Have you ever thought you needed to withhold your feelings because if you expressed yourself you would hurt someone else's feelings, and now the world seems out of your control? Have you avoided social situations because you were sure that you would make a fool of yourself, and now you believe you are bound to be awkward? If you answer yes, like many of us will, you may be unfairly undermining your own happiness. Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) is a model of therapy developed by Dr. Anthony Ryle that also focuses on flawed thinking and how it can prevent us from reaching our goals. CAT reduces the wide array of mistakes we can make in our thoughts into three distinct categories: traps, snags, and dilemmas.
CAT is unique for it's focus on our self-evaluation that takes place after our appraisal of the event and responding behavior have completed. These evaluations may be the best we can do, but sometimes they are self-sabotaging. Traps, snags, and dilemmas can lead us into feel limited in our choices and our problems become inescapable.
For example: April, 25, feels uncertain about herself and openly admits that she has issues with self-esteem. When in social and work situations, she often strives to please others by doing what they seem to want. This, however, leaves an opportunity for others to direct April around and take advantage of her. Now, April feels depressed, angry, and worthless because her believed role as a less-than person has remained unchanged. This amplifies her original uncertainties and validates her trap.
In the example above, we see April try to remedy her self-esteem issues with the best coping skill she can command. This strategy, however, supports the very issues that cause her negative self-image in the first place. In conclusion, it is the coping strategy, not anything inherently wrong with her, that is the culprit for her self-esteem issues. With reflection and help from a therapist, she may be able to challenge this trap to come up with a new strategy. If she were to believe, for instance, that demonstrating confidence can earn acceptance and respect, she may achieve her desired social reward and find that her previously held beliefs about herself have been disproven. Snags and dilemmas may feature different road blocks, but they work in very much the same way and should be similarly challenged to create new and more helpful strategies.
To explore and reframe these thoughts, please feel free to contact me and schedule your first session.
Reference: Ryle, Anthony, and Ian B. Kerr. Introducing Cognitive Analytic Therapy: Principles and Practice. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.