Ryan Sheade, LCSW
A foundational principle of cognitive behavioral theory and also much of human philosophy is the idea of perspective. Whether it is found in the simple phrase “let go, let God” that many of us know from Christianity or in the ancient philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, who in 124 CE said “The Universe is change, our life is what our thoughts make it,” humans have been discussing the concept of changing perspective for literally millenia. An issue with this incredibly simple concept is that it is easy to understand, but hard to do – because knowledge does not equal understanding. Knowing that changing perspective will lead to less distressing emotions doesn’t mean you understand how to do it. And having a balanced, rational perspective is much like proper diet, and exercise, and mindfulness practices like breathing and prayer and meditation – we all *know* they are beneficial, yet we have a very hard time consistently doing them. So what’s going on? In all honesty, for you in particular that answer involves a complex analysis of your past, your relationships, positive and negative experiences, etc. And most people find those things through working with a professional. But there are two questions that I can give you to start, which may open new opportunities for learning about yourself. When you have a thought that leads to a distressing emotion, ask yourself: 1) Who taught me to see this situation that way? 2) Is that person, in my view now, a credible source of information and perspective? For example, am I comfortable with my life being the way that their life is or was? When we can take an honest look at where we got some of our thoughts that lead to difficult emotions, we often find that the person who gave us those thoughts, though they were a powerful figure in our life at the time we received the thought, is not someone we believe to be credible any longer. And if they aren’t credible, why do we continue to believe them?