Challenge Thoughts Built On Faulty Reasoning

What Thought Patterns No Longer Serve You?

It can be useful to challenge thinking patterns that do not serve us. Remember, perceptions - our beliefs - have an enormous impact on our emotions. Perception can mean the difference between viewing a situation as a challenge or a threat. This a seven-step process for challenging thinking patterns when you notice or are having a strong emotional reaction.

1. Identify the situation

What happened just before you experienced that strong emotional reaction. What were your emotions — anxiety, anger, guilt, irritability, sadness, shame, fear, disgust or some combination of these?

2. Rate the strength of your emotion

On a scale of 0 to 10, rate your emotional reaction.

3. Identify the thought

Articulate the thought or thoughts associated to your reaction. Identify the thinking pattern(s). Look at the list of thinking traps and identify the one(s) you’ve fallen into. Is it catastrophizing? All-or-nothing thinking? Worst case scenario?

4. Question the thought

Challenge the thought without arguing with yourself. Gently and with curiosity ask yourself one or more of the following questions:

  • Do I have enough information to support my conclusion?

  • What’s the evidence for and against this thought?

  • Is this thought a habit of mind? In other words, do I tend to think things like this in similar situations?

  • If the worst were to happen, how would I deal with it? Have I dealt with situations like this before?

  • What would I tell a friend in the same situation?

5. Generate alternative responses

Once you’ve challenged the thought, generate alternative thoughts. Consider other possibilities. Generate as many you can to show yourself how many interpretations of a situation are really possible.

6. Rate the strength of your emotion again

On a scale of 0 to 10, rate your current emotions. Notice if anything has changed. Don’t discount incremental changes.