Ever had something go wrong and suddenly those thoughts of ”Why does this always happen to me”, or “I’m such a hopeless case!” come racing through your mind? You start to feel irritated, then lose your cool and start blaming the cat or your partner or throw things around. In less than a minute you find yourself spiraling down into frustration then irritation followed by anger and even loathing. You can feel bad for hours, even days. David D. Burns M.D. explains the way you think and your perceptions; that actually all your moods are created by your cognitions or thoughts.
“Your emotions result from the way you look at things. It is an obvious neurological fact that before you can experience any event, you must process it with your mind and give it meaning. Your negative thoughts that flood your mind are the actual cause of yourself defeating emotions.”
His book “Feeling Good, the new mood therapy” explains in detail exactly what mood swings are, why depression is so dangerous and why Cognitive Therapy works so well. The chapter on Understanding your moods: You Feel the Way you think contains the ten most common cognitive distortions that form the basis of all depressions. When you are feeling upset this list will help you to be aware of what caused your mood to plunge, how twisted and distorted your perception may be.
All or Nothing Thinking: You see things in black – and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that colours the entire beaker of water.
Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
A. Mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and you don’t bother to check this out.
B. The Fortune Teller Error. You anticipate that things will turn out badly and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.
Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof up or someone else’s achievement) or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick”.
Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true”.
Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” & “ought to’s” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is GUILT. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration and resentment.
Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser”. When someo2.ne else’s behaviour rubs you the wrong way you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a louse”. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly coloured and emotionally loaded.
Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.
You can learn to question your thinking and help yourself to perceive life more realistically; avoiding painful feelings caused by your negative thoughts.