|Three-minute therapy takes five simple steps
Last month, we talked about connecting our feelings to what happens to us. When good things happen, we usually feel fine.
If bad things happen, we feel bad. So, we spend a lot of our energy trying to control what happens to us.
However, the fly in the ointment is people in absolutely miserable situations still seem content, and those in wonderful situations are still miserable within themselves.
This dichotomy suggests our emotions and behavior are not primarily dependent on what is going on around us. We can buy that brand new car, or acquire that ‘perfect’ job and still find ourselves feeling not quite right, or worse.
The reason is that there is something else going on, something that determines how we feel.
According to American psychologist Albert Ellis, one of the originators of cognitive-behavioral therapies, it is in fact your self-talk. Dr. Ellis originated what he called the ABC’s of our emotions, which we looked at last month.
The “A” represents your circumstances (“A” stands for “activating events”), including everything going on in your life, and “C” represents your feelings, which Ellis refers to as “emotional consequences.”
Now, our natural tendency is to think our activating events (A) determine our emotional consequences (C). In other words, A leads directly to C. For example, if an activating event (A) is that I flunk a test, the emotional Consequence is that I feel stupid.
So, most of us think that A is followed by C. Wait a minute! What happened to the “B?” The B is our beliefs, as verbalized by our self-talk. And according to Dr. Ellis, B comes between the A and the C. In the same way, our self-talk primarily comes between the circumstances, and the resulting feelings.
For instance, when I flunk a test (the event), my belief is verbalized in my self-talk, “I must be really stupid!” And the emotional consequence (“I FEEL really stupid!”) follows.
As we can see from this example, it is not the circumstances causing our feelings; it is what we tell ourselves about those circumstances that do. In other words, our beliefs about those circumstances can do more damage, sometimes even more than the circumstances themselves.
But I have wonderful news for you. (And I get so excited when I share this in a Winner’s Circle that I get all goose-bumpy), we can change…those…beliefs.
We don’t have to be victimized by the events in our lives…or our feelings. While the events and the feelings can be really hard to change…our beliefs can be.
It is so profoundly simple…we change our beliefs. It is our choice.
For instance, when we flunk a test, rather than saying, “I’m stupid!” we change those beliefs to, “I didn’t study enough,” or, “I didn’t understand the material,” or, “I was partying the night before.”
Then the feelings follow. 1.) I’m not stupid. I’ll just study harder next time, or 2.) I’m not stupid, I’ll meet with the professor to be sure I understand the material better next time, or 3.) I’m not stupid…I just won’t party the night before.
There is a psychological technique I like to teach. It comes from a discipline called the three-minute therapy, as developed by Dr. Michael Edelstein, PhD, as described in his wonderful book, “The Three Minute Therapy. “It involves five simple steps:
A. Identify the activating event that has caused your feelings (“I have lost my job.”)
B. Now identify the beliefs you have about those activating events. (“I must be a useless person if I don’t have a job!”)
C. Feel the emotional consequences (“I feel useless as a breadwinner and horrible about myself as a person.”)
D. Dispute those beliefs, especially the “musts.” Are they really true? (“Am I really a useless person if I don’t have a job?” Absolutely not!)
E. Develop a new more effective and reasonable way of thinking. (“In the present economy, hundreds of thousands are losing their jobs. However, not having a job does not reflect my value as a worker or as a person.”
F. A new feeling then arises. (“Although I don’t have a job right now, I know I eventually will, and this gives me the confidence I need as I search for a new job.”)
And do you know what? When you think this way, your brain simply says “OK.” But is what you are telling yourself true?
Your brain doesn’t even care. All it cares about is what you tell it. So when you say it, your brain believes it. And then when you lock onto it, do you know what it will do? It will do everything it can to make it true in your life!
Steven Campbell is the author of "Making Your Mind Magnificent" and conducts "The Winners Circle" every two months at Sonoma Mountain Village in RP. Call him at 480-5007 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.anintelligentheart.com for more information.