From a comment on Reddit about dealing with self-defeating thoughts:

What OP is describing is very similar to Cognitive Processing Therapy.

In CPT, you identify a self-defeating or otherwise unhelpful thought pattern as well as the negative emotion it causes you to feel.

Then ask yourself some very simple questions about it such as

– What evidence is there FOR this thought/belief?

– AGAINST it?

– Does it not include all the relevant facts?

– Is it an “all-or-none” or exaggeration?

– Are you confusing what is possible with what is likely?

– Is it based on feelings or on facts?


Then you identify any classic problematic thinking patterns that might be going on:

– Are you jumping to conclusions?

– Exaggerating or minimizing?

– Ignoring important aspects?

– Oversimplifying?

– Overgeneralizing?

– Emotional reasoning?

Once you have established these things for yourself, then you identify what you could think instead of the unhelpful thought that is causing me difficulty, and how do you feel when you think about it that way instead?

Having done that, look back on the thought or belief that had been giving you trouble. How do you feel about it now? How much do you believe it?

Having done all of that, now how do you feel about the thought or belief we just re-framed?

Whether you call it “story editing” or CPT or re-framing, it’s just a matter of understanding that our brain is not our friend. The “lizard brain,” “survival brain,” or however you might want to refer to the amygdala and thalamus operate independently of rational thought and do not always (or even usually) offer input that helps us in our modern, non-survival driven existence.

But they do offer input at all times, no matter what. It’s something to be aware of and to manage if it needs to be managed.


This theme is something I explored a bit from last year, and it’s great to see everything laid out concisely as above. When the commenter above said that, “our brain is not our friend”, I think another way to see it is that “our brain is not us”. What the brain says, then, is not the absolute truth. Instead it’s helpful to look at it as a tool that gives us an input about a certain situation, and it’s up to us to decide how to interpret this input, or even whether to believe it at all.

(It’s also interesting to explore just what are we, if we’re not our thoughts. There’s something in us that’s capable of observing our own thoughts and think about them, often called metacognition. Would be good to be a topic for a future blog post)

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