Cognitive De-Structuring, De-Framing, Deconstructing

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BillyPLed
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Cognitive De-Structuring, De-Framing, Deconstructing

Post by BillyPLed » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:21 am

The Work of Byron Katie is unlike anything else. However, it seems that the mind's job is to compare and contrast. The mind has a hard time with something if it can't place it in a category. And, any categorization of The Work is placing limits on it. At the same time, discussing The Work in these ways helps me to communicate better with my colleagues and clients. Of course better than describing The Work is doing The Work. The Work speaks for itself and describes itself in the doing of it.

That being said, here goes:

The approach to psychotherapy known as “Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy” is said to be a method of “cognitive restructuring.” You identify your irrational thoughts and see how they lead to painful emotions like fear, depression, anger, etc. You then notice how those irrational thoughts and their resulting emotions lead to actions that cause even more pain for yourself and others. Thought = Emotion = Behavior.

Therefore, if we want to change our emotions and behavior we need to work on changing our thoughts. This is where cognitive restructuring comes in. We replace our irrational, unhealthy thoughts with rational, healthy ones. We “challenge” our unhealthy thinking. Healthy thinking will lead to healthy emotions that results in healthy behavior.

So, how does The Work of Byron Katie differ from this approach? Some people might think that The Work is just a re-packaged form of REBT. I use to tell people over and over again that this is not so. However, I had a hard time explaining how it differs. I have done much thinking about this and have come upon a way of explaining the differences that seems to make sense to me.

I know that I am not the first one to put it this way. One of my favorite books is The Sacred Mirror: Nondual Wisdom and Psychotherapy. There is a chapter in this book called “Deconstructing the Self: The Uses of Inquiry in Psychotherapy and Spiritual Practice” by Stephan Bodian that specifically refers to The Work along with other methods of inquiry. He essentially says the same thing that I have realized. He calls it “deconstructing” to distinguish it form “reconstructing.” In Emptiness Dancing Adyashanti says it in his own way. He refers to the difference between “re-framing” and “de-framing.” Along with those terms I would like to add a third - “cognitive de-structuring.”

The little prefix “de” means “undoing.” That other prefix “re” means "repetition of a previous action; back to an earlier state or condition; again; contrary.” De-construction, de-framing and de-structuring, therefore, have to do with undoing our mental constructs, frames of reference, and thought structures. We are not repeating the same old process of creating mental constructs - no matter how “healthy” they might be. We are not going back to an earlier state. We are not doing again what has failed us in the past - i.e., constructing thoughts to explain reality. We are not creating thought forms that are contrary to the way things are.

The process, using The Work, is something like this: We identify our unhealthy thinking. We inquire into the truth of these thoughts and see that they are not true for us. We see the suffering that results from believing thoughts that are not true. We get a glimpse of what life would be like without these thoughts and we turn them around. All of this results in our thoughts loosening their grip on us. We do not change them. We do not stop them. We question them, and they let go of us. The thought structures are seen as just that - thought structures. They are not reality. And, as Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth, “all structures are unstable.”

Another way of putting this is that one approach has to do with moving from one way of thinking (unhealthy, irrational) to a different way of thinking (healthy, rational). The problem is that we are still operating in the realm of thinking. It is like taking a pig and putting lipstick and a dress on it – you still have a pig.

The other approach is about moving from a way of thinking (stressful) to a way of being (peace itself). The fourth question of The Work is “Who would you be without that thought?” It is a question about being. The Work takes us out of the realm of thinking all-together and opens us up to our true nature.

We see that a pig is a pig no matter how we might dress it up. A thought is just a thought. It does not define reality no matter how “rational” or “healthy” it is. Who we are is that which is there before the thought, that which is background (often obscured) during the thought, and that which remains after the thought is questioned.
Billy in Lousiana

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Re: Cognitive De-Structuring, De-Framing, Deconstructing

Post by shappy » Sun Nov 11, 2007 7:20 am

Very interesting post.

I agree with the re-framing/de-framing distinction you have made. Also, I really don't know much about psychotherapy (apart from my time on the leather couch), but I wonder if another distinction could simply be the manner in which these irrational thoughts are identified. In a case that may be a little unclear, a psychotherapist may have a bias or may simply miss the irrational thought altogether. I don't know... how does this identification work?

In the case of Katie's Work, it is simply whatever the person deems to be problematic. There is absolutely no analysis of what to consider rational or irrational because, essentially, all thoughts that occupy the mind are considered irrational. No matter the problem, the irrational nature is clearly seen after the 4 questions and the flip is complete.

