What Do You Make of Your Thoughts?

Reviewed Mar 16, 2017

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Summary

Having a thought rise up to your conscious awareness is primarily out of your control, but it’s your choice to believe or reject that thought.

You could make yourself dizzy thinking about thinking. You might wonder: “Where do thoughts come from?” and “Am I ever not thinking?” or even “Why do those really weird thoughts pop up now and then?”

This is not an essay on the intricate workings of your cerebral cortex, but it’s useful to know that your thoughts are a complex result of internal and external influences. Having a thought rise up to your conscious awareness is primarily out of your control, but it’s your choice to believe or reject that thought. Learn how to benefit from thinking about your thinking.

Know your ABCs

Often your thoughts follow this logical sequence:

  • A—You experience an actual event.
  • B—You judge the event by what you believe to be true (thoughts).
  • C—Your judgments result in consequential feelings, behaviors, and more thoughts.

As an example of this sequence, imagine you just lost a card game (“A” above). If you truly believe that losing is horrible and shouldn’t happen to you, then you will likely feel angry or sad and even act sulky to the victor. According to Albert Ellis, one of the fathers of cognitive psychology, the belief that you should never lose or fail is irrational, meaning it is not realistic or supported by concrete evidence.

If, in that same example, you believe instead that merely playing the game is fun, win or lose, your mood isn’t likely to suffer for losing. Learn to catch what’s happening at stage “B”—this is where you can choose to believe or dispute your thoughts.

Know your faulty beliefs

As you learn to recognize mindsets and beliefs that are not rational, don’t buy into another irrational belief: that every thought must be rational or reasonable. Focus on the thinking that fuels distress in your life. In Psychological Self-Help, Clayton Tucker, PhD, identifies a few common faulty mindsets:

  • Everyone should love and approve of me.
  • I must never fail or make a mistake.
  • Things must always go the way I want them to.

Ellis labels such beliefs as self-defeating and irrational, guaranteed to upset you and others around you. Start to think about your thinking—what are the “shoulds” and “musts” that cause you to feel frustrated, discouraged, guilty, etc.?

Often it isn’t easy to catch faulty beliefs as they occur. When you feel distressed in some way, try to think back to the events that upset you, then ask yourself, “What thoughts (beliefs) do I have about this situation that might have made things harder for me?”

Making the choice

How can you control thoughts when they just seem to materialize of their own will? Don’t waste your efforts on control at all; learn to choose how you will regard faulty beliefs. Take a good look at a thought such as “I must always feel happy.” Does such a belief cause you joy or misery? As any unreasonable thought arises and frustrates you, practice disputing it. Ellis recommends the following process, called DIBS (disputing irrational beliefs). Ask yourself:

  • What irrational belief do I want to dispute? (Example: I must always feel happy.)
  • Can I rationally support this belief? (No—humans feel a wide range of emotions.)
  • What evidence exists of the falseness of this belief? (I sometimes feel unhappy.)
  • Does any evidence exist of the truth of this belief? (Not really—no one is happy 100 percent of the time.)
  • What are the worst things that could happen to me if I don’t get what I think I must? (I will sometimes feel unhappy, cry, suffer, etc.)
  • What good things could I make happen if I don’t get what I think I must? (I could learn to comfort others when they feel unhappy, express my emotions in a healthy manner, etc.)

Perhaps you can begin by identifying one or two irrational beliefs that bother you the most. You might have to apply the DIBS process repeatedly as the bothersome thoughts pop up. Over time, you may find that your “shoulds” and “musts” diminish in your thinking.

And if you’re still wondering about those random, weird thoughts that pop up now and then—they happen, to everyone! If they cause you anxiety, apply the DIBS process to your irrational belief that you must never experience weird thoughts. The choice is yours.

Resource

Albert Ellis Institute
(212) 535-0822
www.rebt.org
By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Psychological Self-Help by Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D. Self Help Foundation, 1996; Albert Ellis, Ph.D. (1974) “Techniques for Disputing Irrational Beliefs,” Albert Ellis Institute; Three-Minute Therapy: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Michael Edelstein. Glenbridge Publishing Ltd. 1997.

