Donald Meichenbaum is a psychologist, known for his contributions to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).He developed a treatment technique called Cognitive Behavior Modification (CBM), which focuses on recognizing dysfunctional self-talk in order to change unwanted behavior. In other words, Dr. Mechenbaum sees behavior as the result of our self-expression.
Anxious thoughts can hinder your recovery
Panic disorder, agoraphobia, or other anxiety disorders often cause certain thought patterns and behaviors that may hinder recovery. For example, suppose you must attend a work meeting tomorrow. You are anxious and afraid that you will have a panic attack at the meeting. You might tell yourself, “What if I have a panic attack and have to leave the meeting? I will be embarrassed.” So, you take sick leave to work the next day so you can avoid the meeting.
What if you can change your mind? And, if by changing your mind, you can participate in the work meeting instead of avoiding it?
Using CBM, changing thoughts and behaviors, including avoidance behaviors and panic reactions, is a three-stage process:
Phase 1: Self-observation
This stage involves listening carefully to your internal conversations or talking to yourself, and observing your own behavior. You should pay special attention to any negative self-reports that actually cause your anxiety and panic symptoms.
For example, do you tell yourself negative information, such as “I’m not smart enough”, “People don’t like me” or “Everyone can see how neurotic I am”.
To help you better understand your negative self-statements, it may be helpful to write them down. Tracking this type of conversation will help you better understand when it happened.
If you can, try to write it down in your notebook as soon as possible after it happens. If this doesn’t work for you, try to keep a diary at the end of the day and write down all the negative self-talks you can remember. You may be surprised to find that you are setting the frequency of anxiety for yourself throughout the day.
Phase 2: Start a new self-talk
Once you recognize your negative self-talk, you can start to change it.
When you “grab” your familiar negative thinking pattern, you will re-establish a new and positive internal dialogue. “I can’t” becomes “It may be difficult, but I can”.
Scratch off the negative statements in your diary and write them down. Practice saying them until you start to believe them.
These new self-statements or affirmations now guide new behaviors. You are not using avoidance behaviors to cope with panic disorder and anxiety, but you are willing to experience situations that cause anxiety. This will lead to better coping skills, and as your small successes are built on each other’s foundation, you will reap huge benefits in the recovery process.
Phase 3: Learn new skills
Every time you can identify and reorganize your negative thoughts and change your response to panic and anxiety, you are learning new skills. When you are now keenly aware of your thoughts, you will be able to better measure your anxiety and react in a more useful way.
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When your negative thoughts control you, it is difficult for you to control your behavioral responses to unpleasant situations. However, CBM can allow you to regain some of your lost control. As your thinking changes from negative to positive, your behavior in many situations begins to be different. Also, you may find that other people react differently to the new “positive” you.