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The TEA Form Exercise is a great way of getting rid of negative thinking patterns. It is a simple technique founded and documented by Sam Obitz in his book Been There, Done That? Do This!

Unfortunately, the technique doesn’t seem to be documented very well outside his book, and his book is only available from its main site. I feel that many people can benefit from this technique, but I also know that a lot of people aren’t willing to buy the book. This thread will serve as a comprehensive guide on the TEA Form Exercise.

It takes a few months for the new more objective thinking to take hold and that’s when the benefits really started to grow for me. I got glimpses of them working early on but they seem pick up speed when they have more in your brain to attach to. It was eerily cool to be in situations that had always caused me great anxiety and to suddenly realize that I wasn’t freaking out at all. It was like an out of body experience and eventually I realized, that was what it was like to be for most people and how it felt to get out of your head and live in the moment. I think if you keep TEA forming you will soon have that same experience. The best advice I received and can give is that once you start to feel better keep doing them! It took years to get the bad habits that cause the anxiety and those habits won’t go away without a fight. I notice when I stop doing them for extended periods the anxiety slowly begins to creep back in.

THEORY

A lot of our thoughts, worries and ideas are based on exaggeration, misconception and just plain false info. We make judgments and decisions based on these erroneous ideas, and most of our anxiety is unfounded — baseless. If we can analyze this information logically, from an outside point of view, then we can change our thinking habits by replacing them with positive thoughts based on logic.

The TEA Form is a basic exercise designed to do just that. It is a way of countering your spontaneous ideas by looking at them from a distance to evaluate their basis and locate fallacies.The beauty of the TEA form lies in its simplicity. It doesn’t require anything you don’t already have, and can be done anywhere, anytime.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

You only need paper and a pen.

You may substitute digitally, but a desktop/laptop isn’t a good idea. A Blackberry or any other PDA may be used, but I recommend starting out just using paper or a little pocket-sized notebook and a pen.

The basic idea is to be able to jot down notes somewhere permanent. You will be creating a database of thoughts that you will need to refer back to from time to time, so the portability of what you’re using should be taken into account.

I use a little pocket-sized notebook and a pen. I take these everywhere I go.

BASICS

The exercise involves jotting down one’s thought or idea, followed by what thought patterns or thinking fallacies this idea is based on. An example of a negative or illogical thought pattern is globalization (forming an opinion about something in general, based on one isolated incident), or ignoring the positive (downplaying the good and exaggerating the bad). Don’t worry about what all the thought patterns are or what they mean just yet, as they will be explained in more detail below.

A thought can have many fallacies, and all that apply should be listed. Following this, one looks at the thought again and begins to use logic to deconstruct it to its basic core, which will be one or all of the fallacies listed.

This sounds complicated, and might not sound practical enough to do for all or more of your negative thoughts during the day, but it’s very simple in practice. There will be a few examples given below.

FORMAT

Sam Obitz recommends having three columns on a paper, designated for (left to right) negative thought, fallacies, and positive/logical argument against the negative thought. This works great on standard sized paper, but not so well digitally or on pocket sized notebooks.

It’s really up to you how you decide to format this, but it just needs to be easy to read, otherwise you’ll be unlikely to add or refer back to it. I like to just have 3 labels followed by some space, for each idea. Here’s an example. I come home and see my houseplant on the floor and the cat just staring at me. Here’s what might go through my mind:

THOUGHT: F’ing mess. Why would I keep the plant there? I’m dumb. I just cleaned the carpet. I hate cats. what a waste of time.. I just spent all day working and now I’m stuck cleaning this shit up.
RULES: Naming, blowing things out of proportion, emotional blocking.
LOGIC: I shouldn’t have placed the plant I knew my cat liked, at the edge of a table. Shit happens. I’ll vacuum it, no biggie. It won’t take more than a few minutes to clean up and it won’t happen again.

etc..

The thought is something that happened, usually something I’m thinking which is negative, either causing stress or just wasting my time. The rules are a list of all the silly errors in the logic of my thought. Blowing things out of proportion, for example, means that my thought is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Naming is putting labels on yourself (“I’m dumb”) or others. The labels really don’t do anything except cause stress.

NEGATIVE THINKING RULES

Jump to conclusions: Overestimating the likelihood and severity of a negative event. Your thought is unrealistic and much worse than what ends up happening (sometimes nothing even happens).

Blowing things out of proportion: Taking a small problem (that when examined logically, isn’t the end of the world) and exaggerating it or making it catastrophic. “If I fail this test. My life is over.”

Extreme thinking: Seeing things as either good or bad; No middle ground or compromise. Common with perfectionism. Example: “I am late for class. No point in going now.”

Globalising: Using one instance of an event as proof or evidence for a general, universal thought. “I got that one wrong. I’m stupid.” or “Whoa, I almost fell. God, I’m so clumsy.”

Emotional blocking:
Giving your emotions more importance than facts or reality. Thoughts are not facts. – Sam Obitz. Example: You think, “I don’t feel like going to class,” so you don’t.

Reality filter: Your thought focuses on one small detail, with no regard for the big picture.

Ignoring the positive: A grim view; Emphasizing the negative, while de-emphasizing the positive. “I got lucky, and 2nd place isn’t even good. I should have been 1st. I suck.”

Omnipotence error: Thinking you are responsible for events outside your control. This is sometimes hard to become aware of until you notice other people doing it. Sometimes shit happens.

Counterproductive motivation: Using coercion on yourself or others; Doesn’t work and almost always does harm in some way, even if the intentions are good. Examples: “I NEED to learn this!” or “He needs to be more responsible.” (Also see Wikipedia → ‘coercion’)

Naming: Labeling yourself or others. This just increases stress and weakens your judgment, and the labels are wrong. It also serves no real purpose. Examples: “I’m retarded” or “that asshole can’t drive!”

EXAMPLES

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CHEAT SHEETS / TOOLS

The following is a pocket sized cheat sheet I created that you may print out and carry around with you. It assumes that you know what the rules mean, as it only lists a general one line about each one. Remember that these aren’t the only rules, and you may add your own as you see fit. The important thing is being able to quickly determine what the flaw in your thinking is and move on.

.. TODO: Need to upload this ..

This is a draft.

Posted in Anxiety, Bad Habits, Confidence, tea-form at November 27th, 2008. 2 Comments.