Module 3: Increasing Thinking Flexibility

A thought-feeling-behaviour cycle example


An example of this in action may be when someone is at a social event with lots of people they don’t know. This person may believe that meeting new people is not enjoyable because they never know what to say and that they are afraid that they will end up making a fool of themself. They may believe that people always get bored with the topics of discussion and tune out.


  • Have a think about what types of thoughts such a person may be saying to themselves in this situation if they hold these beliefs? Some examples of the thoughts this belief may lead to could be “why do I have to be here, I hate these social gatherings.” “Everyone knows each other and are talking to their friends, how am I supposed to go up to someone and start talking.” “I don’t know what to say, anyone would be bored with what I have to say anyway.”
  • If you were thinking this way in this situation how might that make you feel? Some examples of emotions the person may be feeling are anxious, nervous, sad, ashamed and they may feel physically tense, heart rate increases and sweat.
  • Finally think about how someone may act in this situation if they are thinking and feeling this way. For example the person may stand off on the edge of the event not approaching anyone. They may keep their head down and avoid eye contact. Alternatively they may sneak off to the toilet or go outside so they don’t have to talk to anyone else.


These behaviours then reinforce the person’s belief that they can’t start conversations with new people and that no one wants to talk to them and this keeps the cycle going. This may also lead to the person criticising themselves hours or days after the event about how they behaved leading to feeling more ashamed, guilty and sad.


  • However, just say that this person enjoyed going to social events. What thoughts, feelings/sensations and behaviours do you think they would have instead of the above?


The situation is exactly the same (the social event) but the experience of the event would be very different depending on the person’s beliefs and thoughts about it.

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