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CBT tells us that cognitive distortions are caused by both internal and external influences.
CBT tells us that distorted thinking can be subverted through therapeutic work.
CBT, however, does not often tell us that ‘distorted’ thinking can be the result of a disempowering external social world.
I am sitting on a step on Cuba St near buskers badly playing music, and my friend is getting food. My friend is now sitting across from me ripping a sugar sachet telling me how she is feeling because I am asking her how she is feeling because she had to have a procedure because she didn’t want to have a kid. She is telling me she is fine and I am thinking that this is good and I am thinking about how she holds herself in a nice way, and then she is telling me about how she got yelled at the other night by rugby men and now I am thinking about my school friends who had bits of their person quietly extracted from them by boys in high school. I’m thinking of my friends who became acclimatised to too much cortisol before they were six, due to too much father shouting. The mood I am feeling is like scared and worried and like I am going to scream at the buskers and my thoughts are like why are you so defensive about these issues, you are safe. And my thoughts are now like well now, ultimately, Jane, we are an amalgam of your brain chemistry, your family history, and the assumptions you hold about yourself and the world that were taught to you by an inhospitable environment which hates you, because you are a woman. My thoughts are like please excuse us but do you expect us to be relaxed? My mind remembers my mouth and now I’m speaking and I’m saying to my friend (who is asking me if I have any ‘CBT tips’ as to how she can calm herself when she is walking in the dark) that you can learn all of the tips and do all of the things to take back your body from worry but know that ultimately you are perfect. It is not solely your responsibility to change the external conditions which render your internal life really shitty. I am saying to her that you and me and we have a power, the source of which is inaccessible to those fixated on blaming us alone for our anxieties and our distorted self talk. I’m saying that we need to be this power as Beyoncé suggests in ‘Grown Woman’ but we also need to know that we cannot do just ‘whatever we want,’ even now, still. We cannot CBT out of everything. My thoughts are really, real gently like: because of this, sometimes we must be patient with our frightened minds. Our pathologies should not be solely ours to carry.
Feminist therapy tells us that individual pathologies must be seen as situated within our disempowering social world.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talk therapy used to treat disruptive thinking as well as mental illness. Each CBT patient will use it in their own way, and students who think it could help them can visit Student Health.