BEHAVIOURAL DISPUTING OR BEHAVIOURAL EXPERIMENT IS BEHAVING IN A WAY THAT IS INCONSISTENT OR CONTRARY TO CERTAIN UNHELPFUL COGNITIONS OR PERCEPTIONS.
Our behaviours often reinforce our existing cognitions or perceptions, including the self-defeating or unrealistic cognitions. For instance, behaving coldly or rudely towards someone we dislike tends to reinforce the belief that they are bad and deserving of contempt. In the same instance, avoiding an unpleasant task reinforces the belief that it is loathsome. To behave unassertively with our friends reinforces the belief that we must always try to please others. When we get on to avoid doing things with a possibility of failure, we reinforce the belief that failure is catastrophic. We can use behavioural experiment or behavioural disputing to expose the falsehoods at the heart of our self-defeating cognitions or perceptions.
While our unhelpful behaviours serve to reinforce our self-defeating cognitions or perceptions, our constructive behaviours can be used to challenge them. Behavioural disputing or behavioural experiment is behaving in a way that is inconsistent or contrary to certain unhelpful cognitions or perceptions. Thus, feeling fear and choosing to act courageously is a way of achieving this. This process helps us to expose the fallacies at the core of our unhelpful cognitions or perceptions. If we encounter a negative outcome in our behavioural experiment, we can use logical disputing or reasoning to challenge our negative thoughts and decatastrophise the situation. If negative outcomes do not attend to our Behavioural disputing or behavioural experiment, on a deeper level, we will be convinced that the unhelpful cognitions or perceptions were wrong. We learn on a deeper level that the things we fear are not dangerous after all by directly confronting them.
Another way of disputing our self-defeating cognitions or perceptions is known as goal-directed thinking. In this method, the aim is to focus on our unhelpful cognitions or perceptions and recognise that they are impediments to the path of achieving our goals. Hence, goal-directed thinking helps us to stay focused on our goals.
Goal-directed thinking in its most basic form means getting round to ask ourselves this question: “ Does thinking the way I do help me to feel good or to achieve my goals.”
To start off with challenging our unhelpful cognitions or perceptions with goal-directed thinking, we can craft our questions to meet the demands of particular situations as indicated below:
- Does insisting that my work has to be perfect help me to complete my task on time?
- Do nursing anger and resentment towards my partner promote our togetherness and happiness?
- Does obsessing over the injustice of this situation help me to feel good and get on smoothly with my life?
- Does demanding that others should share similar values with me help me to get on well with people?
- Does labelling myself as a bad person because of that mistake nurture my self-esteem?
- Does worrying about my looks this evening help me to relax and enjoy the evening?