Excuse Me, What Did You Just Say?

By Dr. AmyBeth Taublieb

In this month of July when we characteristically celebrate our national independence, it seems appropriate that we explore a concept of independence that is more individual in nature — that of our psychological/emotional independence. Sound like a unique concept? Well, it may be, yet it’s an extremely important one! Simply stated, I define psychological/emotional independence as the ability to determine your psychological wellbeing without being unduly influenced by those around you.

Although what transpires around us in terms of other people, places, and things is bound to have an impact on us, the key is that it does not have to define us. One of the basic premises of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is that it is not the events around us which cause us to feel a certain way, but, rather, the manner in which we think about or interpret these events. This includes how important we allow these events to be, as well as the meaning we attribute to them.

For example, does a criticism from your boss, a nasty comment from a friend, or an unfortunate life occurrence ruin your whole day? If so, perhaps you need to examine the messages you are telling yourself regarding any of the events you experience. Most often, these messages come in the form of thoughts of self-blame, low self-worth, and even self-hatred. Clearly, such a way of thinking is more than sufficient to elicit anxiety, poor self-esteem, and/or even depression. Perhaps what is even more concerning, is that we often engage in these thoughts so automatically that we are unaware of them. As a result, before we know it, we are sad, angry, or anxious — blaming something external to our world, and feeling helpless to do anything about it.

The key here is to identify our thoughts regarding a given situation so that the “automatic thoughts” become less automatic. Once these thoughts are identified, we can make the connection between the thoughts and the emotions we are experiencing. The final task is to evaluate the validity of the messages that we are sending ourselves, and then, (hopefully) recognize the errors in our reasoning.

Once we are able to allow our sense of emotional wellbeing to be determined by ourselves and not by those around us, we have achieved true psychological independence. Not viewing the behaviors or words of others as being what determines how we feel is incredibly freeing as we go through life. If you think you could use some help in developing this skill, you are not alone! Consider calling me for some CBT coaching. You’ll be surprised by how much easier your day to- day life becomes.

Dr AmyBeth Taublieb is a licensed psychologist, published author, medial personality, and public speaker, who maintains a local practice performing psychotherapy and assessment for individuals, couples, and families. Call her at 716-834-1505, or visit www.dramybeth.com.