The key technique for eliminating pessimism
from your mind is published here: Undemoralize Yourself. The principle is to
argue with your negative thoughts. Remember, you have little
hope of helping make the world a less pessimistic place until
your own mind is free of unnecessary negativity.
One practical way to argue with your negative
thoughts is to first memorize the list of thought-mistakes (otherwise
known as virus
definitions). Take a week or two and drill yourself on them
like you used to do with your multiplication tables. When youre
ready, write out a negative thought you have, and see how many
thought-mistakes you can find in your statement.
Lets say you have a disagreement
with someone at work and you lose your cool. You get mad and
yell at someone. Later, when you think about it, you feel kind
of bummed out because of what you did. What should you do? Undemoralize
yourself, of course.
So ask yourself, What do I think
caused it? What do you think caused you to lose your cool?
Lets say you write, Pete is
Now look at your statement. And check it
against the list. Just go right down the list, checking each
one. The first one is exaggerating.
Are you exaggerating? Maybe. But it doesn't hit home. Let's keep
Next one on the list: overgeneralizing. Bingo. Anytime you label
someone, you can be pretty sure it's an overgeneralization. Everyone
has good points and bad points. Human beings are complex. It's
a mistake to summarize something very complex with a simple label.
Its bound to be inaccurate, no matter what it is. "Pete
is a jerk" is an overgeneralization of Pete's personality.
Try to make a more accurate statement and see how it fits. How
about this: "Pete did something I didnt like."
Do you see how that's less upsetting? Removing
the mistake and making a more accurate statement takes some of
the intensity out of the negative feeling. Why? Because the intensity
was caused by a distorted view. Youve found a view that's
more in line with reality and your emotions are less intense
Please be clear you are not trying to make
positive statements. If you try to make your explanation positive
it won't work because you won't believe it. If you don't believe
it, your feelings won't change.
All were doing here is trying to
clear up mistakes. Just try to make your explanations more accurate.
Later on down the list you see extremism, misplacing responsibility, and harmful judging. They all apply. Your implies
that losing your cool is all Petes fault. That's extremism
(all-or-nothing thinking). You had a part to play. You could
have done something that made Pete less of a "jerk"
or made your outburst less likely. Think about what you could
do differently next time.
When you realize an event has more than
one influencing factor, you will also discover you are one of
those factors. You might do something different that would create
a different outcome next time. This way of thinking turns setbacks
into good training for future situations.
For example, Jims wife is mad at
him, called him names and left the house, slamming the door behind
her. He's feeling negative emotions at the moment, so he sits
down to undemoralize himself.
"What am I thinking that is making
me feel upset?" he asks himself. And he writes, She
Then he looks at this statement to see
how many thought-mistakes he can find in it. In this case, it
emotions as evidence, among others.
He writes another thought hes thinking:
Im a complete jerk. Again he looks at this
one, trying to find the violations of sanity, if you will
trying to find the cognitive distortions, the mistakes, in this
Im a complete jerk, is
of course an overgeneralization,
and harmful judging
Judging yourself or others is a major source
of negativity that makes you feel negative emotions you dont
need and that dont help you. Feeling angry because of a
negative judgment you make of yourself or someone else is unnecessary
Look at your judgments. Write them down
and argue with them and you will often find out the reality is
less dire, less upsetting, than you had been thinking.
You just saved yourself some unnecessary
negative emotion. You saved yourself some unnecessary wear and
Lets try another one. A woman thinks,
Since Ive already blown my diet, I might as well
just go for it and eat the rest of the ice cream too. This
is extremism, self-defeating
conclusions, and ignoring
Nobody likes me. Thats
and probably dismissing
facts and an overgeneralization.
She shouldnt treat me like
that. Thats an easy one: shoulds and musts.
The practical method I'm advocating here
is to first memorize the list. If you see something on that list
you don't think should be there, read the article about it. When
you read the descriptions and examples for each thought-mistake,
you will understand why each is a mistake. So later, when you
catch yourself making one of those mistakes, you can instantly
invalidate your negative thought because youve already
recognized the whole class of negative thought of which
your particular thought is a member is erroneous.
Memorize the list first and your whole
job is quicker and easier.
When you learn the 22 thought-mistakes before theyre associated
with a particular thought of yours. you dont have the problem
of overcoming your own naturally-occurring defensiveness when
youre analyzing your statements.
I know memorizing a list takes some time
and effort. But the freedom from unnecessary negative emotions
is worth the trouble.
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