Coping with unpleasant thoughts

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Somethings we can’t control or block out those negative thoughts.

It might be the same thought played on loop – ‘I’m not smart enough for this job’, ‘I’m not good enough for him’, ‘Everybody is more popular than me’.

Or it could be a stream of voices that chip away at your confidence and stop you from reaching your full potential.

The aim of this article is to provide you with an easy way of improving your skills to cope with your emotions. It is based on RBT (Rational Behavioral Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

It comes down to two steps: identifying your beliefs and testing them. The following sections contain the details.

I hear from my clients that they experience different kinds of negative emotions very often. However, calling emotions “negative” is a simplification – we experience a variety of emotions and all of them are necessary. It might sound obvious but people are more likely to focus on feelings rather than thoughts. The most common unpleasant emotions are anxiety and sorrow. It is not possible to overcome these symptoms immediately because they are often a result of more complex issues. However, it is possible to learn how to deal with them. The purpose of counselling is to understand oneself better. This in turn eases one’s ability to affect the way they feel. According to CBT, our emotions are linked to our beliefs. What people think about themselves and the surrounding world strongly influences their emotions. An example of that dependency is low self-esteem. It is often incorrectly identified as the cause of poor frame of mind, but in fact is a result of a “negative self-talk”.

Identifying Negative Beliefs

The “ABC table” is a very useful tool in analysing one’s thoughts and emotions in an easy way. The idea is to break down the analysis into three aspects:

  • an activating event (A) – the situation that triggers feeling unwell
  • beliefs (B) – what kind of thoughts appear in your mind
  • consequences (C) – usually emotions but also physical symptoms which accompany the above mentioned

Coping with unpleasant thoughts MyMind

How to cope with negative beliefs

Along with RBT it is very helpful to ask oneself “Five Rational Questions”

  1. Is my thinking based on obvious fact?
  2. Will my thinking best help me protect my life and health?
  3. Will my thinking best help me achieve my short and long-term goals?
  4. Will my thinking best help me prevent unwanted conflicts with others?
  5. Will my thinking help me feel the emotions I want to feel without using alcohol or drugs?

If three of five answers are “no”, it is worth considering if a certain belief is a healthy one.


Human beings are not that simple and one will not resolve significant issues by only using tools like these. However, they may be very useful in daily life. It may be a kind of an anchor that keeps you grounded in tough situations. It is worth taking into consideration a quote of an unknown author:“When we are rational we recognise that intuition and emotion are most valuable when combined with thoughtful analysis.”To those willing to go deeper, I would recommend reading “Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think” by D. Greenberger and C. Padesky. This book does not require professional knowledge.

If you think you may be struggling with a negative thought pattern, we can help. Visit our team page here to read about our mental health professionals. Call us at 076 680 1060 or email to get your first appointment within 72 hours.