Between an external stimulus (e.g. being criticised) and an emotional response to it (e.g. anger) lie a person’s thoughts about this event. Eliciting these thoughts helps the person to understand why they reacted to the evert in the way that they did. This is called ‘tapping the internal communications’ and states that people can be trained ‘to focus on their introspections (examining one’s thoughts) in various situations. The person can then observe that a thought links the external stimulus with the emotional response. Asking such questions as ‘What was going through your mind at that moment?’ or ‘What were you thinking about in that situation?’ can help to turn their attention inwards rather than remain focused on the external event which they might ’caused’ their emotional reaction.
In the above example, the person is able to uncover their thoughts which contributed to their anger: ‘How dare he criticise me! I’ve done nothing wrong to deserve this!’ Helping a person to detect, examine and change their disturbance-producing thoughts means that this process can be accomplished ‘with the scope of his own awareness’ (Beck 1976) rather than such thoughts remaining inaccessible to them. This process of cognitive change within the scope of a person’s awareness enables them to eventually become their own therapist or coach i.e. an independent problem solver. The lifelong challenge is to keep this awareness psychologically healthy, that is, based on open-mindedness in addressing concerns or pursuing goals, not closed mindedness that perpetuates problems.
As the goes, the mind, like a parachute, works best when it’s open.