Consider this scenario: You’re at work and discover that a coworker has spread a nasty rumor about you. How would you react?
Understandably, many of us would be quite upset. Furthermore, we would blame the coworker for putting us in a bad mood. Is this assumption correct? Maybe not.
I propose another explanation: negative emotions are caused by the way we think about our misfortune—not by the misfortune itself. You feel the way you think.
In a previous "Cloud Nine" article, I discussed how mindfulness enables us to know that we are separate from our unwanted thoughts. However, there is another technique, based on Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy1 (REBT), which allows us to address upsetting thoughts in a much different way.
Rather than adjusting the way that we perceive distressing thoughts, this approach helps us directly challenge and change them. Although REBT is traditionally done with the help of a therapist, you can reap many of the benefits of this technique by practicing on your own. As always, if you are experiencing severe emotional pain, seek the help of a local trained professional who can give you individualized treatment.
The purpose of REBT is to stop our self-defeating, habitual beliefs that inevitably lead to psychological pain. It makes no sense to continue thinking in a way that causes you to be unhappy. Of course, this is more difficult than it sounds; it takes a lot of hard work to change habitual thoughts. However, scientific evidence shows that the effort is worth it; this technique has shown to be effective in boosting wellbeing.2
1 Ellis, A. (1999). Why rational emotive therapy to rational emotive behavior therapy? Psychotherapy, 36, 154-159. 2 Engels, G. I., Garnefski, N., & Diekstra, R. (1993). Efficacy of rational-emotive therapy: A quantitative analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61, 1083-1090. 3 Powers. M. (2003). The Dragon Slayer with a Heavy Heart. North Hollywood, CA: Wilshire Book Company. 4 Lyubomirsky, S., Sousa, L., Dickerhoof, R. (2006). The costs and benefits of writing, talking, and thinking about life's triumphs and defeats. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 692-708.
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