Summary

Having a thought rise up to your conscious awareness is primarily out of your control, but it’s your choice to believe or reject that thought.

You could make yourself dizzy thinking about thinking. You might wonder: “Where do thoughts come from?” and “Am I ever not thinking?” or even “Why do those really weird thoughts pop up now and then?”

This is not an essay on the intricate workings of your cerebral cortex, but it’s useful to know that your thoughts are a complex result of internal and external influences. Having a thought rise up to your conscious awareness is primarily out of your control, but it’s your choice to believe or reject that thought. Learn how to benefit from thinking about your thinking.

Know your ABCs

Often your thoughts follow this logical sequence:

  • A—You experience an actual event.
  • B—You judge the event by what you believe to be true (thoughts).
  • C—Your judgments result in consequential feelings, behaviors, and more thoughts.

As an example of this sequence, imagine you just lost a card game (“A” above). If you truly believe that losing is horrible and shouldn’t happen to you, then you will likely feel angry or sad and even act sulky to the victor. According to Albert Ellis, one of the fathers of cognitive psychology, the belief that you should never lose or fail is irrational, meaning it is not realistic or supported by concrete evidence.

If, in that same example, you believe instead that merely playing the game is fun, win or lose, your mood isn’t likely to suffer for losing. Learn to catch what’s happening at stage “B”—this is where you can choose to believe or dispute your thoughts.

Know your faulty beliefs

As you learn to recognize mindsets and beliefs that are not rational, don’t buy into another irrational belief: that every thought must be rational or reasonable. Focus on the thinking that fuels distress in your life. In Psychological Self-Help, Clayton Tucker, PhD, identifies a few common faulty mindsets:

  • Everyone should love and approve of me.
  • I must never fail or make a mistake.
  • Things must always go the way I want them to.

Ellis labels such beliefs as self-defeating and irrational, guaranteed to upset you and others around you. Start to think about your thinking—what are the “shoulds” and “musts” that cause you to feel frustrated, discouraged, guilty, etc.?

Often it isn’t easy to catch faulty beliefs as they occur. When you feel distressed in some way, try to think back to the events that upset you, then ask yourself, “What thoughts (beliefs) do I have about this situation that might have made things harder for me?”

Making the choice

How can you control thoughts when they just seem to materialize of their own will? Don’t waste your efforts on control at all; learn to choose how you will regard faulty beliefs. Take a good look at a thought such as “I must always feel happy.” Does such a belief cause you joy or misery? As any unreasonable thought arises and frustrates you, practice disputing it. Ellis recommends the following process, called DIBS (disputing irrational beliefs). Ask yourself:

  • What irrational belief do I want to dispute? (Example: I must always feel happy.)
  • Can I rationally support this belief? (No—humans feel a wide range of emotions.)
  • What evidence exists of the falseness of this belief? (I sometimes feel unhappy.)
  • Does any evidence exist of the truth of this belief? (Not really—no one is happy 100 percent of the time.)
  • What are the worst things that could happen to me if I don’t get what I think I must? (I will sometimes feel unhappy, cry, suffer, etc.)
  • What good things could I make happen if I don’t get what I think I must? (I could learn to comfort others when they feel unhappy, express my emotions in a healthy manner, etc.)

Perhaps you can begin by identifying one or two irrational beliefs that bother you the most. You might have to apply the DIBS process repeatedly as the bothersome thoughts pop up. Over time, you may find that your “shoulds” and “musts” diminish in your thinking.

And if you’re still wondering about those random, weird thoughts that pop up now and then—they happen, to everyone! If they cause you anxiety, apply the DIBS process to your irrational belief that you must never experience weird thoughts. The choice is yours.

Resource

Albert Ellis Institute
(212) 535-0822
www.rebt.org
By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Psychological Self-Help by Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D. Self Help Foundation, 1996; Albert Ellis, Ph.D. (1974) “Techniques for Disputing Irrational Beliefs,” Albert Ellis Institute; Three-Minute Therapy: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Michael Edelstein. Glenbridge Publishing Ltd. 1997.

