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Carl Benedict offers online counseling on his web site Serenity Online Therapy.
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Mistaken Beliefs: The Cause of Much Emotional Upset

The following techniques for emotional management are primarily based on the work of Albert Ellis, who invented Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).

Feelings can either be helpful or unhelpful. Helpful feelings give direction - like a compass. Unhelpful feelings overwhelm and paralyze. Most unhelpful feelings are fueled by mistaken or irrational beliefs. In other words, mistaken beliefs turn irritation into rage, sadness into depression, and appropriate nervousness into panic.

Thus, if you want to change the way you feel, you must change the way you think - because it is not the events that upset you as much as the way you perceive them.

Mistaken or irrational beliefs are truly mistaken or irrational because they fly in the face of reality. They set up expectations that are unrealistic, thus causing emotional upset when the expectations are not met. The more rigid the mistaken beliefs, the more emotional upset they produce.

Below is Carl's 5-minute YouTube video about helpful and unhelpful feelings:

 

Three Categories of Mistaken Beliefs

Category One: "I MUST be perfect. I MUST never make a mistake. People MUST never criticize me." These beliefs are irrational because no one is perfect.

If you demand that you MUST always be perfect, then you are guaranteed to upset yourself frequently. The more rigid these beliefs, the more frequent the upsets. In addition, the more Mistaken beliefs cause much emotional upset. Photo of the ocean by Carl Benedict.you tie your self-worth to them, the more deeply upset you become. It's a no-win situation that fuels much anxiety and depression.

It is much more helpful to work persistently on changing your attitude from "I MUST be perfect" to "It would be nice if I was perfect, but since nobody is perfect I will invariably make mistakes - and that's OK. I should try to learn from them." In short, by accepting the reality of your own human imperfections, you will be less likely to get overwhelmed or beat up on yourself when you are not perfect. In fact, it helps to learn to develop a loving sense of humor about your own human imperfections. This change in attitude and beliefs, from unrealistic to realistic, will enhance emotional management.

Category Two: "People MUST act the way I want." This belief is irrational because people act the way they want, not necessarily the way you want. In other words, you can't control or change other people.

If you demand that people MUST always act the way you want, then you are guaranteed to upset yourself frequently. The more rigid your beliefs, the more frequent and disturbing the upsets. It's a no-win situation that fuels much anxiety, anger, and depression.

It is much more helpful to work persistently on changing your attitude from "People MUST act the way I want" to "It would be nice if people acted the way I want, but Mom's going to be Mom and I can't change her. But I can take care of myself." In short, by accepting the reality that you can't change or control other people, you will be less likely to get upset or overwhelmed when others act in ways you don't like. In fact, it helps to learn to develop a loving sense of humor about the human imperfections of others. This change in attitude and beliefs, from unrealistic to realistic, will enhance emotional management.

Category Three: "Life MUST always go the way I want." This belief is irrational because a basic rule of life is: You win some and you lose some.

If you demand that life MUST always go the way you want, then you are guaranteed to upset yourself frequently. The more rigid your beliefs, the more frequent and disturbing the upsets. It's a no-win situation that fuels much anxiety, anger, and depression.

It is much more helpful to work persistently on changing your attitude from "Life MUST always go my way" to "It would be nice if life always went my way, but the reality is: Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. I just need to get through the hard times as best I can." In short, by accepting the reality of the ups and downs of life, you will be less likely to get upset or overwhelmed when life throws you a curve. In fact, it helps to learn to develop a loving sense of humor about life's imperfections. This change in attitude and beliefs, from unrealistic to realistic, will enhance emotional management.

In summary, it’s OK to want whatever you want – JUST DON’T TIE YOUR SERENITY OR HAPPINESS TO THE OUTCOME.  Turn all your MUSTS into preferences and you will upset yourself less, because when you tell yourself you MUST have something, you will upset yourself greatly if you don’t get it.  But when you tell yourself you prefer something, you will simply be appropriately disappointed if you don't get it.  Turning great upsets into appropriate disappointments takes much of the pain out of life’s inevitable twists and turns. 

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Copyright 2005-2017 Serenity Online Therapy
All Text and many photos by Carl Benedict

"Our very life depends on everything's recurring till we answer from within."  Robert Frost