Mind Over Mood- Where's the Evidence?

This is Part 3 of a series of our blog this week about Patty and Jenny. If you have not read the full story, please go back and read Teri’s and Tamara’s blogs from this week.  Today we’re going to discuss how to find the evidence of hot thoughts or automatic thoughts about events happen to us that cause strong negative feelings. In our vignette this week, we have Patty at the grocery store who feels hurt that she waved at her neighborhood friend Jenny at the store and her friend did not wave back.  Yesterday, Tamara described automatic thoughts that Patty may have had in that situation, like:

  •  “She must be mad at me for something”
  • “I must have offended her”
  • “It must have been something I said the other day"
  • “Maybe she didn’t see me"
  • “Maybe she was in a hurry and needed to get out of here quickly”
  •  “Maybe she just got done working out and didn’t want me to see her stinky and smelly”
  • “Maybe she thinks I’m mad at her for something and she’s avoiding me”
  • “Well, we do have lunch planned on Thursday together, so maybe this was a fluke

Part of step 2  is to choose the thought that is causing you the most distress called the hot thought.  In our situation, “she must be mad at me” is Patty’s hot thought.  Now that Patty is upset and thinks that Jenny has ignored her because she is mad, it’s time for Part 3: Where is the evidence for such a strong thought? At this point, we make two lists.  Patty needs to draw on her experience with Jenny to list details of evidence that supports or does not support her hot thought.  Let’s do that for Patty right now!

Evidence that supports Patty’s hot thought might be:

  • “Jenny is so sensitive and she was mad at me just the other week for not texting her right back.”
  • “She invited me to go work out and I told her no this morning.”
  • “I know Jenny saw me and there has to be some reason she just ignored my wave.”
  • “I think I saw her narrow her eyes and give me a dirty look too.”

Evidence that does not support Patty’s hot thought might be:

  • “Jenny is always quick to tell me so when she is mad and she has not said anything yet.”
  • “She invited me to have lunch on Thursday after I had to turn her down to go to the gym this morning.”
  • “She is looking pretty rushed and still in her gym clothes with her four children in tow.”
  • “Jenny has terrible eye sight and she was not even wearing her glasses.”
  • “Jenny tells me what a good friend I am and how much she values our friendship.”

It may be difficult when we are experiencing strong feelings to find evidence that does not support our automatic thoughts.  However, looking at evidence from both sides often reduces the intensity of the mood.  When Patty looks at her evidence that does not support the hot thought, she may feel better and remember that her friendship is also very important to Jenny so there is likely another explanation for Jenny’s behavior.  Notice your shift in mood when you focus on this part of the activity.

Hint: If you are having difficulty finding evidence that does not support your hot thought, try some of these suggestions:

  • Is this completely true all the time?
  • If someone I loved had this thought, what would I tell them?
  • When I am not feeling this way, do I think about this situation differently?
  • When I felt this way in the past, what did I think about that helped me feel better?
  • Is there evidence to support that my thoughts are not 100% true?

Please check back this week as Natalie and Joleen continue to show us how to create alternative thoughts and change our moods.  As always, thanks for stopping by.

Source: Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger & Christine Padesky

Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield