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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.
 

"Thatís one of the peculiar things about bad moods Ė we often fool ourselves and create misery by telling ourselves things that simply are not true."

  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, "Itís all my fault. I must be unlovable. Iíll 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 werenít 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.

Thatís one of the peculiar things about bad moods Ė we often fool ourselves and create misery by telling ourselves things that simply are not true. And the strange thing is that we usually donít have the vaguest suspicion that weíre 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 youíre 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. Itís often best to accept these negative feelings.

I donít 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 Iím 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.

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