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Book Notes: Feeling Good - David Burns


LongHaul
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Feeling Good book by David Burns - 1999 edition

(The book to minimize your self inflicted misery)  

 

I thought this was a truly  outstanding book.  Even though the book is primarily to help people with Depression (I wasn’t depressed) I found it super helpful and enlightening.  It provides very specific and simple actionable tools to recognize our own thought distortions and the irrationality in them.  I was very humbled reading this book because I have repeatedly made all the Cognitive Distortions on the list!  But I was immediately able to recognize many of the distortions and correct them which is really, really powerful.   It has definitely helped me eliminate some unnecessary misery from my life and I would recommend this book heartily to everyone.     

 

Here are my book notes, much of it copied directly from the book.   Errors in the notes are my own.  The notes are really the tip of the iceberg.  I hope this helps you and your loved ones!   

 

The first principle of cognitive therapy is that all your moods are created by your thoughts.  You feel the way you do right now because of the thoughts you are thinking at this moment.  Your thoughts actually create your emotions.

 

“Nearly every depressed person seems convinced beyond all rhyme or reason that he or she is the special one who really is beyond hope. This delusion reflects the kind of mental processing that is at the very core of your illness!”

 

>>The 10 forms of cognitive distortions cause many, if not all of your depressed states.

 

Definitions of Cognitive Distortions:

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. OVERGENERALIZATION:  You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

 

  1. 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 colors the entire beaker of water.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS:  You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definitive facts that convincingly support your conclusion.  

    1. Mind Reading:  You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.

    2. The Fortune Teller Error:  You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

 

  1. MAGNIFICATION 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.  

 

  1. EMOTIONAL REASONING:  You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

 

  1. 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.   The emotional consequence is guilt.  When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.  

 

  1. 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 someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him:  “He’s a goddamn louse.”  Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.

 

  1. PERSONALIZATION:  You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.  


 

>>>Triple Column Method - to destroy bad cognitive distortions and change your perspective.

 

Automatic Thought Cognitive Distortion Rational Response

(Self Criticism) (Self Defense)

=================================================================

Example:

1. I never do anything Overgeneralization Nonsense! I do a lot of things right

right.

 

Note: “It is crucial to write down your automatic thoughts and rational responses; do not try to do the exercises in your head.”

 

>>>>>>>>   A mindset that contributes to the fear of defeat is when one evaluates performance exclusively on the outcome.  “Let me explain with a personal example.  As a psychotherapist I can control only what I say and how I interact with each patient.  I cannot control how any particular patient will respond to my efforts during a given therapy session.  What I say and how I interact is the process; how each individual reacts is the product.  On any given day, several patients will report that they have benefited greatly from that day’s session, while a couple of others will tell me that their session was not particularly helpful.  If I evaluated my work exclusively on the outcome or product, I would experience a sense of exhilaration whenever a patient did well, and feel defeated and defective whenever a patient reacted negatively.  This would make my emotional life a roller coaster.  If I admit to myself that all I can control is the input I provide in the therapeutic process, I can pride myself on good consistent work regardless of the outcome of any particular session.”

 

>>>>>TICS or Task Interfering Cognitions (TICS) - often can be eliminated with Task Oriented Cognitions (TOCS).. 

 

>>>>>Criticism:  If people criticize you they will either be right or wrong.   If the comments are wrong, there is really nothing for you to be upset about.  Why should you be disturbed if someone else makes the mistake of criticizing you in an unjust manner?  That is the other guy’s error - not yours.   And if the criticism is accurate there is still no reason to be overwhelmed as we are not expected to be perfect.  Just acknowledge the error and take steps to correct it.

If a person attacks you with vague insulting labels, ask him to be more specific about exactly what it is about you the person dislikes.   If a critic is in error that does not make him stupid, worthless or inferior.  I hope you’ll allow for the possibility that you or I will make errors at times.  

 

>>>>>Anger.  Stop creating your anger.  Anger like all cognitions is created by your cognitions.  Your feelings about events are still created by your interpretations you place on them.  “The consequences of an impulsive outburst will frequently defeat you in the long run.  Even if you are being genuinely wronged, it may not be to your advantage to feel angry about it.  The pain and suffering you inflict on yourself by feeling outraged may far exceed the impact on the original insult. “  Anger and labeling - cause you to see a person in a totally negative way.   Every person is a mix of positive, neutral and negative attributes.   

 

>>>>>>Ultimately only your own negative, distorted thoughts can take away your self-respect.   There is one and only one person in this world who has the power to threaten your self-esteem - and that is you.

 

>>>>>>“If you are willing to let go of the unrealistic notion that your concepts of truth, justice, and fairness are shared by everyone, much of your resentment and frustration will vanish.”

Frustration results from unmet expectations.

Examples:  If I want something I deserve it - love, happiness, etc.  

Other people should measure up to my standards

I should be able to solve any problem quickly and easily. 

People should think and act the way I do.  

If I am nice to someone they should reciprocate.


 

>>>>>>>Defeating Guilt

 

Should statements can cause a lot of misery

Instead of saying, “I should be able to make my wife happy” substitute, “It would be nice if I could make my wife happy now because she seems upset.”

 

“You can either decide to accept yourself as an imperfect human being with limited knowledge and realize that you will at times make mistakes, or you can hate yourself for it.”

