Avoidance

 
 

B. Behavioural experiments

Automatic negative predictions of what will happen often stop people from making positive changes to their behaviour and continue with avoidance e.g. “If I speak up in class, I will stutter and have a mental block. I will make a complete idiot of myself and everyone will laugh at me”. These negative predictions then create extra anxiety and prevent people from doing what they need to do.

To see if this applies to you, take a moment to think about the time you have avoided doing something that you needed to do. What negative predictions did you make? These can include some of the thinking errors we mentioned earlier. Were you assuming that things would go badly for you or that someone would respond badly?

How about testing these predictions like a science experiment to see if it’s true?

A behavioural experiment involves:

  1. Writing down your negative prediction – what do you think will happen?
  2. Designing an experiment and carrying it out.
  3. Seeing if your prediction came true.
 


Prediction
What I predict will happen
Experiment
What is my plan for designing an experiment
Review
Did my prediction come true?
What have I learnt?
If I speak up in class, I will stutter and have a mental block. I will make a complete idiot of myself and everyone will laugh at me Ask a question in literature class next Wednesday about the way we were supposed to interpret what the main character said I didn’t stutter or have a mental block. Mrs Miles praised me for raising this question, and it turned out that everyone in class wasn’t sure either. We all had a better understanding of the reading. I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself and no one laughed at me. I learnt that my negative predictions are not true but unfounded fears. Testing it made me feel more confident about speaking up in class. I now enjoy classes more too.


 
 

You can use this worksheet to help you tackle times where you avoid doing something, especially when this avoidance is making you more stressed.

Of course, not all predictions are proved wrong. Sometimes the predictions might be partly or even fully true. But either way, it is good to test things out, have the best, correct information and can deal with a problem better.