spiritual writings | retreat center directory

You're invited to visit our sister site DanJoseph.com, a resource site
featuring articles on spirituality, psychology, and A Course in Miracles.

Home | Writings | Relationships | David Burns | Handbook part 2 | next   

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.

"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."

  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 youíre 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. Youíll feel angry if you tell yourself that itís 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 whatís 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 Ė and they can help you. Itís 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! Whatís the point in getting out of bed?" You may feel anxious and inferior at a social gathering because you tell yourself, "I donít 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 shouldnít be so late when Iím 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 youíll 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 isnít really in your best interest. Feelings of inferiority result from the thought that youíre inadequate in comparison with others. You think, "Sheís so much better looking than I am" or "Heís so much smarter and more successful. Whatís 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.

next ->