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CBT Triangle - Challenging Our Dysfunctional Beliefs

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Our beliefs inform our socio-psycho-behavioural attitude and conduct. It also plays a role in our defense mechanism. We automatically and unconsciously react to and perceive situations differently based on our core beliefs. At times, the beliefs we had adopted to help us through various experiences and traumas in life can become overprotective and hinder our ability to function well in situations. For example, if someone believes that they are not good enough and therefore is likely to make a fool of themselves in front of a group of people, it is likely that when this person is asked to give a presentation, they would experience a lot of stress and anxiety and in many cases, might not be able to successfully give that presentation, even if their employment depends on it. Beliefs which arise from fear might cause clinical and psychosomatic disorders such as phobias, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, nervous breakdowns, chronic pains and depression to name a few. So how do we overcome these limiting beliefs?

The Cognitive-Behavioural Triangle

Cognitive-Behaviourists use the CBT triangle to help patients understand how their specific thoughts impacts their emotions and their behaviour. Shown in the diagram below, the triangle shows how our thoughts can empower or limit us.

Once you understand the relationship between your thoughts, emotions and reactions, you can now proceed to reprogram your mind by changing the limiting beliefs (software). One evidence-based method to reprogram your mind is by challenging the thought. Consider the thought from an objective point of view, carefully compile and examine the evidence to determine if the thought is true, review your past experiences with similar situations, ponder if there is a more helpful way you can think about a situation. When we start challenging a thought, often we will discover how irrational those thoughts are and how automatic thoughts control our lives without us being conscious of it.

You will need to continuously be aware of your thoughts and to challenge those that are irrational so that they do not unconsciously influence your life in a way that is limiting and negative.

Author: Dr Lennie Soo

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About the Author


Dr. Lennie Soo

Founder and Clinical Director of 360 Wellness Hub.

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