Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: An antidote to disturbing thought patterns

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In this essay…

There was a girl namely Muskan, a 21st century born. Like others, she also witnessed an uninvited guest, the COVID-19 pandemic during the end of the second decade of the 21st century. On the face value, it seems a type of viral disease but it has affected all aspects of life – mental, social, economic, institutional, and global aspects. Governments across the globe announced a lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. A working-class man spends most of the time in economic activities while in offices but pandemics put a pause to it. But Muskan noted something during the lockdown when the whole world was locked within the four walls of the house.

One morning, she read a report of the National Commission of Women published in a national newspaper. It reported a sharp increase (Almost doubled in 2020 as compared to 2019) in domestic violence during the lockdown periods. Even the same trend was also reported across the world. She asked her father – Why does this happen during the worst days of human history? Her father tried to explain – Betaji ! It has less to do with physical manifestations and more to do with “mental illness”. Violence germinates in the mind of a person infected with patriarchy and destructive thought patterns. The physical form of violence is merely a manifestation.

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Curious Muskan asked some more interesting questions – Why do such negative thoughts come into our minds? How do we react? How ought to react in such a situation? Is there any mechanism that can help us in eradicating disturbing thought patterns even before the process of germination? Her father requested a coffee and appreciated her questions. Both sat with coffee and started discussing these questions one by one.

Why do disturbing thoughts come?

Muskan asked the first question – Why does negative thought come into our mind? In the first place, her father replied – Beta Ji! It is natural. Both negative and positive feelings are part and parcel of the human being. Her father first took help from the preaching of Buddha – Sorrow and happiness are the two faces of the same coin. It is as true as day and night. But Muskan being a girl born in the 21st century wanted a scientific explanation of this phenomenon. She asked him to logical explanation.

Subsequently, her father took the help of Rene Descartes, a French philosopher. Rene Descartes gave the resolutive-composite method (R-C method) for understanding human nature in a scientific way flavored with realism. R-C method says that a person observes the complex phenomenon that is shaped by human behavior. Human nature finds an elementary part of human behavior. Human behavior is controlled by the human mind. It stabilizes causes and effects. It means brain responses to the external stimuli i.e. love and aversion in different phases of life.

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She again asked – Why do the brain respond to the external stimuli differently? He replied – because a person loves pleasure and avoids pain. In the process of achieving pleasure, a person encounters pain too. There is a sense of fear for the pain in the person. It drives a person toward thinking about the chain of negative feelings. That chain is ought to be broken to liberate a person from the shackle of negative thought patterns. Muskan curiously asked then how can we break this ghost chain?

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Her father smiled and replied – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Muskan asked what is it? Her father replied – It is a psychological intervention which acts as an antidote to mental illness. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t only identify but also change the disturbing thoughts which often come to our mind. It improves our emotional management which further leads to the improved emotional intelligence of a person. End result of this mechanism will certainly help you in understanding the emotion of others as well your own emotions. Thus, a person would take informed decisions based on knowledge of emotions.

It is true that our decisions are not completely informed. We might be informed by information and may not by emotions. Both components are very necessary for taking all kinds of decisions – whether a decision taken by a person about behavioral alignment with the better half or an administrator about engagement with the people. In this process, CBT helps for the best alignments in life. First of all, it asks us to identify the negative thoughts coming into our minds. For this, there is a need for self-introspection which would lead to the self-discovery of a person. Through this step, an honest report card would be created by you and submitted to you only.

Subsequently, new skills would be learned which would create a thrust against negative feelings and that would be selected after proper SWOT (Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threat) analysis. But for this, one needs to set a goal and divide them into long-term goals and short-term goals. Start focusing on short-term goals and assess whether one is able to finish his/her goal or not. If yes, then all right! go ahead with the rest of short terms goals. Unfortunately, if not then go back to the drawing board and set up a committee in your heart and investigate the issue thoroughly. Once the issue is detected then select the solution through proper SWOT analysis.

