Ever wondered why we do the things we do? If so, you aren’t alone. Answering the question of why we do what we do has been the unending goal of psychologists, scientists, philosophers, and humans as a whole for centuries. Some say everything we do is to satisfy basic human needs. Others say this can’t be the case, because there’s no clear definition of what exactly constitutes a human need. Then there’s the question of– as is the case with addiction recovery clients in dual diagnosis treatment plans– how our thoughts actually translate to actions. When we have a mental illness, what thoughts are ours, and what thoughts stem from the dysregulation or dysfunction of the illness– and who or what decides which thoughts are translated into which actions?
Dr. Miki Kashtan of PsychologyToday has an interesting theory that works really well here. She says “When we instantly translate feelings into actions, we sidestep any understanding of what we truly want. Because of the strength with which our feelings “command” action, we don’t have the opportunity to use feelings as what I believe they are designed for, which is to be sources of information.”
Oftentimes, we act impulsively and immediately translate our feelings into actions. Sometimes, we do this so quickly that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. When we put feet to our thoughts instantaneously, as Kashtan suggests, we forego our ability to understand our feelings and comprehend what they really mean.
In treatment, we learn how to separate our addictive behaviors from the thoughts that cause them. This helps us dive down to the root of the issues that may have led to our addiction in the first place. One of the modalities used to do this is referred to as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
According to its technical definition, “Cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving.” In a nutshell, it’s a form of therapy that focuses on helping us assess the thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes that cause us to behave the way we do. By changing our thoughts and attitudes, we can also change the behavior tied to them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a buzz term in many circles, but it’s not so much the modality that makes the difference, as the process behind it. When we’re able to take a hard look at the driving forces behind why we do what we do, we gain more control over ourselves, and our reactions to stressors as well as other outside influences. Even when we’re not in the most ideal situations or we can’t control what’s around us, we’re always able to control our responses to our situations. Even though we may have negative thoughts about what’s going on in our lives, CBT helps us make sure those negative thoughts don’t encourage us to do something rash or regrettable. The skill sets we develop through cognitive behavioral therapy help us create balance between our thoughts, our feelings, and the way we react to life.
Why is it important to separate behaviors from thoughts?
When we separate our behaviors from our thoughts, we gain more understanding as to why we react the way we react to life. When we’re addicted, there never seems to be rhyme or reason behind why we’re acting the way we’re acting- both under the influence of drugs and in between moments of intoxication.
How does CBT tie into dual diagnosis treatment?
For those of us going through dual diagnosis treatment, CBT can be even more helpful. In fact, the concept of cognitive behavioral therapy was first created by psychiatrist Aaron Beck upon realizing that his patients seemed to talk to themselves. His theory– that we all have these “automatic thoughts” that pop up in our heads and influence our behaviors– corresponds with the idea of treating multiple illnesses holistically, as is the case with dual diagnosis treatment. Whether dual diagnosis treatment or any other form of treatment, the process of separating our thoughts from our behaviors in order to better understand them is a process that can only be good for us. As we grow throughout our recovery journey, we’ll find that the strategies we learn to separate thoughts and behaviors can be used anytime, anywhere, and in any situation.
Thrive Treatment of Santa Monica, California is an outpatient treatment facility that helps our clients learn how to assess their thoughts in order to change their behaviors. Through modalities that build confidence and independence, we also help our clients conquer the self-defeating thoughts that keep us down. With over thirty years of combined experience, we have what it takes to help you defeat addiction for good. Call us at (888) 975-8474 to get started today.