually have that create a pattern of wanted behavior. We will learn how to identify these thoughts and then change the channel to create new behavior.

Keep Stating Out Loud!

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