After you have gained a basic understanding of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by reading about the Cognitive Model
it will be helpful to have a clearer understanding of where feelings come from. Distressing feelings are often the primary reason for seeking out treatment.
Most people come into treatment because they are feeling “bad” and want to change the way they feel. These feelings may include sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, frustration, overwhelm and stress. To understand how CBT can help, the first thing to figure out is where feelings come from. After all, how can you set out to change your feelings if you don’t know how they are created?
Consider this: You scored tickets to the Olympic hockey game between USA and Canada. You invite your Canadian friend to go with you. Canada wins the game! You feel disappointed and a little bit sad. Your friend feels ecstatic and reenergized. You are both in the exact same situation – standing in the stadium watching the aftermath of the Canadian win. How is it possible that you and your friend are experiencing wildly different emotions? It can’t be the situation since the situation you are in is the SAME. What other factor could be involved?
Research has found is that while there may be some link between situations and feelings, it’s actually not very strong. The stronger link to feelings is our thoughts. Your friend is thinking about how his team just won the game and he can’t wait to rub it in at the office tomorrow. You are thinking about how the US deserved to win and how they got cheated of another victory. The way we think has a greater impact on how we feel than the situation itself.
BODY RESPONSES OR PHYSIOLOGICAL SENSATIONS
In addition to emotional changes in feelings, thoughts can lead to physical sensations that we feel as well. They are often called physiological sensations or body responses. These are feelings such as an increased heart rate, tenseness in your muscles, shaking, sweating and stomach pain. These sensations can be very distressing and can sometimes lead to additional distress. Some people may have an increased heat rate and have the thought that it is uncomfortable and annoying. Another person may experience an increased heart rate and have the thought that they are having a heart attack. These differences in thought about the body response would lead to very different emotional experiences. A CBT therapist can help you get clear on the meaning of these uncomfortable sensations and learn strategies to cope with them and even reduce their intensity.