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Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

David D. Burns MD

Personal Thoughts

Summary Notes

Cognitive Theory Principles

  • The first principle of cognitive therapy is that all your moods are created by your “cognitions,” or thoughts. Cognition refers to the way you look at things—your perceptions, mental attitudes, and beliefs.
  • The second principle is that when you are feeling depressed, your thoughts are dominated by pervasive negativity. 
  • The third principle is of substantial philosophical and therapeutic importance. Our research has documented that the negative thoughts which cause your emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortions. 

What is the key to releasing yourself from your emotional prison? 

  • Your thoughts create your emotions; therefore, your emotions cannot prove that your thoughts are accurate.
  • One effective method for accomplishing this is the “triple-column technique.” Simply draw two lines down the center of a piece of paper to divide it into thirds (see Figure 4–1, page 63). Label the left-hand column “Automatic Thoughts (Self-Criticism),” the middle column “Cognitive Distortion,” and the right-hand column “Rational Response (Self-Defense).” In the left-hand column write down all those hurtful self-criticisms you make when you are feeling worthless and down on yourself.
  • The “triple-column technique” can be used to restructure the way you think about yourself when you have goofed up in some way.
  • Zero in on those automatic negative thoughts and write them down. Don’t let them buzz around in your head; snare them on paper! 
  • Read over the list of ten cognitive distortions. Learn precisely how you are twisting things and blowing them out of proportion.
  1. All or Nothing Thinking
  2. Overgeneralization
  3. Mental Filters
  4. Discounting the Positive
  5. Jumping to Conclusions
  6. Magnification
  7. Emotional Reasoning
  8. Should Statements
  9.  Labeling
  10.  Personalization and Blame
  • Substitute a more objective thought that puts the lie to the one which made you look down on yourself.

Explanations for Self-Defeating Behavior

  • You’re basically lazy; it’s just your “nature.” 
  • You want to hurt yourself and suffer. You either like feeling depressed, or you have a self-destructive drive, a “death wish.”
  • You’re passive-aggressive, and you want to frustrate the people around you by doing nothing.
  • You must be getting some “payoff” from your procrastination and do-nothingism. For example, you enjoy getting all that attention when you are depressed.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

David D. Burns MD
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