Negative or Positive Triad

Aaron T. Beck proposed, in his studies of people with depression, that people view themselves, their present circumstances and their future with the same basis biases. This he called the Negative or Cognitive Triad. If you are feeling very negative about yourself, your present circumstances will also appear to be negative. If your self-appraisal is negative, you will also see your future with the same lens that you see yourself. I believe that the opposite is also true. People who like themselves or have self-esteem (see ‘Self-esteem/dislike’ page to the left) usually are comfortable with their present circumstances and they feel generally positive about their future. As I listen to clients, I often will be alerted to how they really feel about themselves by their descriptions of their situations and circumstances in their life. It is my belief that a person’s view of their present circumstances and their view of their future will improve if they can change their view of themselves. This can be accomplished by eliminating your ‘distorted thinking’ (see that page to the left) and start telling yourself the truth. Look for the positives in your life instead of focusing on all the negatives.

Another thing to do to build your self esteem is to begin to keep your own agreements. If you plan to get up tomorrow morning at six and take a walk, then do it. The more you make agreements with yourself and follow through with them, the more you can trust yourself. That feels good. If you had a friend who said to meet you at Starbucks tomorrow at 7:00 am but didn’t show up, would you question their reliability? And they failed to show up three days in a row, could you trust that friend in the future? No. The same is true with your self. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making your agreements too difficult, like planning to do 100 push ups every day for a month. Set yourself up for success by making do-able agreements with your self. This will build your self-esteem and your opinion of your self, which can make your present circumstances appear better, as well as your future.

When I was trying to impress my wife-to-be, I had prepared a beautiful side dish of asparagus. It was cooked to perfection, not too soggy and not too stiff. It was bathed in melted butter with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. I had set it on the counter just before serving it. My concentration was on her and not where the exact placement of the dish of asparagus should be. As I turned to grab the spaghetti off the stove, I saw my masterpiece vegetable dish fall face first to my not-so-clean floor. “What an IDIOT!!!” I said to myself. When I realized what I had said, I corrected myself and told myself the truth. “I am not an idiot; I simply chose to place the dish too close to the edge of the counter.” My focus was on her and not where I was placing the dish. I believe negative self-statements do affect us. They seep right down into our self-esteem. That was the day I decided to never call myself self-defeating names. Too many people call themselves all sorts of awful names. This does affect how we view ourselves, our surrounding circumstances and our future.