Here you will find articles that can help you better understand how human behavior works and what to expect from people in your life. This section can help you understand the many people in your life and assist you in developing positive relationships with friends and family.
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Human behavior is “actions.” Many psychologists describe what behavior is and how certain actions can be problematic or maladaptive. They also talk about changing behavior so that you can be more productive in your life. Behavior is a range of actions, such as gestures or mannerisms made by human beings or other organisms. Today, we are focusing on human behavior. Some psychologists talk about human behavior, such as Freud or Skinner, and one of the most common forms of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which was formulated and developed by Aaron Beck. Starting with Aaron Beck and the methods that he produced, let’s dive into how behavior relates to, and affects mental health.
CBT and Aaron Beck
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a model of treatment in which a person works to change their negative thought patterns to make them more productive. Thoughts and feelings are separated from one another. Beck establishes that your ideas are not stagnant and that they are malleable. Aaron Beck was a psychologist and professor who worked at the University of Pennsylvania. He is often referred to as the “father of CBT.” He was a pioneer in treating depression and anxiety, and he developed the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) which can measure as an instrument how depressed a person is and what they need to get well. Today, Beck is in his 90’s, and his daughter, Judith Beck, is active in the mental health community. Beck often talks about “automatic thoughts” and how they fall into different categories - negative ideas about the world, themselves, and the future. There’s something called the “cognitive triad,” which is a triangle. At the top of the triangle, there are ideas about the world. On the left-hand side of the bottom, there are negative views above one's self and on the right side there are negative opinions about the future. So, automatic thoughts are all about negativity. They are pervasive and are often distorted thinking. CBT challenges these automatic ideas - which can be maladaptive. You learn to work through them using thought records and cognitive distortions.
Here are some common cognitive distortions developed by Dr, Aaron Beck that promotes negative thinking. Learning these will help you identify negative thought patterns and work to change them.
Black and White Thinking: One potential cognitive distortion is black and white thinking - You don’t see things in “shades of grey.” Either someone is a bad person or an angel, there is no in between. That’s an example of black and white thinking. Black and white thinking is often present in those who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and experience a rigidity in thinking. Black and white thinking is dangerous because it makes it difficult to navigate relationships and it is incredibly rigid.
When you engage in mental filtering, you take a negative detail and amplify it in your mind. The amplification of the bad part of the situation then overshadows the positive aspects of a what you’re experiencing. For example, you might be at a great party, and you spill a glass of wine on your pants. You forget how much fun you’re having at the event, and focus on the wine spill. Your vision of reality is skewed and darkened. A person who is using mental filtering sees only the negative and disregards what is positive.
Much like mental filtering, overgeneralization happens when a person comes to a conclusion based one piece of evidence, rather than looking at the entire situation as a whole. If there is a single negative event, they might assume that it’s going to be a pattern.
Jumping to Conclusions
People who jump to conclusions believe they know what’s going to happen or what another person is thinking or feeling. People who jump to conclusions may believe in fate, and that they don’t have the autonomy to make their life choices.
We just looked at some of the cognitive distortions and how they influence our behavior. It’s crucial to understand that your behavior isn’t stagnant or fixed. You have the power to change the way you behave. One excellent way to work on how you act towards others is by seeing a therapist, and online counseling can help.
When you work with an online counselor at BetterHelp, they will guide you towards healthy coping strategies. You may not be aware of behaviors that don’t serve you or are upsetting others. Your online counselor can help you learn about yourself, and teach you ways to curb unhealthy actions. You’ll learn how to navigate challenging situations and life transitions. You can stop blaming others for their actions, and learn to take responsibility for yourself. Your wellness matters, and we want you to feel good about your efforts.