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How To Use Carefully Choosen Words To Challenge Destructive & Anxiety Provoking Thoughts

There are many anxiety inducing patterns often called cognitive distortions or thought traps. These are ways of thinking that seem true but are in fact not reasonable, realistic or relevant to the situation.

Noticing when we are using thought traps and countering them is an important part of traditional CBT-exercises that also can reduce symptoms of anxiety.

A cognitive distortion is active in our minds when we experience an upsetting event and we think about it in these ways.

Last weeks’ posts have been about how to challenge cognitive distortions through 3 steps:

Step 1: Identify the problem and its magnitude

Step 2: Examine the evidence of the problem creating thoughts

Step 3: Create alternative rational and more self-supportive thoughts


Today’s post is about how to practice a more nuanced language to evaluate the facts behind unhelpful thoughts.

It is important to avoid words such as must, should, have to etc., since these words judge and implicate a set of unwritten rules that might not make sense to others.

Instead, these types of strong, ultimate words tend to create among other things guilt, shame, submission and unnecessary stress, which can be both unhelpful and hurtful.


Try this:

Every time you find yourself using a should statement or similar, try to rephrase: I prefer…, I would like to… etc.

Using a more curious, inquisitive language where the answer could be both yes or no, or something in between, makes room for more possibilities.

Being very careful with which words we use, also in our internal dialogue, can work wonders in our minds by defusing pressure and inspiring to a more optimistic and positive perspective on daily life.

More about this next week.



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