So – you haven’t had a ‘boyfriend’ for a long time?
Maybe you get hit on sometimes, but men don’t ask you out on dates?
Maybe you think it’s not fair, as you think that you are smarter or prettier or more stylish or whatever than other women you see in relationships? What’s that about?
Maybe you think that men are ‘useless’, or that it’s impossible to meet a man in your city, or your country?
Hmmmm. You might want to examine how you are ‘thinking‘ – how you explain the world to yourself, and whether you have developed bad thinking habits that makes you feel and behave in ways that are self-limiting, self-defeating, and self-sabotaging.
I assume you’ll agree that doing what you’ve been doing isn’t working out for you – and that you’re up for making some changes? Okay, it might be time to dip into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). According to CBT, it is largely our thinking about (interpretation and processing of) events that leads to our emotional and behavioural upsets. We human beings cause our own upsettness, therefore we can uncause it! CBT helps us to overcome most of the emotional and behavioural challenges life throws at us – to change unhealthy thinking patterns – and learn new coping skills for stressful situations.
But first – we have to recognise and accept it when we have patterns of unhealthy distorted and unhelpful thinking and interpretations of certain situations. This post explains what they are, and takes a look at how CBT theory might apply to those struggling with dating/social skills.
Let’s look at a case study of two examples that will help you to understand how thinking links with feelings which links with body reactions which links with behaviour – this understanding may point you in the right direction for making healthy changes to your own thinking that might help you to get where you want to go…
Mallery and Tina are good friends. They make great efforts to look attractive. They go out every week. They dress up and go to popular bars, and locate a nice prominent place to sit – having a few drinks, chatting, and silently hoping that they’ll meet a man – and be invited out for dinners and treated like a princess – and live happily ever after… But neither of them ever do.
Mallery had a couple of short relationships years ago, and a few flings since, but nothing has been happening even on the fling front for a very long time.
Tina has never really had a ‘proper’ boyfriend, but has had several random short lived flings through the years.
What’s a fling? Snogging or sleeping with a man who does not want to actually date you. This can be a ‘one-nighter’ or over weeks or even months. (Often we make every excuse in the world for such men, since we’re not able to process why he’s not with us ‘properly’: he’s so confused, he’s gone through a bad relationship and is scared of committing, he’s in a bad place, he’s so busy with work, he’s afraid of my strength – yadda yadda yadda). Hmmm. No matter, back to the story….
Okay – let’s take a peek at one of their nights out:
- They’re sitting at the bar of a popular pub on a Thursday night. It’s quite busy. Lots of men in suits! Yay!
- One drink down. Another drink down. Chit chat, chit chat. Not totally paying attention to each other, heads swivelling to check out the talent…
- Yesss! Two men take seats at the bar. They’re good looking, they’re well dressed. They’re chatting to each other, but DEFINITELY giving sneaky glances to the girls. Happy days!
- Mallory: ‘Don’t look now, but they’re totally looking at us‘. Tina: ‘I know! What do you think? *giggle and nudge*
- After a short time, the men turn their chairs and make an approach – ‘Hello ladies, are you having a good night?’ *smiles*
NOW – here’s where it gets interesting – let’s take a look inside the girls heads – we’ll check out their THINKING, and how those thoughts make them FEEL, and how those feelings affect their BODIES, and how all of this affects their BEHAVIOUR. Let’s go:
Thinking – ‘This fella really fancies me. Do I want him as a boyfriend? Would I be proud to show him off? Does he match up with my LIST? What does he work at? Where does he live? Uh oh, he’s being a bit of an idiot. Is he nervous? What’s wrong with him to be single at his age anyway? Oh, I wonder if he’s got a child from a previous relationship! Oh, that’ll be really messy. And the ex would always be around too… Sigh. So maybe I’ll give him my number, maybe I’ll kiss him goodnight – I might date him, but he’s far from perfect.
- Feeling – Aggressive, annoyed
- Physiological -muscles tensing, shaky, feeling light headed
- Behaviour – bullets a series of questions as if she’s interviewing him, pulling faces and rolling her eyes when she feels he’s ‘being an idot’, mocks him none too gently – eventually launching into her oft repeated ‘charming’ speel of ‘are you out tonight looking for a woman? what kind of woman? what’s wrong with men around here? what do you all want? You’re all useless, no offence. Men are just looking to get laid aren’t they?’… While being generally pompous and pouty (trying to be all sexy and cool).
