IRRATIONAL THINKING & DEBILITATIVE EMOTIONS
Many debilitative feelings come from irrational thoughts, called “fallacies” here. Often times we are not aware of these thoughts, which makes them particularly powerful.
The Fallacy of Perfection: the belief that you should be able to handle every situation with confidence and skill. Once you believe that it is possible to be a perfect communicator, the next step is to believe that others won’t like you if you’re not perfect. If you feel this way, sharing feelings of uncertainty or admitting your mistakes seem like social defects. Trying to appear perfect uses up energy and risks friendships. Your self-esteem suffers as well when you don’t measure up to your own expectations. It is a relief when you accept the idea that you’re not perfect, and that: •
Like everyone else, you sometimes have a hard time expressing yourself. •
Like everyone else, you make mistakes and there is no reason to hide this. •
You are honestly doing the best you can to reach your potential and to become the best person you can be.
The Fallacy of Approval: is based on the belief that you must have the approval of almost everyone. You may sacrifice your own principles and happiness to seek the acceptance of others. Accepting this leads to some ridiculous situations; •
Feeling nervous because people you really don’t like seem to disapprove of you. •
Feeling apologetic when others are at fault.
Feeling embarrassed after behaving unnaturally to gain approval. The fallacy of approval is irrational because it implies that people will like you more if you go out of your way to please them. Ultimately people won’t respect you if you compromise your own values. Striving for universal acceptance is not a realistic or desirable goal. This does not mean you should be selfish, and not try to please others. But, if you must abandon your own needs and principles to seek approval, the price is too high.
The Fallacy of Should: is the inability to distinguish between what is and what should be. Some people constantly make complaints about the world: “There ought to be no rain on weekends.”
“There shouldn’t have been school today.”
“Money should grow on trees.”
These may be foolish, but wishing that the unchangeable should be changed won’t affect reality. Many of us torture ourselves by engaging in this irrational thought, confusing is and ought: “My friend should be more understanding.”
“She shouldn’t be so inconsiderate.”
“They ought to be more friendly.”
“He should work harder.”
The message is that you prefer people would behave differently. Although striving to change things is O.K., it’s unreasonable to insist the world operate the way you want it. Becoming obsessed with “should” can have troublesome consequences: •
First, it leads to unhappiness for people who are constantly dreaming about the ideal, and are, therefore, unsatisfied with what they have. •
Merely complaining without acting can keep you from changing less than satisfying conditions. •
Should can build resistance in others who resent being nagged. It’s more effective to tell people what you want them to do: “I wish you’d be on time,” is better than “You should be on time.”
The Fallacy of Overgeneralization: includes two types: •
The first is when we base a belief on a limited amount of evidence:
“I’m so stupid! I can’t even figure out my income tax.”
“Some friend I am! I forgot my best friend’s birthday.” When we do this we focus on one shortcoming as if it represented everything about us. We must remember times that we have solved tough problems or times we have been caring and thoughtful. •
The second occurs when we exaggerate short comings:
“You never listen to me.”
“You’re always late.”
“I can’t think of anything.”
These statements are almost always false and lead to disappointment or anger. Replace these with more accurate messages:
“You often don’t listen to...
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