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CBT Technique No.3 - The Third 'F':
Find a New Way of Looking at Your Situation

Elsewhere I have looked at two techniques for creating Balancing Thoughts to help you deal with negative or anxious thoughts: the Friend Technique and the Face Your Fears technique.

A technique which requires a little more creativity is to try to Find a New Way of Looking at Your Situation.

This technique involves trying to look at your situation in the round and asking yourself:

  1. Are there any positives that could come out of this situation? and/or
  2. Could the situation help me to learn or develop in any way?

If we take the previous example of Sarah (described in Face Your Fears), Sarah's worries are around the possibility of losing her job. Her initial perception of this is that it would be all bad.

Asking herself the two questions above, Sarah might start to see that although the prospect of losing her job is worrying, some positives could come out of it. For example, she might end up finding a better job that she prefers or she might have more time to focus on her personal interests. She could try looking at it as a challenge or an opportunity if it happens, albeit one that she has not chosen, rather than as a doom-laden event. In other words she can try to find a more constructive way of looking at the situation. She can try to change her attitude to it.

Using this technique of trying to Find a New Way of Looking at Your Situation Sarah might create a balancing thought to help her deal with her catastrophising about losing her job as follows:

Catastrophising Thought
Balancing Thought
'I could lose my job and then I will be in serious financial trouble'

'Yes, you wouldn't choose this to happen if you had a choice but if it does happen it could be an opportunity to develop interests or you might even end up in a better job - after all you hardly love what you're doing at the moment!'

Dealing with Very Sad Events

Sometimes this technique can even help with very sad events - such as the death of someone you love or the end of a relationship.

The technique doesn't ask you to pretend that these painful situations are good, but to try to accept them if you have no choice, and to ask yourself what positives you can take out of them. Those positives might be in being able to evaluate and remember some of the enriching things that another person brought to your life or they might be in giving you a chance to move on or they might be something very different depending on your situation.

In the opening of his book: Being Peace, the buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes: "Life is filled with suffering, but it is also filled with many wonders, like the blue sky, the sunshine, the eyes of a baby..." Similarly, this technique of trying to Find a New Way of Looking at the Situation is about recognising potential positives and appreciating good things at the same time as you accept that inevitably the world has pain and sadness.

Try it Yourself! Think of a difficult or painful or sad situation that you have had or that you feel you are in now and create a balancing thought to deal with your negative thoughts about the situation, not by denying them but by trying to Find a New Way of Looking at the Situation, one which finds a way of taking some positives from the situation despite its pain or difficulty.


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