Cognitive thinking is a mental process that alerts us to thoughts when they enter our minds and it enables us to understand and respond to them.
Our every emotion and action is preceded by a thought.
Cognitive skills enable us to manage the thoughts. How well we do this, depends on how good our cognitive skills are – they include sustained concentration, avoidance of distraction, memory retention, logic, reasoning, flexibility, dissecting and prioritising information, analysing, evaluating, problem-solving, making decisions and implementing changes. It also uses knowledge, experience and sensory input like sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing as additional aids.
Cognitive Therapy improves our cognitive skills.
Thoughts affect our emotions, and emotions affect how we behave. The mind has a tendency to spawn random, misleading thoughts. If we lack cognitive skills we can not manage these skewed thoughts and then they can destabilise our emotions and behaviour.
Rampant thoughts and poor thinking habits can intensify emotions and urge us to act impulsively. It is natural to be reasonably upset when we are harmed, but sometimes we over-react. We may react on the spur of the moment, without thinking things through, and suffer dire consequences.
It is natural to cry when we are sad, or to laugh when we are happy, but many of us suffer unnecessary hardship when persistent thoughts constantly overwhelm us and cause anguish for long periods of time.
Some people develop traits, like constantly recalling unhappy memories or worrying about things that may never happen. If we are usually pessimistic, we will be unhappy most of the time. On the other hand, if we are too optimistic, we may indulge in wishful thinking and expose ourselves to abuse.
Uncontrolled thoughts lead to confusion and anxiety.
At times we over-think issues and, with all the confused sulking, we never get around to doing anything. At other times we are so anxious to solve a problem that we frantically apply the first plan that pops up, without looking for better options.
In our digital world, information-overload can discourage us and tempt us to take shortcuts that turn out badly. Cognitive thinking therapy teaches us how to weed out irrelevant information so that we are left with a clearer picture.
Imagination and creativity are valuable assets, but they can also produce false perceptions. It is common for talented people to succumb to destructive thoughts sprouting from an over-active imagination. Creative people have to keep a strict eye on their thoughts to distinguish between fabrication and reality.
Some people believe drugs improve their ability to generate unique ideas. Drugs can enhance fantasy, but in reality intoxication merely creates delusions in the mind of the user. The intoxicated person may perceive an idea as brilliant, whereas a sober person would see it as just plain silly.
People often advance an opinion as an “obvious” certainty, or common sense that needs no proof, but when the details are scrutinised, their argument falls apart.
For various reasons, the mind sometimes sabotages its own memories so that what we recall is different from what really happened. This leads us to believe in our skewed opinions. We have no intention to lie, but we are unaware that our memories have changed.
Pride, obstinacy or an inflexible mindset often limits our ability to let go of our entrenched opinions, but we must overcome this and consciously open our minds to new ways of thinking if we want to avoid problems. Cognitive Therapy eliminates the pitfalls of biased thinking.
These are all examples of dysfunctional thinking; basically an inability to manage our thoughts properly. However, we can manage our thoughts and, thus, our subsequent emotions and actions, but often we lack some of the skills to do it in an efficient way.
People suffer from a wide array of mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, phobias, addiction and behaviour problems. These conditions have many causes and all of them are treatable. One of the supportive methods used in modern therapy, is the teaching of healthy cognitive thinking – the ability to manage our thoughts better.
Cognitive thinking is not a new concept.
It has been explored in the fields of philosophy, biology, psychology, sociology, linguistics and other disciplines for centuries. However, modern studies have enabled us to understand and harness it better. The latest cognitive therapies give us more control over our thoughts than ever before. In our competitive, demanding society, this is a vital skill.
Cognitive Therapy assumes that the best prediction about the outcome of an event will be the one based on the most facts and the fewest assumptions. It is about learning how to subdue and parse rampant thoughts, identify real facts, weed out weak assumptions, create order out of chaos, and accepting the result as the one closest to reality.
Cognitive Therapy does not deny all the negatives, as that would merely create a different delusion. Instead, it takes the positives and negatives, removes the misleading parts and then merges what remains into a single defused, realistic end product.
It trains your mind to intercept and intervene with a random thought and to view the thought from a different perspective. You can decide whether or not the thought is based on reality or distortion and you can then choose to modify, diminish or discard the thought and not allow it to take possession of your mind.
Because CT is so effective for overcoming maladaptive or self-defeating feelings and behaviours, a variety of cognitive therapies, geared for diverse situations, have been developed over the past few decades. It is incorporated as a powerful additional element in a wide range of other therapies, such as treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, and many others.