A guide to Rational thinking for  IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Rational Thinking and IBS

A wonderful Psychiatrist once gave me an article to read at the end of our first session.  I was anticipating a load of platitudes and positive thinking statements.  Instead I was presented with a lot of unpleasant information, life is hard, people die, bad thinga happen.  It was not what I expected at all.

When I returned the Psychiatrist explained that he was not there to lie to me, he was there to help me and that the first thing I needed to do was to understand the role of rational thinking in IBS.  Learning to disseminate the vast swathes of information we are presented with is never easy, however if you are serious about freeing yourself of IBS it is a vital element of that process.

Take for example the following example.  If you are at home, the bathroom is vacant and you are relaxed, do you need to use the bathroom ?  If somebody uses the only bathroom, do you feel the need to go now ?  If you go somewhere new, do you need to go now ?  If you are in a crowded place and there is no free bathroom, do you need to go now ?

The reality is that anxiety, will often lead to a need to use the bathroom.  If you are relaxed you do not need the bathroom, if you are anxious you need the bathroom.  No amount of restrictive diet will free you from this unless you are able to overcome the anxiety and think rationally.

Below we have some tips to help you think rationally, however we will be returning to this often over looked area, as it can be such a great tool in your battle with IBS:

Reduce Anxiety by Learning to Think Rationally

Are you a rational thinker?  Most of us see ourselves as fairly rational.  We believe that our thoughts are sensible and logical.  While these attributes do contribute to thinking rationally, Dr. Maxie Maultsby, Jr. has developed a specific set of five criteria to thinking rationally.  He believes that if we apply these criteria to our thoughts, we will be able to create rational thoughts that lead to calm emotional states and subsequently better decision-making ability.

The specific criteria for rational thinking are as follows:

Your thought is based on fact.

Your thought will help to protect your life and health.

Your thought will help you to achieve your short-term and long-time goals.

Your thought will help you get along with others.

Your thought will help you to feel the way you want to feel emotionally.

You may determine if you are thinking rationally by applying these criteria to each of your thoughts.  If your thought is based on fact and meets at least two of the remaining criteria, it is most likely a rational thought for you to think.

Why is thinking rationally important?  Because what you think and believe about a situation leads you to feel the way you feel emotionally and to behave the way you do physically.  For example, if you think and believe that you won’t be able to tolerate waiting in line at the grocery, you will most likely make yourself anxious about going to the grocery and may ultimately choose not to go.  If you do go, you may feel very uncomfortable and create a sense of panic for yourself while in the grocery store.  It is quite likely that if you continue to believe this thinking, that you will not be able to wait in line, and will probably leave the grocery without completing your shopping.

Let’s apply the five criteria for rational thinking to the above thought, “I can’t tolerate waiting in line at the grocery”.  Is this thought factual?  It is certainly your subjective opinion, but probably not based on any real facts (unless you are physically handicapped, or for some reason cannot stand or sit).  Is this thought life preserving?  Most likely, this criterion is not relevant at this time, unless you are tempted to take your life or someone else’s life when you think this thought.  Is this thought helpful in achieving your goals?  If your goal is to purchase groceries, this is not a helpful thought!  Will your thought help you to get along with others?  There is certainly a possibility you may create conflict with others while waiting in line, especially if you perceive them as taking too much time or keeping you waiting.  And lastly, will this thought help you feel the way you want?  It’s obvious that you will most likely be anxious (and possibly angry and/or depressed) and these are not desirable feelings.

For most of us, thinking rationally does not happen automatically.  You must practice applying the criteria for rational thinking to each of your thoughts.  A simple beginning exercise would be for you to record a few examples of your thinking that create thoughts you have listed, and see if they are rational.  Remember, what you think and believe leads you to feel the way you feel emotionally and to behave the way you do physically.  Rational thoughts are always based on fact.  You might notice a pattern to your thinking.  These patterns are what create our belief system.  The next article will address long and firmly held beliefs and how to challenge and change the ones that create negative emotional states.