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  • amynighbert

Negative thoughts, negative feelings, and negative behavior. How we can begin to break the cycle.

Updated: May 15, 2021

Negative thoughts, negative feelings, and negative behavior. How we can begin to break the cycle.

Who can relate to this? “Something” happened at home, at work, with a friend or family member that sent us into some negative thoughts, bad feelings, and you acted in a way that didn’t get you a good result. Take these two scenarios as examples.

Scenario 1. A coworker, let’s call him Brian, storms into a meeting and is speaking in a really aggressive tone. Not only is his tone aggressive, but his voice is loud and his body language is telling you he is clearly not a happy camper. Maybe he’s even using foul language to express his frustration. You’re thinking, “what a jerk! He can’t come in here and talk to me this way!”. You prepare yourself to give it right back to him, because you’re feeling offended and on edge. You match his tone, his volume and now the two of you are in the middle of a conflict. Things escalate, because Brian is not backing down.

Scenario 2. Lauren got some really bad news today. She’s struggling to get through the day and starts thinking, “I can’t cope with this. I am not strong enough. I just need some comfort food! That will make me feel better. I know I shouldn't, but I have no self control.I just don’t want to think about any of this right now.” Now, not only is she feeling stress from the bad news, she’s feeling unequipped and like a failure. She grabs the tub of ice cream and eats it, all of it.

Introducing the CTFAR model. In NLP, there’s an interesting model we can use to see how our thoughts lead to our actions, and why we engage in behaviors we don’t necessarily want. We can use this model to change the outcome. When we have the self-awareness to identify our thoughts, we have the option to make a change. Transforming the way we think about a situation opens up new possibilities to choose a different, more favorable action. And this model can be used for just about anything! Let’s walk through it and see how we might apply to our two scenarios.

C- CIRCUMSTANCE. This is an event, a moment, a “something” that happens that you can’t change.

T- THOUGHT. You have thought about the circumstance.

F- FEELING. The thought you have leads to a feeling.

A- ACTION. The feeling you have leads to an action.

R- RESPONSE. The action you take leads to a response. Here’s the interesting part. The response most often reinforces the THOUGHT.

So, let’s take the first scenario. Your THOUGHT, “what a jerk! He can’t come in here and talk to me this way!”, led to that feeling of anxiety and edginess. That FEELING prompted you to engage in a conflict with the coworker (your ACTION). The RESPONSE to this action: things escalate, because Brian won’t back down.

How could it have been different? We have options in this situation. When Brian stormed in clearly upset, maybe you could have thought, “Wow. This guy is really worked up about something. He’s clearly having a bad day.” This THOUGHT leads to a FEELING of curiosity. The curiosity leads to you to ask, “Hey, Brian, you seem really upset. What’s going on? Maybe there’s something I can do to help.” (your ACTION). Brian may then realize that he’s acting aggressively and takes a breath and lowers his tone. He then apologizes and shares with you that he's having a really bad day, because he’s under a lot of pressure to make the sale or he’s having trouble at home, etc. The RESPONSE to this action reinforces your original thought.

But maybe Brian doesn’t de-escalate. You’re not getting the response you want. What do you do? Stick with it. So you go back through the loop again. You think “this guy is really having a bad day” and from that feeling of curiosity, you can follow up with “Is there anything I can do to help resolve the problem?” Making this transformation in YOUR thought, while it may not change Brian’s actions, it can change YOUR action.

Scenario 2. Lauren has these negative THOUGHTS about herself, that she can’t control herself, that she can’t cope with the bad news, and that food will make her feel better. These thoughts led to negative FEELINGS, the inability to cope with the situation and the feeling of failure. These feelings led her to ACTION of stress/emotional eating. The response: she reinforces her negative thoughts about herself. It’s a loop that she’s stuck in until she can change that initial thought.

So, is changing the way you think about a circumstance easy? No, not always. Sometimes it's a situation we can coach ourselves through. Other times, it may be something so deeply rooted that we need a little help with. But, if we can take one small step in becoming aware of our conscious thoughts, recognizing our thoughts, that gives us the opportunity to literally “change our mind”. Shifting our thoughts can affect our feelings and help us feel more resourceful in deciding how to act. Reflect back to a recent situation that you wish you may have had acted differently. What could you have THOUGHT differently to spark a different chain reaction? Next time, “something” comes up, and it always does, I encourage you to apply this model to open yourself up to other options to get you a more favorable result.

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