Good Thinking

Using tools from Cognitive Therapy to overcome unhealthy life patterns

Review of the seminar presented in February by Anna Thompson a Clinical Psychologist

ThinkingAnna used a pleasing combination of hands on activities and information presentation to explain to us what really makes us feel and respond the way we do to the situation or the words and actions of another person.

It is how we see something or someone and what we think about it or them that really influence how we feel. It is our thoughts and beliefs about an event that significantly influences our emotions and actions. It is all closely linked to our perceptions.

Anna helped us to look closely at our automatic thoughts, our thinking distortions, challenging our own thoughts and choosing to think realistically instead of having unhelpful thoughts.


Automatic thoughts

Some of our thinking is so habitual that it is automatic and we may not be conscious of those thoughts. There are three kinds of Automatic thoughts:

Neutral thoughts, e.g “I think I will buy some bread today.”

Positive thoughts, e.g. “This is something I can really do well.”

Negative thoughts, e.g. “I often find it hard to concentrate. I must be really stupid.”

Negative automatic thoughts are the ones that can cause us emotional distress. Being aware of your feelings and your thoughts is the first step to feeling better. If thinking influences feelings, then it makes sense that if you want to change the way you feel, you need to change the way you think.


Thinking Distortions

The following is a list of the most common thinking distortions. With practice and discipline you can overcome these thinking distortions to think more realistically and feel better.

“Change your thought and you change your world.” 
Norman Vincent Peel


  • Catastrophising— Saying to ourselves that something is the worst that could ever happen. We can catastrophise things that are happening now or things that may happen in the future.
  • Realistic thinking — things are not usually as catastrophic as they feel at the moment.


  • Mind reading— Jumping to conclusions about what other people are thinking without enough evidence.
  • Realistic thinking — We can guess what other people are thinking but we never really know unless they tell us honestly. And if we don’t know, does it really matter?


  • ContemplateOvergeneralising— Taking one specific instance and make a sweeping generalisation.   
  • Realistic thinking— Generalisations are rarely accurate all of the time.


  • Black and White thinking— Seeing things in extremes, with no middle ground.
  • Realistic thinking— things are rarely black or white, they are usually a shade of grey.


  • Personalising—Assuming that something is directly connected with us.
  • Realistic thinking — it’s not all about you!


  • Discounting the positive — Making a habit of finding reasons to dismiss the positive, focusing only on the negative aspects of a situation.
  • Realistic thinking— We need to count all the evidence, not just focus on one side.


  • Emotional reasoning  Telling ourselves that because we feel a certain way, that’s how it really is.
  • Realistic thinking —Feelings are different from facts!


  • Predicting the future (fortune telling) Assuming we know with absolute certainty what is going to happen in the future. Treating our predictions about the future as certainties rather than just predictions.
  • Realistic thinking- We can make predictions but we can never be 100% sure what is going to happen in the future.


  • Labelling Placing a fixed, global negative label on yourself or others.
  • Realistic thinking — We can’t accurately sum up a whole person with a label. We need to distinguish between a person’s actions and the person as a whole. 


  • Shoulds— A rigid and inflexible belief about the way things “should” be.
  • Realistic thinking — Life experiences don’t always match my ideals about how things ‘should’ be. It will work better for me to be flexible enough to accept this.

ThinkingQuestions to ask when challenging a thought

  • Is this thought true?
  • What evidence do I have for this thought?
  • What evidence do I have against this thought?
  • What happened in the past?
  • What have people actually said?
  • Realistically, how likely is this outcome? Realistically, how bad would it be?
  • Are there any other possible explanations or outcomes?
  • Even if this thought is true, is it a helpful thought for me to be focusing on?
  • What would be more helpful to focus on?
  • What would a good friend say if they knew I was thinking this thought?
  • What would I say to a good friend of mine if I knew they were thinking this thought?
  • What does God’s truth say about this thought?

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Anna gave us this list of recommended resources:

Change Your Thinking - Sarah Edelman (ABC Books) 
Reinventing Your Life -  Jeffery Young and Janet Klosko (Plume)

Centre for Clinical Intervention (Western Australian Government)  for workbooks and resources for mental health practitioners  http:Ilwww. cci. health .wa. qov. au/ 

iPhone apps 
TD Pro

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you.

 You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” 
James Allen



Review written by Cyndy Mogg for

 NSW Christadelphian Support Network Newsletter No. 41 May 2012.