What follows below is an excerpt from a blogpost by Dr. David Murray. In the excerpt, I post 6 six questions that he poses to help you get out of a … a funk – shall we say? I find the first question itself to be a show stopper for me when I start to get into negative thinking. A good and needed show stopper.
I actually picked up on his questions not from his blog, but from a book of his that I am currently reading – The Happy Christian. I so liked the things that he says in the book, that I googled the first question with his name and came upon his blog-post.
Anyway here is the excerpt:
Traffic Jam Therapy
Let me return now to a simpler and less serious example in order to break this down further in a way that we can all relate to (well, the men at least).
Next time you’re sitting in a traffic jam and you start steaming and screaming, try to understand where these feelings and actions are coming from by asking yourself these questions.
Step 1. What are the facts? The facts are that I am in a two-mile back-up and the radio tells me it will take one hour to clear due to a breakdown in the fast lane several miles ahead.
Step 2. What am I thinking about these facts? I’m thinking about the idiot who broke down in the fast lane. I’m thinking about all that I could have done with this hour.
Step 3. What am I feeling? I’m angry at the guy who broke down, I’m frustrated about the lost time, and I’m worried about what my friends will think about me for being late.
Step 4. Can I change the facts? No, there is no way out of the traffic jam.
Step 5. Can I change my thoughts about the facts? Yes, I can believe that this is God’s plan for this hour of my life. I can be grateful for time to stop and think and pray in the midst of a busy day. I can practice my breathing relaxation techniques. I can listen to a sermon on the radio. I can pray for my friends.
Step 6. What am I feeling now? Slowly I feel peace, tranquility, calm, and trust in God coursing through my heart and body.
We are what we think
In each of these examples, I’ve asked six questions in two groups of three. The first three – about facts, thoughts, feelings – help us identify our thoughts and recognize how they are impacting our emotions and behavior. The second three – also about facts, thoughts, feelings – help us challenge our thoughts, change them, and so change our feelings and actions. In summary:
- How did I get into this mood? Facts, thoughts, feelings.
- How do I get out of this mood? Facts, thoughts, feelings.
The Psalmist follows these steps when he found himself depressed and worried (e.g. Ps. 42, 73, 77).
These six steps are also at the core of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and help explain why it is so effective as part of a package of holistic care for suffering people.