This is my second month in CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, and I am learning so much about myself on day to day basis. Thanks to my therapist who is very keen on delivering her message as a therapist, and explaining in detail what I need to know.
Last week, I had 2 simple tasks to do, as I was moving out from my appartment and renting it out to a replacement, I had to clean the dishes and pack my clothes into 2 travel bags.
When I write about it now, and read as I go through with my writing, it sounds so simple and not very time consuming. But that was not the case when the task was pending.
After procrastinating for many days, feeling anxious, and eventually breaking down into tears, then falling back into the existential crisis of “why am I even alive”, I finally went, did the dishes, took my clothes, gave the keys and left. It was 1.5 hours job including the transportation and logistics.
She explained about cognitive distortion; a new concept I became familiar with and getting acquainted with, because this really describes how Im perceiving things.
Cognitive distortion in simple words means, after a series of traumas and bad events, your brain simply starts lying to you. Imagine a cup half filled with water and half empty. With cognitive distortion, you will see , oh the cup is half empty, my cup is always half empty, that’s how it is with me, I never get a cup full of water, the person who filled the cup must not like me, I am unwanted here because they didn’t fill my cup, I must leave, I’m lonely. It might be that everyone else had a cup half full half empty, might be a mere coincidence, but because your brain has been trained to magnify, correlate things, and generalize, you just saw things, interpreted them and felt things differently.
This starts with how we see, feel and eventually describe things. One good potion , is to try and minimize the event. Oh, cup half empty, well , let me fill it, or if I cant, let me find someone who can fill it. Maybe they did not notice, maybe there was not enough water and that’s okay. It is just a cup. Minimizing the event, the emotion, and the result.
Basically, it is ok, I just have to do the dishes and put my stuff in a bag. It is not about being homesick, or not adapting, or being tired from this city, and the people, my breakup, the betrayals, me not wanting to be alive at this moment. It is just few simple things that take 1.5 hours from my day including transportation and as a result the procrastination was completely unnecessary.
This is just the beginning of learning how to deal with cognitive distortion, and what it does to my feelings and behavior at certain given moments. It does make me feel more fragile and sensitive to small events, taking things more personally and to heart. But that is the beauty of good therapy, you keep learning about yourself, about the situations, what they are called, how normal it is to have them at a given point in time, and once that is established, gaining more knowledge on what they are and the right tools to deal with them.
I strongly encourage you to read and get familiar with what cognitive distortion is, because the next time it happens with you, you will be at least able to identify, that this is it. And the base of every improvement is a foundation of knowledge and learning as ignorance is our first enemy. All I knew, was that I was extremely fragile in the face of small events, I still am, but now, what differs is that I know what this is, if not all of it, at least the biggest part. And from here, I can train my brain to think next time a small thing makes me feel down, and I keep putting it aside, is this really me? Or is it a distorted reality.
Leaving you with a beautiful undistorted image of a Lebanese village taken by my close friend.