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Friday, March 12, 2010

Changing our negative thought processes- Part 1

There’s a branch of psychology that believes that people’s feelings, beliefs and actions, basically what people go through in their lives are shaped by their thought processes. So for instance, if somebody has negative thought processes then the events in their lives will turn out negatively and if somebody has positive thought processes then the events in their lives will be positive.

The model below shows us how this works:


A- ACTIVATING EVENT (events in people’s lives, events that might be distressing or troublesome for them).


B- BELIEF SYSTEM (person’s beliefs about the events that occur in their lives).

C- CONSEQUENCE (emotional and behavioural reactions which most of the time are dysfunctional or problematic if the event is experienced as distressing).

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We have no control over A, the Activating event, it will happen anyhow, however, our beliefs about events will determine the consequences and therefore if we change our negative beliefs then we will be changing the consequences as well.

Now in some cases we won’t have control over the ultimate consequence (like for example with a terminal illness, but we will have control over the smaller consequences related to this. This sounds like it may be becoming confusing so let me give you an example:


Safiya just finds out that she has cancer. She believes that this is the end of the world and that she can’t go on living so she ends up staying in bed all day, she remains depressed and she is angry with the people around her, she fights with everyone all the time and she remains lonely and feels terrible and sick all the time.

At the same time, Leila also finds out that she has cancer. Leila believes that this does not change the fact that life is beautiful and she believes that having a disease should not be a means for life to stop because life is more than just about the physical. She decides to live each day to the fullest, she spends as much time as possible with her loved ones, she is joyful and bright all the time as she decided to cherish each moment of her life. She does not believe that her diagnosis is a death sentence because she believes that anybody can die at any time. So Leila remains happy and pleasant, physically she does feel sick but she manages to pick herself up and carry on.

I hope this example helps you to see how our belief systems about events in our lives determine the consequences of what will happen to us after that.

So, if you find that many events in your life are negative, perhaps it will help to look at the beliefs you hold about things that happen to you, and if you start changing those beliefs to more positive ones, then perhaps this will have a direct effect on how things turn out- Insha’Allah.

Self-Reflection Exercise

Think about a recent event that occurred in your life, it can be a big event or a small one. Consider how you reacted to this event/ what the consequences were. Now look back at your belief system about this event and try to see how a change in your beliefs might have changed the consequences of the event. Write down what you come up with, or just think about this.

Practice using this model and see if there are any differences in your life.

Don’t forget that you are more than welcome to share your experiences with us!

Insha’Allah in the post we will take this a little bit further and discuss the B- belief system and how you can change it in some more detail.

Until then, May Allah (SWT) shower His Peace and Blessing on you always!!!

* The reference for this is: Weiten, W. (1995). Psychology: Themes and Variations (3rd edition). California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co. This can also be found in any other Introduction to Psychology Textbook.

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