David Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, Part 1
Many people believe that their bad moods result from factors beyond their control. They ask, "How can I possibly feel happy? My girlfriend rejected me. Women always put me down." Or they say, "How can I feel good about myself? I’m not particularly successful. I don’t have a glamorous career. I’m just an inferior person, and that’s reality." Some people attribute their blue moods to their hormones or body chemistry. Others believe that their sour outlook results from some childhood event that has long been forgotten and buried deep in their unconscious. Some people argue that it’s realistic to feel bad because they’re ill or have recently experienced a personal disappointment. Others attribute their bad moods to the state of the world – the shaky economy, the bad weather, taxes, traffic jams, the threat of nuclear war. Misery, they argue, is inevitable.
Of course there’s some truth in all of these ideas. Our feelings undoubtedly are influenced by external events, by our body chemistry, and by conflicts and traumas from the past. However, these theories are based on the notion that our feelings are beyond our control. If you say, "I just can’t help the way I feel," you will only make yourself a victim of your misery – and you’ll be fooling yourself, because you can change the way you feel.
If you want to feel better, you must realize that your thoughts and attitudes – not external events – create your feelings. You can learn to change the way you think, feel, and behave in the here-and-now. That simple but revolutionary principle can help you change your life.
To illustrate the important relationship between your thoughts and your moods, consider the many ways you might react to a compliment. Suppose I told you, "I really like you. I think you’re a neat person." How would you feel? Some people would feel pleased and happy. Others might feel sad and guilty. Some people would feel embarrassed, and some would react with anger and annoyance. What explains such different reactions? It’s because of the different ways they might think about the compliment. If you feel sad, you’re probably thinking, "Ah, Dr. Burns is just saying that to make me feel good. He’s just trying to be nice to me, but he doesn’t really mean it." If you feel annoyed, you might be thinking, "He’s flattering me. He must be trying to get something from me. Why isn’t he more honest?" If you feel good about the compliment, you’re likely to be thinking, "Gee, Dr. Burns likes me. That’s great!" In each case the external event – the compliment – is the same. The way you feel results entirely from the way you think about it. That’s what I mean when I say that your thoughts create your moods.
David Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, Part 2
This is also true when something bad happens. Suppose someone you respect criticizes you. How would you feel? You may feel guilty and inadequate if you tell yourself you’re no good and the problem is all your fault. You will feel anxious and worried if you tell yourself that the other person is looking down on you and is going to reject you. You’ll feel angry if you tell yourself that it’s all their fault and they have no right to say such unfair things. If you have a good sense of self-esteem, you might feel curious and try to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. In each case, your reaction will depend on the way you think about the criticism. The messages you give yourself have an enormous impact on your emotions. And what’s even more important, by learning to change your thoughts, you can change the way you feel.
The powerful methods described in this book have helped thousands of people take greater charge of their emotions, their careers, and their personal relationships – and they can help you. It’s not always easy. Considerable effort and persistence are sometimes required to snap out of a bad mood. But it can be done! The techniques are practical and straightforward, and you can make them work for you.
This new approach is called "cognitive behavior therapy" because you can learn to change the way you think, the way you behave, and the way you feel. A "cognition" is simply a thought. You may have noticed that when you feel depressed or anxious you are thinking about yourself and your life in a pessimistic, self-critical way. You may wake up feeling discouraged and tell yourself, "Ugh! What’s the point in getting out of bed?" You may feel anxious and inferior at a social gathering because you tell yourself, "I don’t have anything witty or interesting to say." Cognitive therapists believe that these negative thinking patterns actually cause you to feel depressed and anxious. When you think about your problems in a more positive and realistic way, you will experience greater self-esteem, intimacy, and productivity.
If you want to break out of a bad mood, you must first understand that every type of negative feeling results from a specific kind of negative thought. Sadness and depression result from thoughts of loss. You think you have lost something important to your self-esteem. Perhaps you were rejected by someone you cared a great deal about. You might have retired or lost your job or missed out on an important career opportunity. Frustration results from unfulfilled expectations. You tell yourself that things should be different from the way they really are. For example, "That train shouldn’t be so late when I’m in a hurry! Darn it!" Anxiety and panic result from thoughts of danger. Before you give a speech in front of a group of people, you feel nervous because you anticipate that your voice will tremble and your mind will go blank. You imagine that you’ll make a fool of yourself. Guilt results from the thought that you are bad. When a friend makes an unreasonable request, you may feel a twinge of guilt and think, "A really nice person would say yes." Then you may agree to something that isn’t really in your best interest. Feelings of inferiority result from the thought that you’re inadequate in comparison with others. You think, "She’s so much better looking than I am" or "He’s so much smarter and more successful. What’s wrong with me?" Anger results from feelings of unfairness. You tell yourself that someone is treating you unjustly or trying to take advantage of you.
David Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, Part 3
The list on pages 6-7 illustrates the connection between your thoughts and your feelings. Study this table carefully. It will help you understand why you’re in the mood you’re in, and this can make it easier to change the way you feel.
David Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, Part 4
What you will learn here is that even though you are convinced they are valid, most of the negative thoughts that make you feel bad are distorted and unrealistic. Example: Following a romantic breakup or divorce you tell yourself, "It’s all my fault. I must be unlovable. I’ll never be close to anyone." You feel so rotten that it seems absolutely true, and you think your life is over. Months later you begin to date and you start to feel close to people again. It suddenly dawns on you that you are lovable after all, that you weren’t entirely responsible for the breakup of your relationship. You wonder how in the world you could have believed all the put-downs you were heaping on yourself. But at the time, your negative thoughts seemed completely valid.
That’s one of the peculiar things about bad moods – we often fool ourselves and create misery by telling ourselves things that simply are not true. And the strange thing is that we usually don’t have the vaguest suspicion that we’re being conned by our misery and self-doubt.
The ten forms of distorted thinking that lead to negative moods are listed on pages 8-11. Study this list carefully, because you will refer to it frequently as you do the exercises in this book. Many people have told me that this list changed their lives.
One disclaimer is necessary. There are many times when negative feelings are healthy and appropriate. Learning when to accept these feelings and how to cope with a realistically negative situation is just as important as learning how to rid yourself of distorted thoughts and feelings. If a loved one is seriously ill, you will feel concerned. These sad feelings are a sign of caring. If the house you had your heart set on is sold to someone who made a slightly higher offer, it is natural to feel disappointed. If you’re having an argument with your spouse, you will probably feel angry and hurt. If you have to give a speech or start a new job or ask your boss for a raise, you will probably feel a little nervous. It’s often best to accept these negative feelings.
I don’t believe that you should try to be happy all the time, or in total control of your feelings. That would just be a perfectionistic trap. You cannot always be completely rational and objective. Certainly I’m not! I have my share of shortcomings, my dark moments of self-doubt, my periods of irritability. I believe these experiences give us the opportunity for growth, for intimacy, and for a deeper comprehension of what it means to be human.
David Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, Part 5
MY BILL OF RIGHTS
p. 75 – Exercise from worksheet in The Feeling Good Handbook by: David D. Burns, M.D.
STEP ONE: DESCRIBE THE UPSETTING EVENT
My preference to exercise a basic right is denied. This includes the right to be treated with respect and dignity.
STEP TWO: RECORD YOUR NEGATIVE FEELINGS – and rate each one from 0 (the least) to 100 (the most).
1. uncomfortable – 100 4. anxious - 100 2. embarrassed – 100 5. unsupported – 100 3. silly – 100 6. scared - 150
Automatic thought: (rating: 50) My perception of reality is denied, therefore, I should mistrust my mind and my feelings.
I have suspicions about whether my desire for the right to be treated with respect and dignity is valid.
Sometimes this incertitude transcends my decision-making and therefore I second guess or dispute my decisions.
In addition, at times I may view my rational as unreliable, unless it is unopposed, supported and reinforced by other sources, including my therapist and/or teachers.
When subjected to condescending treatment, I feel acute pain.
Entrenched in that pain is the feeling: Something is wrong with me. My thinking is faulty, impaired, inadequate, and/or insufficient. I am flawed.
David Burn' s Distortions: 7. Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel: I feel that my rational is unreliable, so I must be unreliable and untrustworthy.
Additionally, the following David Burn' s distortions were recognized and refuted: 1) Other people have the prerogative of erroneously judging my actions, 2) Pleasing others will ensure that they will respond congenially to me 3) *When others are displeased with me, my peace and happiness goes belly up 4) Approval from everyone else is basic to my sense of well-being 5) The only way to be liked is to be what other people want me to be and to always align myactions with their expectations.
Rational Response: (rating: 75) Based on a copy of YOUR BILL OF RIGHTS, Copyright 1995, Sage Publications, Inc. given to me by my therapist, “ have a right to be treated with respect and dignity”.
The definition of a right is: that which a person has a just claim to; power, privilege, etc. that belongs to a person by law, nature or tradition (1156).
I will believe this, instead of devaluating my right to be treated with respect and dignity. .
Just because someone else disavows my right to be treated with respect and dignity,does not make it unimportant or invalid.I will treat myself with respect and dignity and require that others do the same.
If I accept discourtesy, others will treat me at my own self estimate.
I will be mindful of and give kind regard to my thoughts, needs, and feelings. I will not repudiate or reject them.
I will avow the belief in my dignity as a human being.
When I state my ideas and opinions, I will take myself seriously, whether others choose to or not.
I will not be swayed by others’ indifference.
I will treat myself with respect and dignity by: giving kind regard to my likes, dislikes and desiresand by viewing my preferences with with thoughtful consideration,even though others may not assent to them.
Written by: Donna Johnson email: firstname.lastname@example.org