Sarah's Case - Continued - Step 1 Relabel

Sarah’s Case – Step 1 Relabel

Do you remember Sarah’s Case from last week? If not, see the blog entitled Sarah’s Case from March 6th, 2012. This blog is a continuation.

The first Step in the Four Step Method is to Relabel. In other words, to identify your deceptive brain messages and the uncomfortable sensations;  Call them what they really are. (Schwartz & Gladding, 2011). The point here is to become aware of your thoughts, without getting lost in them. By increasing your awareness of these deceptive brain messages, physical and emotional sensations, patterns of action or inaction, you can position yourself to counteract and refute them with Step 2 Reframe.

Let’s go back to Sarah’s case. Sarah over-analyzes her actions and often worries about unlikely scenarios. She is afraid of not living up to expectations and questions whether she has upset or angered the people that she interacts with. She keeps asking herself ‘What if I do this?’ ‘What if I do that?’ and has found that if she simply Relabel the whole process as what ifs, thinking or worrying the cycle is broken and she can bring her attention back to what she wants to focus on. She doesn’t have to be lost in her thoughts.

In addition to the deceptive brain messages, Sarah experiences anxiety, usually panic attacks. These symptoms of panic came with a rapid heartbeat or sweating while her brain was signaling to her that this was a huge emergency. She would intensify this feeling by thinking that she needed emergency help and that she was going to die. She began to Relabel those experiences as anxiety and as panic, noting the sensations: rapid heartbeat, sweating and realized that she was not going to die. “As she became more adept at using the Four Steps, she would become more precise and tell herself, “hey, this is my anxiety that’s making my heart beat faster and making my palms sweat, but it is not something I have to act on or believe is signaling a real emergency.”  (Schwartz & Gladding, 2011).

The body can also respond in other physical and mental ways. For example, as Sarah knows, the body can shut down from depression. When Sarah experienced this depression, she felt de-energized, lethargic, and weak. She wanted to hide in bed or sleep. Sarah started to Relabel  ‘this is my de-energizing depression’ or ‘the depression is why I don’t have any energy or my muscles are weak’.

Join our blog next week to find out how Sarah used her increasing awareness of her situation & Relabel to begin Step 2 Reframe in the Four Step Method Program.


Schwartz, Jeffrey M. & Gladding, Rebecca (2011). You are not your brain. New York: Penguin.

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