The concept of the internal dialogue—and specifically the fundamental polarity between positive and negative thoughts—has historical antecedents from Plato to William James. Recent cognitive-behavioral research suggests that functional groups are characterized by approximately a 1.7 to 1 ratio of positive to negative coping thoughts, whereas mildly dysfunctional groups demonstrate equal frequencies of such thoughts. Furthermore, this research reveals an asymmetry between positive and negative coping thoughts, whereby negative thoughts have greater functional impact and are more likely to change as a result of therapy. After selectively tracing relevant historical factors, this article reviews research supporting these asymmetrical relationships and explores potential implications for increased specificity in cognitive-behavioral therapies.
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The author thanks Philip Kendall for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper and Gregory Garamoni for numerous discussions related to these issues.
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Schwartz, R.M. The internal dialogue: On the asymmetry between positive and negative coping thoughts. Cogn Ther Res 10, 591–605 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01173748
- internal dialogue
- positive and negative cognition
- cognitive balance
- cognitive-behavior therapy