I have been seeing a counselor for about six months, and started seeing her for body image issues. I have a tendency to ruminate, and thoughts become easily ingrained in my head. Thoughts will go round and round, in an automatic and cyclical fashion, and I often have a hard time breaking the pattern.
My work on body image thoughts has come a long way since then, and I credit rational emotive therapy. RET is the process of analyzing thought patterns to identify irrational thoughts, and to consciously and actively address the root irrational thoughts to create healthier and more rational thought patterns.
Unsurprisingly, I have found that this same RET process is helpful for me when I have jealousy issues come up. Often for me, jealousy and insecurity issues are related to irrational beliefs like “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m just ugly” or “he likes her more than me.” Even when I know a belief is not irrational, per say, it can help to address them in a more rational manner. Beliefs like “He will leave me for her” are not irrational: many people in both monogamous and open relationships leave their partner for someone they like more. J and I believe, though, that we are taking a lesser risk with our open relationship, because we are both more satisfied with our relationship than before, making it less likely that either of us will leave. Even though a belief like “He will leave me for her” is not irrational, because it could happen, RET helps me to address is calmly and reflectively, and to look at how feeling that way affects how I think and act and also how it then affects my relationship with J. I can then choose a different feeling, and a different way of thinking and acting.
In any case, the following series of questions have been extremely helpful for me in getting past certain situations that trigger jealous and insecure thought patterns. They are helpful in many other contexts, and I suggest the exercise to anyone who gets stuck in a rut with unhelpful thoughts!
Write down the following:
A. Triggering Event
B. -Rational Thought
C. Consequences of the irrational thought(s) (how does it make me feel, think, act, etc.)
D.-Choose the irrational thought
-Is there any truth to this idea? (my answer is pretty much always “no” to this question; otherwise I am not confronting the root irrational thought)
-What evidence exists for the falseness of this idea? (what rational thoughts and other things do I know to be true that contradict this irrational thought)
-What evidence exists for the truth of this idea? (the evidence for truth often lies in what I have convinced myself of, or from what I have chosen to believe taught to me by society, media, etc.)
-What is the worst thing that could happen? (i.e., if I continue to believe this irrational thought)
-What are some good things that might happen? (i.e., if I choose to not believe this irrational thought)
E. -Alternative thoughts
I keep a journal of these exercises, and it is so interesting to me how my thought patterns are stubborn and static; they hold on fast and change very little from time to time that I write. However, it was amazing to me how quickly, relatively speaking, my negative body image self-talk reduced after doing these exercises every day. It makes me hopeful for reducing any jealous or insecure self-talk that I run into. I am able to rationalize my feelings, and consciously weigh the costs and benefits of feeding or cutting off those feelings.