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Cognitive Behavioral Theory

Narayani Karthik Mar 10, 2020
Cognitive behavioral theory is the study of human psychology that deals with the various facets of human personality and behavior. Let's discuss some facts on this subject.
Human behavior is an enigma. A person's behavioral pattern is identified by his thought process, emotional quotient and his response to a certain given situation. Cognitive psychology is a huge subject that deals with cognitive behavior.
The subject focuses on how people think, what they perceive from vision and hearing, how much they retain and remember and how they react to a stimuli.
Precisely, cognitive behavioral therapy also closely associates itself with neuroscience, linguistics and philosophy. One of the aspects of this theory also deals with enhancing the decisive ability of a person and his memory to retain more information.

History of Cognitive Behavioral Theory

CBT, classified under psychotherapy, is known by some other names like Cognitive Therapy, Rational Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, etc. But how did this theory come into existence? Let's take a ride back in time, to know some of the famous psychiatrists who have been instrumental in designing this theory.

Albert Ellis

He was a famous American psychologist who developed the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in the 1950s. As per his approach, the human tendency is such that the person always wants to remain happy and gay, but life does not allow it.
His revelations further stated that it is not just the events and circumstances that bring the feeling of sadness or sorrow, but such feelings of negation are also factored by the thought process and beliefs of the person.
This idea was articulated about 2000 years back by the famous Greek philosopher Epictetus, whose famous lines illustrate this belief, "Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them". He further stated that the cognitive thought process of a human being is controlled more by beliefs, most of which, he believed to be irrational.
These beliefs are also known as "The Three Basic Musts", which include the feeling of "must do well at any cost" (leads to anxiety symptoms and depression otherwise), "must be treated fairly as expected by human nature" (leads to rage and passive aggressive behavior otherwise).
And it also include "must get what is expected" (leads to procrastination and self pity otherwise). Besides he also has stated about the sense of disputing thoughts, insight and acceptance towards situations as behavioral facets of human personality.

Aaron Beck

In the 1960s, Aaron Beck, a famous psychiatrist with a background in psychoanalytical training, further explored the untouched arenas of human personality, like depression and procrastination.
If Ellis was supposedly the founder of this psychological theory, Aaron took a leap ahead and explored more into this theory and came up with cognitive behavioral therapy for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety.
He has stated that many times, people tend to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders because of a pre formed negative assessment of themselves. Such an assessment could be attributed to various reasons such as a prolonged mental trauma, social aloofness and low self-esteem.
His theory has been used for devising the modern-day therapies of cognitive behavior. To get a comprehensive understanding on this theory, one should read The Cognitive Theory of Depression by Aaron Beck.

Albert Bandura

The history of cognitive behavioral therapy remains incomplete without the mention of Albert Bandura, the famous psychologist from Canada who has given valuable inputs to cognitive development theory.
As per his learnings, the cognitive behavior of a man is greatly factored by aggression, which is an outcome of restricted emotions that have been bottled up for quite some time. His theory of cognitive behavior in humans mainly revolved around the concept of observation, attention and retention.
He further stated that a person develops his instincts, intelligence and beliefs from his cognitive mind mapping (includes observation of the environment around him). Say, a person observes an incident. If it is interesting, he gives full attention to it and then retains it in his memory if he finds it interesting.
Then he tries to apply his knowledge wherever his thought process allows him to. This is how the behavioral patterns of a person develop. Albert Bandura's theories on cognitive behavior have proved to be quite realistic. In 1977, Albert Bandura was honored as the Father of Cognitive Theory.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognition, the term itself means, to conceptualize, to know, to recognize. Precisely, it is the thought process which covers grasping the knowledge, remembering it, applying it, developing beliefs on it, reasoning it and retaining it.
So this theory can be defined as 'a study that is descriptive about how the concept of cognition plays an important role in determining the behavioral pattern of a person'. Let's figure out, how the theory is applicable in understanding and judging various personalities.

Different Percepts of Personality

Every person is unique and bears an unparalleled personality. The personality traits are majorly shaped by culture, environment, lifestyle and habitat of a person.
As explained by famous psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, the cognitive behavior of a person is quite influenced by the emotional quotient, which he develops over a period of time after much observation and retention of his perceptions and thoughts.
Hence, every personality type comes under one of the four banners, which were characterized by the famous Greek physician Hippocrates. As per him, the personalities can be classified into four temperaments, each associated with a body fluid (called "humor"):
  • The Optimistic (The sanguine crowd whose type is associated with the liquid blood)
  • The Phlegmatic (The kind who are associated with phlegm and are lethargic and lackadaisical)
  • The Melancholy (The ones who are sad and depressed and are related to the black bile)
  • The Choleric (The aggressive crowd who are associated with the yellow bile)
Every individual's personality is determined by a blend of these four temperaments in appropriate levels, depending on the instincts and judging ability of a person.
When it comes to cognitive behavioral theory of personality, there are many contentious concerns which play a major role in development of personality traits, like determinism vs freewill, uniqueness vs universality, reactiveness vs proactiveness and optimism vs pessimism.
Cognitive behavior is a vast subject which cannot be covered in a day. Cognitive behavior, based on this theory have helped a great deal in identifying many personality disorders and treating them. Human mind is a complicated make which needs to keep a balance of the positive and negative emotions in order to sustain a sane thought process.
We would like to share the famous lines of David Burns with my readers: Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.
Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person.. So true!!!