Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them

Epictetus hit it on the head. The ancient Greek philosopher noted: “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.” Two millennia later, there is an array of psychological tools at our disposal to help us transform one such view for another.

However, problem-focused and action-oriented CBT is about reclaiming from autopilot the sea of unhelpful, unproductive and often unfounded thoughts, beliefs and interpretations (eg magnifying negatives and minimising positives, overgeneralising and “catastrophising”) that can flood us each day, understanding the context from which they have arisen and replacing them with alternative, more realistic and constructive cognitions.

CBT allows you to identify baseless, exaggerated or extreme thinking, routinely ricocheting about your mind, for what it is, while understanding that it really does not have to be this way, unless you want it to. But only you can make that change.

It comes down to the trigger. Were you ever to come across a dead body in the street that just “happened” to be shot, wouldn’t you want to learn who pulled the trigger, when and why? The resulting corpses of our wayward thoughts are similarly susceptible to triggers, often inducing unpleasant physical symptoms (eg butterflies in the stomach, increased heart rate or body temperature) and/or spurring tenuous decision-making and regrettable behaviour – often all in the space of seconds.