Shackle of destructive patterns in social affairs

Muskan further added questions – Do we really encounter the same chain of negative feelings in our society? Is it limited to only mental illness or applicable to other issues in our society? Her father again appreciated her wonderful questions. To reply to her question, he took her to her first reaction over the report of the national commission of women. Persons who committed crimes through domestic violence are ‘crackpots’ and ‘superfluous masses’. They are ignorant and have lost their own capability to think and reason. In this regard, their decision to physically abuse completely lacks emotional information.

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Similarly, sometimes a silent conversation happens between a son and parents in educational life. A parent expects a lot from his/her children. It seems they are giving exams on behalf of their son. But parents often miss some more perspectives like emotional, age factor to which their children belong, negative feelings, a sense of fear due to failure, etc. A different set of negative externalities come into the mind of a child. The concerned child gets stuck in the shackle of destructive feelings. Its manifestations appear in newspapers that report student suicide in coaching places.

Unlocking a chain of disturbing design in administration

In fact, if you peep into administration, you would find the same pattern. Corruption is a common evil that doesn’t depend on time and space. It has been witnessed since the beginning of human society. Recently, the government of India brought a ‘Direct Benefit Transfer‘ (DBT) scheme to reduce corruption in which salaries/subsidies are directly deposited to the beneficiary’s account by eliminating the need for a middleman. Some corrupt officials brought an antidote to DBT where they are asking for a share of the bribe after it gets deposited in the bank account.

Similar to the case of domestic violence, a state of corruption is also violence against the weaker section whose money is siphoned off for personal use. In the first place, it also germinates in the mind of the people, only physical manifestations are caught through raids of the enforcement directorate (ED). Corruption can’t be eliminated until each and every official understand the real cause of his/her purpose in the respective office. Until and unless an official understands the purpose for which he/she is in the respective offices, there is no end to the predicament.

Thus, it will only be possible when an official would start self-discovering himself/herself. We have to first identify the negative feelings that corruption is a monetary pleasure and it won’t give happiness in long run. Then, the deterrence against corruption will be upwelling from inside the heart. A person has not to be honest just because rules or regulations are made against it but it should be even when there is no law in our society. This is the power of cognitive behavior therapy.

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Sometimes an administrator also faces a riot-like situation in his/her professional life. During riot situations, the role of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) becomes very important. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps in the activation of emotional intelligence. It indicates the importance of understanding self-emotion as well as the emotion of others. It would help in taking decisions during the ethical dilemma between public affairs and personal affairs. For example, in case, a mob attacks on public property and the officer shares the same identity with the mob, an officer should follow “Dharma” and CBT can be a means to the end.

Cognitive behavior therapy in the dynamics of world affairs

She asked another question – Is it also effective in the disordered world too especially when Russia is invading Ukraine after Crimea? Her father replied – You are right. In the recent decade, the world is facing the worst humanitarian crisis. For example, the Rohingya community was persecuted in Myanmar forced to become stateless people. A similar trend is seen across the world. Middle eastern countries have been at the receiving end. China is persecuting Uighurs in the Xinjiang province of China. Turkey bombs the border attached to Syria to target Kurds.

As we know the world order is anarchical in structure which lacks a common governance system. In this context, the role of cognitive-behavioral therapy becomes important in assessing their decisions in world affairs. It asks the world community to go back to the drawing board. They should first identify negative thought patterns prevailing in society i.e., power is end in itself. Then adopt the most logical and realistic solution based on SWOT analysis – power should be mean and security should be the end. Last but not the least, it deserves a periodic review of the implementations.

In conclusion

Her father asked – Betaji! what did you learn from today’s discussion? Muskan replied – Cognitive behavior therapy is not only limited to mental illness at the individual level. A Greek philosopher, Plato rightly said that ‘A state is an individual writ large. It means a state is nothing but the larger form of individual. So, society, the state as well as the world order also faces the ‘mental disorder’ of some kind. It is not a panacea, but Cognitive behavior therapy can be an effective tool to imagine a just and equitable society.

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    abhimanyu sharma

    can you please provide the editable content for print purposes……..

    March 21, 2022
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    March 20, 2022
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