Summary

Having a thought rise up to your conscious awareness is primarily out of your control, but it’s your choice to believe or reject that thought.

You could make yourself dizzy thinking about thinking. You might wonder: “Where do thoughts come from?” and “Am I ever not thinking?” or even “Why do those really weird thoughts pop up now and then?”

This is not an essay on the intricate workings of your cerebral cortex, but it’s useful to know that your thoughts are a complex result of internal and external influences. Having a thought rise up to your conscious awareness is primarily out of your control, but it’s your choice to believe or reject that thought. Learn how to benefit from thinking about your thinking.

Know your ABCs

Often your thoughts follow this logical sequence:

  • A—You experience an actual event.
  • B—You judge the event by what you believe to be true (thoughts).
  • C—Your judgments result in consequential feelings, behaviors, and more thoughts.

As an example of this sequence, imagine you just lost a card game (“A” above). If you truly believe that losing is horrible and shouldn’t happen to you, then you will likely feel angry or sad and even act sulky to the victor. According to Albert Ellis, one of the fathers of cognitive psychology, the belief that you should never lose or fail is irrational, meaning it is not realistic or supported by concrete evidence.

If, in that same example, you believe instead that merely playing the game is fun, win or lose, your mood isn’t likely to suffer for losing. Learn to catch what’s happening at stage “B”—this is where you can choose to believe or dispute your thoughts.

Know your faulty beliefs

As you learn to recognize mindsets and beliefs that are not rational, don’t buy into another irrational belief: that every thought must be rational or reasonable. Focus on the thinking that fuels distress in your life. In Psychological Self-Help, Clayton Tucker, PhD, identifies a few common faulty mindsets:

  • Everyone should love and approve of me.
  • I must never fail or make a mistake.
  • Things must always go the way I want them to.

Ellis labels such beliefs as self-defeating and irrational, guaranteed to upset you and others around you. Start to think about your thinking—what are the “shoulds” and “musts” that cause you to feel frustrated, discouraged, guilty, etc.?

Often it isn’t easy to catch faulty beliefs as they occur. When you feel distressed in some way, try to think back to the events that upset you, then ask yourself, “What thoughts (beliefs) do I have about this situation that might have made things harder for me?”

Making the choice

How can you control thoughts when they just seem to materialize of their own will? Don’t waste your efforts on control at all; learn to choose how you will regard faulty beliefs. Take a good look at a thought such as “I must always feel happy.” Does such a belief cause you joy or misery? As any unreasonable thought arises and frustrates you, practice disputing it. Ellis recommends the following process, called DIBS (disputing irrational beliefs). Ask yourself:

  • What irrational belief do I want to dispute? (Example: I must always feel happy.)
  • Can I rationally support this belief? (No—humans feel a wide range of emotions.)
  • What evidence exists of the falseness of this belief? (I sometimes feel unhappy.)
  • Does any evidence exist of the truth of this belief? (Not really—no one is happy 100 percent of the time.)
  • What are the worst things that could happen to me if I don’t get what I think I must? (I will sometimes feel unhappy, cry, suffer, etc.)
  • What good things could I make happen if I don’t get what I think I must? (I could learn to comfort others when they feel unhappy, express my emotions in a healthy manner, etc.)

Perhaps you can begin by identifying one or two irrational beliefs that bother you the most. You might have to apply the DIBS process repeatedly as the bothersome thoughts pop up. Over time, you may find that your “shoulds” and “musts” diminish in your thinking.

And if you’re still wondering about those random, weird thoughts that pop up now and then—they happen, to everyone! If they cause you anxiety, apply the DIBS process to your irrational belief that you must never experience weird thoughts. The choice is yours.

Resource

Albert Ellis Institute
(212) 535-0822
www.rebt.org
By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Psychological Self-Help by Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D. Self Help Foundation, 1996; Albert Ellis, Ph.D. (1974) “Techniques for Disputing Irrational Beliefs,” Albert Ellis Institute; Three-Minute Therapy: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by Michael Edelstein. Glenbridge Publishing Ltd. 1997.

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