Thinking – ‘I have to make this guy fancy me. I need him to think I’m lovely and be into me. Oh, am I making a fool of myself here? I am. Why did I say that? It sounded stupid. Does he like me? No he thinks I’m an idiot. He’s not really coming on to me like he did at the beginning. He’s being a bit flippant. He’s not attracted to me now he can see me close up. I’m boring him. Is he looking over at those other girls? He is. He’s not really impressed here. I’m messing this up.’
- Feeling – anxious, nervy, shy
- Physiological – tummy butterflies, shaky, heat rising in her face, heart beating fast, breathing quickening
- Behaviour – not saying too much, not really concentrating on what he’s saying and engaging with it, giggling at pretty much everything he says even when it’s not appropriate. Goes to the ladies room a few minutes after they first approach to touch up her makeup. Comes back and continues the giggling. Giggle, giggle, giggle… a little too loud, too often.
Okay – can you see how the same event elicits different thinking from the women? So it’s not the event or situation that causes the feelings and behaviour, that only influences it, it’s the thinking that causes it.
How was it self-sabotaging? Well, not only were the girls not particularly enjoying it or feeling good – THE MEN BECAME UNCOMFORTABLE TOO – AND THEY MADE THEIR EXCUSES AND LEFT – and, not for the first time, the girls were left a bit dazed – where did they go? what? (Mallory thinks ‘what is wrong with him, he’s an idiot!, while Tina thinks ‘what is wrong with me, I’m an idiot!) – but they dealt with it by telling each other the guys were rubbish, ‘hahahaaa, as if we’d be interested in the likes of them, as if! If we’d been into them we could have had them.. yeah‘ Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… Let’s take a look at this…
The ladies are making lot’s of classic mistakes – not least going out ‘on the hunt’ in the first place! Going out with expectations and demands that may not be met only serves to upset them – and ‘irrational thinking’ makes them react to any man who looks sideways at them in a ‘RED ALERT’, fight or flight, way – instead of enjoying an evening of interesting chat and laughing, even if it doesn’t result in romance. Their thinking is causing them problems. They can change their thinking…
CBT theory posits ‘the only thing in this world that can make you anxious, aggressive, or depressed… is YOU! It says that human beings create their own needless suffering of negative emotions through their negative and distorted style of thinking.
For instance, check out the following simple Thinking, Feeling and Behavioural response to a situation that might fit Tina:
if you THINK that you are dull or unattractive or ‘weird’,
you may FEEL anxious,
and GO QUIET or behave in inappropriate self-limiting ways on social occasions…
if you THINK that people should, must, or ought to be a certain way, but they don’t conform to your demands,
you may FEEL angry
and become AGGRESSIVE or behave in inappropriate self-limiting ways on social occasions…
The ladies are making some classic common thinking errors – fortune telling, mind reading, jumping to conclusions, fantasising a future, demand thinking…. and so on. If they don’t build self awareness and tackle this problem, they’ll keep on feeling and behaving as they do now – OR they can break the pattern…
CBT will teach you methods and techniques to dispute the irrational unhealthy thinking, and replace it with healthy alternative (realistic) thinking… and you will learn new skills to relax and cope with demanding and stressful situations – CHANGE YOUR THINKING, CHANGE YOUR MOOD….
Using CBT will help you :
- understand how you might mentally filter and process events in an irrational and unhealthy way
- identify any irrational negative automatic thoughts
So – think about your own situation. Identify any patterns you have that will help you see how you think, and how that might be creating the feelings and behaviours you’re not happy with in yourself. And then have a click around the other posts (below and in the side bar) on this blog, they go into more detail about CBT and thinking styles, so that you can see how they might apply to you, and what you can do to change your thinking when it’s destructive, so that you can get the life you want…
If you want to expand your horizons beyond bars and clubs – click on this radio interview I did that explains using http://www.meetup.com, the social network site (which has nothing to do with dating – and yet everything to do with it…) to make new friends no matter what age you are, or how ‘set in your ways’ you are.
(The old cliche of having a better chance of meeting a partner by joining clubs with people that share your interests is a cliche because it’s true! As is the idea that we should go out to enjoy the company of the people we are with (truly listening and interacting with them).
Click below to link to posts:
Good luck out there!
And remember, if you’re in Ireland, you can book one to one private session with me to learn how to use CBT – see www.CBTandFeelingGood.com for information.