Get your thought record. How many negative thoughts have you had yesterday? In the last week? Last month? Are they related to the same theme? Or are they simply different from each other?
“My life is a mess”
“I’m a failure”
“I can’t stand this anymore”
“I’m going to end up alone”
While it is not easy to escape these negative thoughts, you may outweigh them by directing your attention away from your usual thought patterns. A simple way to do that is using the So-what tactic, as shown below:
|My life is a mess
|So what, if things don’t make sense for now?
|I’m a failure
|So what, if I failed a test?
|I can’t stand this anymore
|So what, if I’m unable to stand certain things in life?
|I’m going to end up alone
|So what, if I haven’t found a partner to rely on yet?
In this two-column worksheet, you may write down all the negative thoughts that you struggle to process/challenge. Against each of these, you may explore as many so-what questions as you want in the right-hand column. This worksheet is especially worth trying if the traditional way of challenging such as––”What is the evidence that people don’t like me?” Or “Am I jumping to conclusions?”––-doesn’t work for you.
The so-what worksheet makes you challenge your negative thoughts by exposing yourself to your fears and acknowledging their potential consequences. It is designed to shift the focus from the context of thinking (“I’m a failure”) to the consequence of your thinking (So what if you failed a test? Does it conclude that you will always fail?).
Moreover, when you’re stuck in a problem, it is natural to engage in problem-solving, look for evidences that serve your beliefs, and engage in figuring out the history of your problem. However, sometimes we might simply want to stop ‘fixing’ the problem, atleast temporarily, and process a negative thought beyond its context. This worksheet is designed to draw your attention to relavant information outside your current focus, and help you apply new information to the existing problem.
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Sally George is a Psychologist & the Editor of Gentle Meanings. She shares thought-provoking tools, asks insightful questions, and encourages her readers to be gentle with themselves.