 

One of the commonest distortions that leads to guilt is personalization - the misguided notion you are responsible for other people’s feelings and actions.  

 

>>>>>>Prevention and Personal Growth

Utterly self defeating silent assumptions:

  1. If someone criticizes me, I feel miserable because this automatically means there is something wrong with me.

  2. To be a truly fulfilled human being I must be loved.

  3. My worth as a human is proportional to what I have achieved

  4. If I don’t perform or feel or act perfectly, I have failed

 

Not good to have a low frustration tolerance. 

 

“The key to emotional enlightenment is the knowledge that only your thoughts can affect your moods. “

 

 You do not need that external approval, love or attention in order to survive or to experience maximal levels of happiness.  

Being alone is neither good or bad, but rather how one thinks regarding that or any other condition of being.  

 

Treat yourself like you would a beloved friend and not be vicious and harsh on yourself.

 

>>>>>Perfectionism (Purrfektionizm)

Applies to expecting people to be perfect when no one is.

Asserting your right to make mistakes will paradoxically make you a better human being.

 

When Dr. Burns had to deal with a really nasty patient.  His colleague told him he was “unusually fortunate” because Hank was giving him a golden opportunity to learn to cope with criticism and anger effectively.

 

I skipped the Chemistry of Mood sections.

End of Book Summary 

 

If anyone wants one on one help to delve more deeply, I heartily recommend Jason Sudol who is trained in Dr. Burn's methods.   

Coincidentally, he has a wall street background.

https://cbtcoachingservices.com/

 

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One question that keeps coming back when going over this approach (cognitive approach, for biases etc) is how people who are receptive to this approach may, in fact, be predisposed to these approaches because of pre-established predispositions (genetic and upbringing).

What i mean is, for example, that people who come to read (and apply) Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People may have already built-in predispositions to make friends and influence people to start with, ie the outcome is highly correlated to the cognitive starting point already imprinted. This has been shown in more extreme cases when trying to influence criminal behaviors once 'patterns' are established. 

Anyways, thank you for the idea. i read through the book very rapidly. Since the last edition of this book, the controversy between more 'biological' approaches and cognitive approaches lives on and antidepressant use in the US has almost doubled. 🙂

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Thanks Cigarbutt.  Good point about the self selection, I am not really sure.    I have found that I seem to forget the Dale Carnegie stuff in 1-2 months but I think the KEY to 

the Feeling Good method is to have a journal, go thru the checklist of cognitive distortions and then put a more rational response to them in writing.

Next time anyone feels like crap - TRY IT - and prove to yourself if it helps you or not.  

Study on Feeling Good Bibliotherapy

"All six papers reported a statistically significant improvement in outcome measures for depression. The summary estimate indicates a large improvement over 4 weeks for those given the self-help book " See figure 2.   This is an unusually effective book for treating depression.  

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463163/#b26

 

I really enjoyed David Burns talk.  

 

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  • LongHaul changed the title to Book Notes: Feeling Good book by David Burns

@LongHaul did not target the notes and recommendation for people with depression. So maybe this is a bit OT, but: there are chemical imbalance causes for depression and other psychological issues. And there are situations where drugs just work (TM). I know people who tried CBT methods and they did not work much if at all, while minimal doses of drugs worked great. I know someone for whom the depression symptoms were due to vitamin D deficiency and fixing that got rid of the symptoms/issues. Not saying that drugs are always the answer, but sometimes they are. If it's at a level of clinical issue, find a good professional, preferably someone who knows both CBT and drugs. Good luck.

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2 hours ago, Jurgis said:

@LongHaul did not target the notes and recommendation for people with depression. So maybe this is a bit OT, but: there are chemical imbalance causes for depression and other psychological issues. And there are situations where drugs just work (TM). I know people who tried CBT methods and they did not work much if at all, while minimal doses of drugs worked great. I know someone for whom the depression symptoms were due to vitamin D deficiency and fixing that got rid of the symptoms/issues. Not saying that drugs are always the answer, but sometimes they are. If it's at a level of clinical issue, find a good professional, preferably someone who knows both CBT and drugs. Good luck.

My maternal Grandfather was one of the most positive people I've ever known. Late in life, he had an uncharacteristic episode of depression. His physician determined it was due to a potassium deficiency. He became a banana eating fool & never experienced depression again.

Decades ago, my Mom had a large portion of her colon removed. H2O & nutrient absorption became poor & she experienced frequent mood swings. After she started dialysis her mood evened out a lot. I think it's because her nutrient levels are better maintained.

For myself, I find that eating right & doing a lot of stuff, staves off stinkin' thinkin'.

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3 hours ago, Jurgis said:

@LongHaul did not target the notes and recommendation for people with depression. So maybe this is a bit OT, but: there are chemical imbalance causes for depression and other psychological issues. And there are situations where drugs just work (TM). I know people who tried CBT methods and they did not work much if at all, while minimal doses of drugs worked great. I know someone for whom the depression symptoms were due to vitamin D deficiency and fixing that got rid of the symptoms/issues. Not saying that drugs are always the answer, but sometimes they are. If it's at a level of clinical issue, find a good professional, preferably someone who knows both CBT and drugs. Good luck.

Good Point Jurgis.   

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  • Parsad changed the title to Book Notes: Feeling Good - David Burns

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