Psychotherapy Handout – ROLF Filter

Many of the thoughts we think or beliefs we hold are like junk food, easy and quick to grab but not healthy to ingest. When we are telling ourselves things in an automatic and habitual way we may be broadcasting lies and harmful stories without even knowing it. This unfiltered and unhealthy inner dialogue (aka: self-talk) can cause depression, anxiety, and insecurity. If, for example, I tell,  “I’ll never be good enough to get a promotion,” I may defeat myself and prevent myself from even trying to succeed.

The first step is to become aware of self-talk. Conscious change can not happen without awareness. The second step is to filter the thoughts to make sure they are healthy. I developed the ROLF Filter as a tool for sifting a belief or thought so that harmful thinking can be challenged. The ROLF filter asks you to look at your belief and ask if it is realistic, owned, life-enhancing, and flexible. Thoughts that meet this criteria are most likely healthy and worthy of believing.

In the example above, if I were telling myself, “I will never be good enough for a promotion,” I would want to examine this belief to see if it is realistic. Maybe I’m not very good at my job and so being passed up for a promotion is likely. If this is the case my thought that I might not get promoted does indeed pass the realistic screen in my ROLF Filter. If there is no evidence that I’m poorly skilled at my job then my belief would get hung up on this aspect of the filter. Evidence is the key to passing the realistic quality of a ROLF Filter. Secondly, I’d have to ask if my belief is owned. Is this a belief I have chosen for myself or is this a remnant of someone else’s message to me. If I didn’t choose this belief myself, it wouldn’t pass this part of my filter. Thirdly, I’d have to ask if my belief is life-enhancing.  Does believing that I’m never going to be good enough to get promoted enhance my life? If it is not enhancing to me then it should be challenged. Finally, I’d want to ask if the belief is flexible. My use of the word “never” in regards to my adequacy makes this belief rigid and extreme, not at all flexible. This extreme thinking would cause the belief to not pass through the ROLF Filter.

When a belief does not make it past the filter it is not given expressed permission to influence the inner world. The belief can either be dismissed or modified. Dismissing a belief is not always easy. Sometimes these beliefs feel a sense of privilege because they have been allowed to run unchecked for so many years. It takes a bit of fierce inner discipline to stand up against some old unhealthy beliefs. Changing the structure of the thoughts can help clear the toxins within the belief so they can pass through the ROLF Filter making them harmless to hold. I might, for example in the situation above, reframe the belief to sound something like, “If I don’t do well at my job I may get passed up for promotion.” This statement would likely pass the ROLF Filter and be healthy to broadcast throughout the inner world.

Catching our beliefs can be quite challenging. They often get played over our inner loud speakers without notice. If you can turn up the volume of your inner dialogue you will begin to hear how you are talking with yourself. You can then begin filtering the messages so that only the healthy and harmless beliefs are allowed in.

Here is the handout I use when discussing this concept with my clients: