Resiliency Blog Part 4: Changing Our Perceptions One of the 5 Core Resiliency Factors Written by Julie Ballew, LCPC, CCFP
Drawn from Dr. J. Eric Gentry’s Professional Resiliency and Optimization Training and used with his permission.
“The greatest discovery of my generation
is that a human being can alter his life
by altering his attitudes of mind.” William James
How we think about things matters. In fact, there are whole approaches to psychotherapy that are built on that very foundation. Part of my role as a counselor is to assist my clients to understand their thought patterns and how their thoughts influence how they act and feel.
It is easier to challenge and shift our thoughts when we practice self-regulation. Recall that when we perceive threats, our bodies respond by turning on our Fight or Flight response which effectively limits our ability to use parts of our brain that are necessary for problem-solving…among other things.
Said another way, it is physiologically more difficult to change our thoughts when we are in Flight or Fight mode. So, let’s do ourselves a favor and stop banging our heads against the wall by trying to change our thoughts while we are all amped up. Let’s choose to engage in self- regulation first; intentionality and cognitive flexibility will follow.
There are as many ways to change how we perceive the world, our circumstances, others and ourselves as there are people. However, here are some tangible tips that have worked for many of my clients (and myself!):
Internal vs. External Locus of Control: Do you control your life or are you allowing others or situations to dictate you? Hate to break it to you, but you are only in control of yourself; specifically your thoughts, feelings, actions and regulating your Autonomic Nervous System via self-regulation. Let’s stop blaming others for how we feel or our situations and instead empower ourselves to exert control over how we respond
Choice vs. Demand: Challenge yourself to choose each thought, action and feeling. We always have a choice. When we believe that things are demanded of us, we tend to think of ourselves as victims. Instead, if we are going to engage in something, let’s choose it.
Real vs. Perceived Threat: Is your life in danger right now? For most of us, the world we live in is the safest that it has ever been in recorded history. So, why are living with dysregulated Autonomic Nervous Systems? Let’s practice self-regulation.
The Mindful Filter: If you catch yourself thinking a negative thought(s), challenge those thoughts by asking yourself these 3 questions: Is the thought true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? If the answer is “no” to any or all of those questions, then I’d encourage you to cast the thought aside as it is not serving you in any adaptive capacity.
Changing ingrained patterns of thinking is incredibly challenging, even when we practice self- regulation. Consulting with a mental health professional can often be helpful in this venture. However you choose to begin to adjust the way you look at things I encourage you to be patient and kind to yourself… and to stick with it.
Arthur Ashe provides some good advice about this process:
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
Julie Ballew, LCPC, CCFP has over a decade of experience working in the mental health field. Her professional interests include: promoting resiliency, trauma recovery, anxiety, depression, and couples counseling. Following her passions, she completed advanced training to become a Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional (CCFP). As a doctoral candidate in Counselor Education and Counseling at the University of Montana, she balances her studies, a part-time private counseling practice, and psychometry work. Additionally, Julie facilitates parent education and compassion fatigue seminars. She can often be found along a mountain trail with her beloved husband and dogs.
Missed some of our resiliency series?
"Resiliency Part 2: Self-Regulation"
"Resiliency Part 3: Intentionality"
Bonus content: "Just Breathe"
Stay tuned for parts 5 & 6
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