What You Need to Know to Overcome Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Stress (pg. 2)

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The beliefs that give people emotional problems are evaluative beliefs. Virtually all emotion comes from evaluative thinking. 

Thus, if you just make a simple observation you will not feel emotion.

Let’s consider a statement such as "Jake admires me."

That’s an assertion of fact only.

By itself it does not spawn feelings.

But if you add an evaluation, then you produce an emotion.

For example: "I like Jake admiring me." "I love Jake admiring me." "I dislike Jake admiring me." "I loathe Jake admiring me."

The strength of any "like" exists on a scale from 0 percent to 99.9 percent. (You can never prefer something at the 100 percent level because no matter how strongly you desire it, theoretically you could always yearn for it even more.)

If you prefer to be admired by Jake only slightly (at the 10 percent level, say) you will feel mildly pleased that he’s admiring you and mildly displeased should he despise you. If, on the other hand, you prefer it at the 90 percent level, you will feel rather great when Jake admires you and greatly disappointed if he doesn’t. Thus preferences create emotions. Since the preferences are based on a scale from 0 percent to 99.9 percent, appropriate or reasonable emotions come from preferences.

On the other hand inappropriate or unreasonable emotions come from demands rather than preferences. What we call "demands" consist of magical, absolutistic, moralistic notions, and take the form of "musts" and "shoulds."

For example: "Jake absolutely MUST admire me and it would be awful if he doesn’t!"

"Musts" and "shoulds" lead to dysfunctional emotions-emotions that eat away at you, such as anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, and self-pity. 

Demandingness also leads to self-defeating behaviors such as procrastination, violence, and addictions, including alcoholism, substance abuse, overeating, gambling, and compulsive shopping.

The key to the Three Minute Therapy method is that it’s perfectly rational and generally helpful to have preferences, especially quite strong preferences, but it’s irrational and harmful to turn these preferences into demands or "musts."

The majority of emotional problems arise because individuals believe that something or other MUST be, or not be.

For example: "I MUST do well at school" (instead of "I PREFER to do well at school"); "I MUST not feel anxious" (instead of "It’s UNFORTUNATE that I sometimes feel anxious"); or "My spouse MUST not behave coldly toward me" (instead of "I find it UNPLEASANT when my spouse behaves coldly toward me").

Allied with the judgment that something must (or must not) happen is the judgment that when it doesn’t (or does) happen, this is awful, terrible, horrible, shameful, or unbearable.

Thinking in terms of "musts" is the essence of unrealistic, irrational thinking, as well as self-defeating behavior.

There are three kinds of "musts" or irrational demands.

"Must" #1, demands on oneself

"Must" #2, demands on other people

"Must" #3, demands on the situation (or on the Universe)

Many therapists try to persuade their clients to adopt only realistic goals and to give up unrealistic goals. But even unrealistic goals may be harmless, or perhaps beneficial, as long as they are viewed simply as preferences and not as demands.

Suppose you have an unrealistic goal, such as becoming the richest person alive. And you think, "I keenly PREFER to be the richest, and it’s unfortunate that I’m not." And you want that at the 90 percent level-very, very much.

Most therapies would say: "Holding that kind of unrealistic goal will cause you emotional problems. Think more realistically. Don’t compare yourself to others and just aim to do your best. Then you won’t feel so pressured." But such advice is wrong and could be harmful.

It’s wrong, because since you only have a preference, not a "must," you will not feel disturbed about not being the richest person alive. It could be harmful advice since high, lofty goals, no matter how unattainable-if viewed as preferences, not demands-motivate and add passion, challenge, and involvement to life.  (continued below)


























Great wonders have been accomplished by individuals striving for the impossible, and such striving doesn’t necessarily make those individuals unhappy.

Disputing "Shoulds" and "Musts"

Merely pointing out to sufferers that their "musty," demanding thinking is responsible for their emotional problems will rarely dispel those problems, even if the sufferers agree. They will probably still fall into their old demanding thought patterns-unless they take a further step.

The most effective technique is for the sufferer to identify the specific "must" or irrational demand, which causes her problem, and then to actively dispute that "must." 

The person could write out an exercise each day in which the "musts" are listed and the reasons stated why they are groundless. Often, examination of a person’s habitual judgments reveals that they are unwarranted demands, and looking closely at these judgments is all that it takes for the sufferer to see this. But sometimes it’s necessary to argue persuasively with the sufferer.

This brings us to another distinctive feature of Three Minute Therapy. It involves arguing or debating. As a therapist, I debate with my clients, appealing to their reason to get them to look at their situation differently.

 Anyone using this book had better be prepared to debate with themselves. Many therapists refuse to argue or debate with clients, not recognizing that the client’s own intelligent mind can play an active role in the cure.

It’s important to dispute your "musts" actively. Anyone who has tried to grasp or memorize material in a hurry (such as a student before an exam), knows that merely reading through the material is not very effective. It’s better to be actively engaged, for example by writing out the material. Then it’s more likely to sink in.

Three Minute Exercises

Three Minute Exercises follow an ABCDEF format. Let’s see how these exercises work. 

Suppose you feel angry that Jake doesn’t admire you:

A. (Activating event): Jake doesn’t admire me.

B. (irrational Belief): Jake MUST admire me.

C. (emotional Consequences): Anger. 

It’s the same when learning a language-Italian, for instance. At first you speak Italian mechanically and haltingly. You don’t expect to speak fluent Italian after one lesson. You keep practicing and increasing your skill-programming your brain and body with the correct habits. After you become thoroughly familiar with Italian, you feel it and live it. Italian becomes "second nature" to you.

The stages you go through in order to think straight and feel good are comparable to the stages of learning swimming or Italian. At first you make an effort to perceive that your "musts" are irrational, illogical, and self-defeating. Later you will deeply believe and feel this to be true.

The way to improve is simple and clear-cut but not easy: practice, practice, practice. Continuous and meaningful practice is required. More is better.

As with swimming or Italian, once you’ve acquired the skill and really feel it and believe it, you’re not finished with the discipline. You’re sure to get rusty and experience setbacks if you don’t continue your reinforcement.

Compare this with brushing your teeth. Suppose you brush and floss your teeth conscientiously twice a day for a year and then visit the dentist and she exclaims: "No cavities!"

Do you abandon brushing your teeth? Clearly not. You know full well that if you do, the plaque and bacteria will slowly creep back in and start their dirty work. That’s because humans naturally and effortlessly manufacture plaque and bacteria as a never-ending process. (Continued)

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