Probably the most important thing about Katie's Work is that it acts like a mirror. After the 4 questions, the flip reveals that the problem actually originates with us. And if it originates with us, then it must end with us.

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Re: Cognitive De-Structuring, De-Framing, Deconstructing

Post by Onceler » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:24 pm

I like what you are saying, Billy. I too have mulled over the relationship between cognitive theory and with authors like Tolle. I have not read Katie, but feel I must. Perhaps awareness of thinking, just that, is the very first step...I work with learning disabled teens and use a very basic form of cognitive theory. The struggle is to have them even become aware of their "automatic" thoughts. They are are so "in" them, deeply identified, that they often can't even express what they are thinking; once expressed their thought patterns are profoundly negative and "helpless".

Lately I have had better success with simply asking kids what part of their body feels uncomfortable or in pain. They can often identify this more easily than their thinking. This "inner body" work seems to bypass thought in those kids who have trouble identifying their cognitions to begin with. They often feel the emotion breaking up, dissolving as they watch it. Doesn't work for all of them, however.

As I read this I reflect that we are all "learning disabled" and that those who have disabilities of "cognitions" are actually closer to the body already and we drag them back through thinking where things get very distorted...hmmm.

Thanks for the insights.

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Re: Cognitive De-Structuring, De-Framing, Deconstructing

Post by heidi » Sun Nov 11, 2007 4:19 pm

Great piece, Billy, worthy of a psychology publication. Katie's Work must be the therapist's dream come true. :)
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Re: Cognitive De-Structuring, De-Framing, Deconstructing

Post by BillyPLed » Sun Nov 11, 2007 6:31 pm

heidi wrote:Great piece, Billy, worthy of a psychology publication. Katie's Work must be the therapist's dream come true. :)
Thanks, Heidi. Yes, The Work is a therapist's dream. I see it as a sledge-hammer disguised as a chisel. The client feels like we are chipping away at their armour, their defenses, their stories. Before they know it the whole think starts falling apart in huge chunks. I love it!
I wonder if another distinction could simply be the manner in which these irrational thoughts are identified. In a case that may be a little unclear, a psychotherapist may have a bias or may simply miss the irrational thought altogether. I don't know... how does this identification work?

In the case of Katie's Work, it is simply whatever the person deems to be problematic. There is absolutely no analysis of what to consider rational or irrational because, essentially, all thoughts that occupy the mind are considered irrational. No matter the problem, the irrational nature is clearly seen after the 4 questions and the flip is complete.

Probably the most important thing about Katie's Work is that it acts like a mirror. After the 4 questions, the flip reveals that the problem actually originates with us. And if it originates with us, then it must end with us.
Very good point. As a facilitator of The Work I am constantly needing to remind myself that this is the client's Work and to trust the client to find their way. The client is to identify the thoughts to question; the client is to find their own answers to the questions; the client knows the way if I would only "ask the questions and hold the space." Hopefully, the client realizes that they do not need me anymore and can facilitate themselves. My job is to offer the questions and hold the space in such a way that they feel safe to explore and discover they can do all of this for themselves.
Perhaps awareness of thinking, just that, is the very first step...I work with learning disabled teens and use a very basic form of cognitive theory. The struggle is to have them even become aware of their "automatic" thoughts. They are are so "in" them, deeply identified, that they often can't even express what they are thinking; once expressed their thought patterns are profoundly negative and "helpless".
I really find that the "Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet" is extremely helpful with identifying these automatic thoughts. It is hard to do any form of self-inquiry if we do not write the thoughts on paper. The mind will do all sorts of gymnastics to avoid being questioned if we do not stabilize it on paper. The worksheets give us a snap-shot of the mind and make it easier to Work with. The Worksheet is also designed to help us identify our thoughts.

You can also simplify the process by giving out sheets of paper that say something like: "I am angry with _______ because ______." "I am saddened by ________ because ________." Then isolate the concepts and question them. There are many ways to find the stressful thoughts. Once isolated on paper they become very easy to investigate.
Billy in Lousiana

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Re: Cognitive De-Structuring, De-Framing, Deconstructing

Post by Onceler » Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:08 am

Thanks Billy,

I finally dug into Katie's work and feel like two parts of my life. professional and personal, have been synthesized. It's powerful stuff and I agree with your opening post on this thread. It takes my background in cognitive therapy and amps it up quite high.

I have only used it with one or two older kids, tentatively, but found that my own personal use of The Work, has cleared some cognitive blocks for me and opened me up to my clients.

Again, a heartfelt thanks. I may have some further questions as they arise.
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