Thought Challenging or Thought Accepting?

Which do you think is better or more workable? To challenge your thought or to accept it?

Traditionally, the psychologists of Cognitive Behavioural approaches emphasize that our thinking style is what causes us to respond emotionally to events, so it’s our thinking style that determines our feelings, our ability to overcome and steer through when adversity strikes (Reivich, Shatte, 2002).

However, the Mindfulness and Acceptance-based approaches suggest that it’s not so much of the content of our thoughts and attitudes that matters, it’s our relationship with them, i.e. how we respond to them.

So the former approach traditionally teaches people to gather evidence and dispute the logic of unhelpful thoughts, whereas the latter approach says we can simply acknowledge the thoughts and distance ourselves from them, without getting into an internal struggle.

Have you ever tried to control or avoid unpleasant experiences and later coming to realize that it’s affecting you even more and causing more discomfort? (e.g. some noise while you’re trying to sleep; your worries; some palpitation and fears)

Psychological suffering (feeling sad, anxious, guilty etc) is very common and so realistically cannot be avoided. Our attempts to avoid or control painful internal experiences can compound and prolong our emotional suffering, at the same time damaging the quality of our lives.

I’ll subsequently write more posts on how to practise and achieve that. But from now on, start to notice those unpleasant experience, acknowledge them and accept them, instead of trying to control or avoid them.

10/9/14: Check here for some tasks  to explore Mindfulness and Acceptance.

2 thoughts on “Thought Challenging or Thought Accepting?

  1. I have thought so much about this topic!
    I have quite intensive emotional issues I struggle with, and I have done CBT and now I’m on mindfulness path. The problem I had with CBT was that I began to think: “My thoughts and emotions are wrong, therefore I’m not good enough”, so I found mindfulness to be more helpful for me. But I have thought that accepting my thought and emotions is good, but maybe I should go futher – to accept the contents of my thoughts? Or maybe is more accurate to say to accept circumstances?
    I see accepting as dropping the negativity. I realize that negativity doesn’t make those thoughts and feelings go away, so I drop it and I let my thoughts and feeling to be as they are. But if I have a thought: “I’m not good enough”, then it’s because I subconsciously hope that if I say such thing to myself, I don’t do that thing, that triggered this thought anymore. Then, would it be more useful to just accept the way I was, instead accepting this thought? Yes, it would cause an inner conflict, but I can accept this one also, no?
    I feel that this accepting thingy is really confusing for me and I would be glad to hear, what others think :)

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      My point here, is to accept the thought only as a thought, not to take the content (e.g. “I’m not good enough”) so literally, so that it doesn’t lead to so much emotional distress. It’s how we relate ourselves to the thought, not so much about what the thought itself says.

      I understand your confusion there, as I’m also having the same problem here. Sometimes I wonder what to accept and what not to?! And how to accept them is considered accepting healthily.

      To make it clearer, here is an example. Some people are afraid of “snake”, hearing the word is enough to trigger some anxiety in them. But if one is asked to repeat the word 50 times (or to repeat the word in a funny voice), the word will gradually lose its meaning, so he can now only see the word “snake” as some letters “s-n-a-k-e”, not what it means literally. Same applies to negative thoughts, see the thoughts only as thoughts, so that it no longer causes emotional issues.

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