I used to believe in a "sophisticated" form of New Thought, [skepdic.com
] which leads you down some strange paths.
You try to believe that Thought has some kind of direct impact on the "external" world, in some spooky way. This is at the root of almost all new agey philosphies.
And as mentioned, you get into things like the Confirmation Bias [skepdic.com
] and other related thinking errors.
With CBT, you take a belief, and then try to see how accurate it is. If you think about it, it really makes sense.
Just that one thing, to look for real evidence for a belief, seems to help alot.
But again, this is real evidence, not Post-Hoc fallacies, or the Confirmation Bias.
It also takes courage to be ready to give up a sacred cow belief, if it is false.
"You try to believe that Thought has some kind of direct impact on the external world." Yes, that sounds very much like the Buddhist chanting group that I was in, and the Christian meditation group that Sallie was describing.
My group is VERY big on stories. Leaders pushed you to tell "experiences" at meetings -- basically this followed a formula. You had some problem, you chanted about it a lot, and you resolved it. If the problem was a very serious one, perhaps you had to go to a leader to get "guidance" (Their advice was usually to chant more, work more for the group, and sometimes give a financial donation to the organization as well.) There always had to be a happy ending to the tale!
In the beginning, I'd think, "That sounds corny, and unrealistic when I heard some experiences." Over time, though, my thinking changed....so slowly and subtlely that I didn't realize it. You can say, "Oh, it's just someone's story," but you hear enough of these stories from people that you like and trust -- and you really get into this confirmation bias, where you see what you expect to see.
If a member is chanting a lot, other members will constantly remind him or her of all the things that are going well. The smallest success will be magnified, treated as a huge triumph. Any setbacks or problems that the person faces will be dismissed or minimized. "It's no big deal. The way you're going, you'll overcome it in no time!"
If things go badly wrong for a member, other members will say things like, "Well, maybe you're not chanting enough," "You're chanting with the wrong attitude," or "You're not working hard enough for the group."
This kind of thinking becomes a filter through which you view and reinterpret everything that happens in your life. The filter really becomes a big part of your thinking -- and you might not even realize it. People who say, "Well, if you didn't like your organization, why didn't you just leave?" just don't get it at all. The group has just slowly, gradually changed your thinking --- yeah, you can leave the group physically -- but the group is IN your head now. Even if you are miles away from them.
I took a creative writing class a few years ago, and the teacher said something that has remained with me: "People think of memory as this permanent, unchanging thing -- but the truth is, we constantly break down and rebuild our memories as we go through life." We're always learning new things that we then use to reinterpret the past...and change the present and future. This got us into our group, and their way of thinking --- but it can also get us out.