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Excerpted from The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns. Copyright © 1999 by David Burns. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"You can learn to change the way you think, feel, and behave in the here-and-now."

  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? Iím not particularly successful. I donít have a glamorous career. Iím just an inferior person, and thatís 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 itís realistic to feel bad because theyíre ill or have recently experienced a personal disappointment. Others attribute their bad moods to the state of the world Ė the shaky economy, the bad weather, taxes, traffic jams, the threat of nuclear war. Misery, they argue, is inevitable.

Of course thereís 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 canít help the way I feel," you will only make yourself a victim of your misery Ė and youíll 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 Ė not external events Ė 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 youíre 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? Itís because of the different ways they might think about the compliment. If you feel sad, youíre probably thinking, "Ah, Dr. Burns is just saying that to make me feel good. Heís just trying to be nice to me, but he doesnít really mean it." If you feel annoyed, you might be thinking, "Heís flattering me. He must be trying to get something from me. Why isnít he more honest?" If you feel good about the compliment, youíre likely to be thinking, "Gee, Dr. Burns likes me. Thatís great!" In each case the external event Ė the compliment Ė is the same. The way you feel results entirely from the way you think about it. Thatís what I mean when I say that your thoughts create your moods.

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