Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a research-supported and often practiced therapy that examines how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are all linked. Negative cognitions are the negative beliefs we’ve learned, often in emotional experiences of hurt and trauma, and inform how we actively show up in the world. Positive cognitions on the other hand are what we’ve often learned in times of success, achievement, safety, and healing. Cognitions include categories like responsibility (ex. If I work hard I will succeed), safety (ex. God/parents/family will take care of me), worth (ex. I am worthy of good things), and a number of other categories that define what we’ve come to believe about ourselves, others, or the world (ex. there is more good than bad in this world).
We’ve all recently been acknowledging America’s historical and present-day experiences of racism. Hopefully, we’ve been listening to the life experiences of those around us who are people of color. If you were to imagine yourself having the same life experiences, do you think you’d hold the positive cognitions you personally hold today?
I can personally speak to how heavy my heart feels to admit that my beliefs about self/others/world would likely be very different had I not experienced the privileges I have. This inability to reconcile what I hold as truths about this world and what for many people of color have known as untruths leaves me at a loss. This reflects the core of my white privilege. Cognitive dissonance is a CBT term that I’d define as having competing beliefs that don’t seem as though they could both be true. When we experience such dissonance, we either healthfully work to reconcile the beliefs, or we convince ourselves (through denial/avoidance/minimization) there is no incongruence. We do the later because we are uncomfortable, because the incongruence we feel is likely the result of a truth we don’t want to acknowledge. I hope we keep working to reconcile this by being forces of change.
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