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Understanding Why We Think the Way We Think

Beth Jackson

I recently came across an article titled:  Good to Know:  Why We Think the Way We Think by Pandora Maclean-Hoover.  I am always intrigued by how people think and interested in helping them learn to view things differently, so I couldn’t help but be curious to read what the article had to say. 

Have you ever wondered why you think the way you do?  Which in turn leads to how you respond to a situation.  In the article Pandora Maclean-Hoover says that “unhealthy thinking is, in large part, a function of negative belief systems, often installed by others and reinforced by our childhood experiences”.  She goes on to say, “the longer we think a particular way, the harder it is to change our thoughts and beliefs”.  As a therapist who operates from a psychodynamic approach I believe that one of the reasons we think and behave the way we do as adults is largely due to our childhood experiences.   People frequently come into my office and get frustrated because they have decided they want to change the way they [fill in the blank] think, act, feel, etc., and they want it to happen NOW!  They may have been coming to therapy for some time and think “what’s the point” I don’t see a difference.  I often remind people…”you’ve been thinking this way for how long???  Be patient with yourself, it takes time to change, especially when you consider that you have been doing these things your entire life!”  When you consider that this has been your frame of reference for your entire life then I think you can appreciate that it is going to take some time to learn a new way.  I view therapy in these cases as a journey, definitely not a quick fix.  I had a supervisor once who compared therapy to gardening, it’s like planting seeds and patiently waiting for them to grow.  I have come to appreciate this process and encourage my clients to do the same. 

For many of us our maladaptive behaviors served a necessary purpose in our childhood, they helped us cope with our circumstances and for some they actually helped them to survive.  Unfortunately, as we grow up and continue with these behaviors (and why would we know or want to act any differently when these behaviors have served such a necessary function?) we find that they are no longer serving their purpose, in fact they are causing problems for us, primarily in our relationships.  Change is not only difficult but it can be very scary too, especially when what you are familiar with and something that has served an important purpose throughout much of your life is what you are trying to change.   I believe the first step to any type of change is awareness.  I try to help my clients become more aware of their behaviors, and not to judge or feel shame about them, but to become more curious about themselves and why they behave the way they do.  With this knowledge they can then begin to realize that they can make changes and that things can be different.   I think Pandora Maclean-Hoover says it best:  “Awareness is a starting place.  The brain does not have a delete button for experiential files, but it is possible to update and integrate files.  The password for reprogramming?  Choice.” 

Here is the article if you are interested in reading it:   http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/good-to-know-why-we-think-the-way-we-think-0908155

 If you have been wanting to make changes in your life but don’t know where to start therapy can help!  Contact me and we can work together to help you make the changes you want in your life.   beth@ca4wellbeing.com or 706-425-8900 ext 712