A broken search engine can lead to unbalanced thinking.
To help us "understand and measure [our] strengths, weaknesses, resources, and opportunities [and] understanding of the difficulty level of specific tasks" (Queensland Health, 2007) we need to think back on our past experiences. If our "search engine" isn't working, or if we can't relate anything we have done before to the activity or task, then we can find it very hard to be balanced in our thinking.
An example is when I went with a young relative of mine to the Sydney Aquarium. The closer we got to the Aquarium, the more unsettled the child was - until we got nearly to the entrance and the tears and panic began.
It turned out that the presence of sharks was the trigger for the distress. But once we had talked about the fact that the sharks were behind thick glass, and that many people were coming and going without being harmed, the panic subsided.
Think Good, Feel Good
One of my favourite books is Think Good, Feel Good by Stallard (2002). There are two versions of the book, one for younger children and one for youth. The book is written in simple language and has a lot of teacher/parent resources that could be used to help children/youth with problem-solving and managing their thoughts and emotions. I have a copy of the booklet for youth.
In Chapter 7 Stallard talks about challenging our negative thoughts. He provides a table that could be used when youth have got into a cycle of thinking that is preventing them from recognising their strengths, resources or opportunities. The table guides youth to answer the following questions:
- What were your thoughts and how strongly to you believe them? (Use the scale or a "thought thermometer" to rate it - see below)
- What evidence supports your thoughts? What evidence challenges these thoughts? (This encourages youth to look for facts - activating their "search engine")
- What would your best friend say about these thoughts? What would you say to them if they had these thoughts?
All this aims to help them work in a step-by-step way through the process of self-evaluation, and to self-evaluate in a balanced way by using the questions to prompt memories or bring up relevant information.
Queensland Health. (2007). Executive Function and Capacity. Retrieved 8th May, 2010 from http://www.health.qld.gov.au/abios/documents/behaviour_mgt/exec_functn_capacity.pdf
Stallard, P. (2002). Think Good- Feel Good. John Wiley & Sons: Australia