This is a handy little practical guidebook for cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) self-help in the workplace, containing exercises and example case studies. It’s about overcoming specific worries but also building a more general psychological resilience toward future adversities. It’s written in plain English in a very readable and accessible style but the emphasis is on evidence-based practice, and how research can help us cope better with problems at work, as well as improving workplace happiness and wellbeing.
Gill is a psychologist and accredited CBT practitioner, with over twenty years’ experience using CBT in a variety of settings. She’s part of the team responsible for the Stoic Week projects organized through the University of Exeter, which seek to apply Stoic philosophy to modern problems of everyday living, by combining it with elements of CBT. She draws also on Positive Psychology, mindfulness-based CBT, and Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). Indeed, Gill opens with the famous quotation from the Stoic Handbook of Epictetus, which became a kind of slogan of REBT:
Men are disturbed not by things but by the views which they take of them.
…or as Marcus Aurelius, also quoted here, put it: “life is opinion”. CBT is based on the premise that, with training, we can learn to change our habitual emotional reactions by changing our voluntary thoughts and actions. We do this by using our thinking and our behaviour to challenge the underlying beliefs typically responsible for our emotions. Gill describes a broad armamentarium or toolkit for this purpose, specially adapted for managing workplace stress. The basis is the fundamental CBT model, which Gill calls the “Think Kit”. This helps us distinguish systematically between (A) the events that we’re reacting to, (B) the beliefs shaping our reaction, and (C) the emotional and other consequences that follow.
In sense, CBT encourages us to think like a scientist and to treat the beliefs underlying our emotional disturbances and problematic desires as if they were hypotheses, which deserve to be evaluated rationally, impartially, and objectively. This metaphor of the individual as “scientist”, or rather as “natural philosopher”, was also central to ancient Stoicism. Gill quotes Marcus Aurelius’ saying:
Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.
This little book provides a brisk overview of common psychological problems and solutions that arise in relation to your work. It does so in a manner that I think will help the reader develop a generally more resilient attitude, grounded in this ancient Stoic advice to survey one’s whole situation calmly and rationally, facing challenges in a healthy “matter of fact” way. It also includes a broad range of strategies, though, covering specific issues such as anxiety, anger, guilt, depression, low self-esteem, work-life balance, achieving happiness, and learning to relax, etc. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn CBT for self-help, especially if they’re new to the subject and looking for a good starting point. Here’s a summary of the actual chapter headings:
- The CBT Think Kit
- You and your work
- Anxiety at work
- Anger and frustration at work
- CBT for guilt at work
- Depression at work
- CBT for low self-esteem at work
- Maximizing your happiness at work
- Balancing work and life
- And… relax
The Stoic Handbook
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