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Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

This is my motto – and bumper sticker! I am a cognitive behavioral psychotherapist and coach. What we think determines our emotions and our behavior:

Thought  >  Emotion  >  Behavior

What is the difference between them?

Thoughts are usually expressed in a few words, a sentence, a paragraph, a book: you can’t do this or I can do this.

Emotions are usually expressed in one or two words. At the core, we feel ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with myriad words to describe the emotion: pleased, disappointed, fearful, and so forth.

Behaviors are something we can see, hear, feel, taste, touch or smell.

We all have a little ‘gremlin’ voice in the back of our mind and we are seldom aware of the running dialogue it has in our head.  This negative voice, which often says “you” causes us to feel bad and influences our behavior. Example: “if you do that, you will look dumb” so we believe it.

Negative Thought  > Negative Emotion  > Negative Behavior

Our small, true voice (which often says ‘I’) might be thinking: “I know I’m not dumb” ” I can handle this!”.

Realistic Thought  > Realistic Emotion  >  Realistic Behavior

What can you do about this negative voice?  The most difficult part is to disengage from autopilot and hear what the gremlin is saying. And, if you know that just because you think it doesn’t make it true, you won’t be controlled by it.

When you hear the gremlin tell it to STOP! Say it loud and clear, out loud if possible. Replace it with one or two – true – strong – brief statements: ‘I can do hard things’/’the worst isn’t going to happen’.  You can’t lie to the gremlin by saying: ‘everything will be fine’ when that may not be realistic.

Because the gremlin tends to say similar things over and over, you can use the same realistic message over and over – no need to keep finding new statements. Develop a message from your true voice and write it on a 3×5 card to carry it with you. Remember, do not believe everything you think!


Judy Cantwell, Atlanta Women’s Network member, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Coach with more than 30 years of experience practicing psychotherapy and coaching in her office in Atlanta and online. She specializes in work stress, relationships & self-esteem; working with individuals, couples, groups & companies. She can be reached at  www.JudyCan.com and www.CrossCultureCoach.com.


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