Critical Thinking (And Challenging Cognitive Distortions)

Happy New Year, friends!

Before I get too into this post, I want to send a massive thankyou to my amazing friend, Penny, over at Little Penny Berry, who introduced me to the concept of critical thinking. I’m sure that it’s something that my father would have known about and been willing (or even able) to educate me on, but alas he sadly is no longer with us and so I’ve had to take the time to study this one on my own, somewhat.

When I Googled ‘critical thinking’, I was overwhelmed with all of the detailed articles which go on to explain how you can apply it to your work, your beliefs and your values. You can use it to challenge yourself and go on to make changes in your life. That sounds great, but what if you’re really just looking for insights, rather than changes?

Personally, I have a huge love for all things psychology, so anything that allows us to delve into the mind (even just a little bit!) and find the answers, I believe, can really help us find solace and peace. Too often we take our thoughts, feelings and actions at face value, but what if there really is something lying underneath?

What is critical thinking, and how can it help me?

Critical thinking means simply to challenge the thought, feeling or belief that we have. We believe it to be true, but how can we know it to be true? What evidence do we have?

I did something frighteningly similar to this while I was in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Using a worksheet, I challenged the thoughts that I had, what was the thought? What good was it doing and how could I see things differently?

I’ve re-created that sheet for you to the best of my abilities here, entirely free of charge. Please print it off and use it as many times as you need. This worksheet really enabled me to work through some of my worst fears, and I hope that it will help you, too.

But what if it’s a situation, rather than a thought?

Last night, on New Year’s Eve, I made the decision to go to bed early. I more than hate New Year’s Eve, in fact, I’d go as so far as to say that I’m even allergic to it. At about 11:15pm Matt put on BBC’s Hogmanay and almost immediately, I started crying. I hated this, it was so much pomp, so much drama, so much noise.

“Please don’t make me see the New Year in on my own” he said softly. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, we spent New Year cuddled up in bed, in a completely normal, clothes-on kind of way.

When he left, I started to feel bad. I felt like the worst wife in existence. I should be out there celebrating New Year’s with him, so I fell into some critical thinking.

Why does this matter to you?

Well, because he matters to me.

Is this the only celebration you have coming up?

No, we have our thirteen years together on Friday.

Is that not something better to celebrate?

Yes, it’s more personal.

So why does New Year’s Eve matter so much?

Because it matters to him.

Is that the only time you have with him?

No, we’re going to the aquarium on Friday.

Then is that not better? More personal?

Yes, it is.

I realised at that point, this really wasn’t a me problem, it was a him problem. He made it a me problem because he was trying to force me to spend New Year’s Eve in a way that I didn’t want to spend it, by drinking alcohol, eating bad food and celebrating in that oh-so-extravagant Western way, and all I wanted to do was to sleep it through, get up at a sensible time and do productive things to start off my New Year’s!

Critical thinking does not need to take hours of your time. Even just a few moments of reflection can help us become better people, or make better decisions. I thank Penny so much for helping me look at challenging these thoughts all over again, I really do, because without it, who knows where I would have landed up?

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