Tool #1: The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Model

Ok, yes. This tool has a lot of long words. Please read on anyway!!

I’m starting with this because I feel it is essential to understand this way of viewing your mind to be able to harness the power of your mindfulness practice that you will hopefully begin soon, if you haven’t already.

I’m adapting this from the teachings of Dr. Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Brooke Castillo, founder of The Life Coach School.

I’m a mother of 3 young kids. It’s very frequent that I hear from my daughter Brielle,  “Marshall made me sad.” Kids believe from a young age that their feelings are generated from circumstances outside of their control. Their model for how emotions/feelings are generated looks like this:

C: Circumstance. A neutral fact

F: Feeling the circumstance generated

A: Action the feeling resulted in

R: Results of those actions

But, is this true? Are we just victims of our circumstance?

In reality, we are in complete control of our own feelings. They are not generated by our circumstances. Our feelings are generated by our thoughts about that circumstance. Give this some thought…

C: Circumstance. A neutral fact

T: our thoughts and perceptions about that circumstance

F: Feeling our thoughts generated

A: Action the feeling resulted in

R: Results of those actions


So in this example, Brielle’s model looks like this:

C: Marshall calls Brielle a nerd.

T: That hurts my feelings to be called a name.

F: Sad

A: Cry to Mama

R: She feels sad and believes that Marshall made her feel sad.


Alternatively, she could recognize that she has the power to alter or choose her thoughts about the circumstance, therefore resulting in a completely different outcome for herself.


Alternative model:

C: Marshall calls Brielle a nerd. (This remains the same.)

T: This is so funny! I’m not a nerd. He’s obviously joking.

F: Amused

A: Laugh

R: Brielle is happy, because her mind delivered her there.


Believing that through the power of your mind, you can change your thoughts, feelings, actions and results will bring so much power to you as you navigate cancer treatment and recovery.


Please try this exercise once per day for a week and see how it goes.

  1. Write a thought download for 5 minutes (a stream of consciousness series of writing in a journal without editing your thoughts.) You can just start writing, or write about a specific topic, like receiving a cancer diagnosis, for instance. It’s easy! Just write everything you are thinking.
  2. Read through your thought download and circle all the circumstances (neutral facts) and underline all the thoughts.
  3. Choose one thought and fill in a thought model like the example above with your current thought. (CTFAR)
  4. Notice how your current thought may not be generating the feelings and results you desire.
  5. Now, create an alternative model. The trick is, your alternative thought must be believable to you, AND it must actually generate in you a more neutral or positive feeling than your original thought does.

Using this tool alone, you will be able to help yourself feel more at ease as you navigate cancer treatment. Isn’t it freeing to think that no outside circumstance, nothing that happens to you, can make you feel a certain way. You are in complete control of your own experience.

You might be wondering how this relates to mindfulness! Read on.

Good luck! Post below with questions or examples. I’m happy to help.

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