Summary: Feeling Great By David D. Burns
Summary: Feeling Great By David D. Burns

Summary: Feeling Great By David D. Burns

22 Ways to Feeling Great

#1 Positive Reframing

Focus on the negative thoughts and feelings in your daily mood journal, one by one, and ask yourself two questions: (1) What are some advantages, or benefits, of this negative thought or feeling? (2) What does this negative thought or feeling show about me and my core values that’s beautiful, positive, or even awesome? List them on the Positive Reframing List.


#2 Magic Dial

After you complete positive reframing, imagine that you have a magic dial that would allow you to dial down each negative feeling to some lower level so you could preserve the positives associated with that feeling. Ask yourself how strongly you might want to feel each negative feeling on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 100 (the worst).


#3 Double Standard Technique

Instead of putting yourself down, talk to yourself in the same compassionate way you might talk to a dear friend who was upset. Ask yourself, “Would I say such harsh things to a friend with a similar problem? If not, why not? What would I say to him or her?”


#4 Examine & Experiment

Instead of assuming that your negative thought is true, examine the evidence for it. Ask yourself, “What are the facts? What do they show?” Do an experiment to test the validity of your negative thought in much the same way a scientist would test a theory. Ask yourself, “How could I test this negative thought to find out if it’s really true?” For example, if you believe you’re on the verge of losing control during a panic attack, you can test this belief by trying to drive yourself crazy through willful effort. You can roll around on the floor, flail your arms and legs in the air, and speak gibberish. It can be a relief to discover that you can’t go crazy, no matter how hard you try.


#5 Socratic Method

Ask yourself questions that will show the inconsistencies in your negative thoughts. For example, you might ask yourself, “When I say that I’m a failure at life, do I mean that I fail at some things some of the time or at all things all the time?”

If you say, “some things some of the time,” then you can point out that this is true of all human beings. If you say, “all things all the time,” then you can point out that this isn’t true of anyone since no one fails at everything


#6 Thinking in Shades of Gray

Instead of thinking about your problems in black-and-white categories, you can evaluate them in shades of gray. When things don’t work out as well as you’d hoped, you can think of the experience as a partial success or a learning opportunity. Pinpoint your specific errors instead of writing yourself off as a total failure.


#7 Let’s Define Terms

When you label yourself as “inferior,” a “fool,” or a “loser,” ask yourself what those labels mean. What’s the definition of a fool or loser? When you try to define these terms, you’ll discover there’s no such thing. Foolish behavior exists, but “fools” and “losers” do not.


#8 Be Specific

Stick with reality and avoid making global judgments about yourself. For example, instead of thinking of yourself as defective or worthless, focus on your specific flaws, errors, or weaknesses, as well as your specific strengths.


#9 Self-Monitoring

Keep track of repetitious negative thoughts or anxiety-producing fantasies by counting them. You can keep an index card in your wallet or pocket and put a check mark on it each time you have a negative thought. Alternatively, you can wear a wrist counter, like the ones golfers use to keep track of their scores. Record the total number of negative thoughts each day on a calendar. Often, the upsetting thoughts will diminish or disappear within two to three weeks


#10 Negative Practice/Worry Breaks

Schedule time to intentionally worry or criticize yourself. For example, if you constantly beat up on yourself because of your shortcomings, you can schedule several five-minute periods each day to berate yourself and feel miserable. At those times, you can be as self-critical as you want and rip yourself to shreds with gusto. Use the rest of your time for positive, productive living.

If you catch yourself worrying or criticizing yourself between those scheduled times, remind yourself that you can worry or criticize yourself during your next worry break. Then you can return to what you were doing.


#11 Shame-Attacking Exercises

If you suffer from shyness, you probably have intense fears of looking foolish in front of other people. Shame-attacking exercises are a specific and potent antidote to these kinds of fears. You intentionally do something foolish in public so you can get over this fear. For example, you could stand up and announce each stop on a bus or shout out the time in a crowded department store.

When you make a fool of yourself on purpose, you discover that the world doesn’t come to an end after all and that people don’t really look down on you. This discovery can be liberating.


#12 Acceptance Paradox

Instead of defending against your own self-criticisms, you find truth in them and accept your shortcomings with tranquility. Tell yourself, “It’s true that I have many inadequacies. In fact, there is very little, if anything, about me that couldn’t be improved considerably.”


#13 Time Projection

Future Projection. If you’re depressed, you can take a mental trip into the future and imagine that you’ve recovered. The current self who feels worthless and defeated can have a conversation with the future self who feels joy and self-esteem. The outpouring of emotion will often have a cathartic effect.

Past Projection. You can also take a mental trip into your past and have a conversation with someone who hurt or abused you. This will give you the chance to express the thoughts and feelings that have been bottled up and eating away at you for many years.


#14 What-If Technique

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if that were true? What do I fear the most?” A new negative thought or fantasy will come to mind. Write it down and repeat this process several times. You’ll generate additional thoughts that will lead to the fantasy that frightens you the most. Then you can ask yourself, “How likely is it that this will happen? And could I live with it if it did?”


#15 Stimulus Control

If you’re trying to break a bad habit, such as alcoholism or overeating, you can reduce temptation rather than struggle with it. For example, if you drink too much, you can get rid of all the alcoholic beverages in your house and avoid going to places where alcohol is served. Stimulus control is not a complete treatment for any addiction, but it can be an important part of a more comprehensive program.


#16 Decision-Making Tool

If you’re stuck on the horns of a dilemma, the decision-making tool can help you sort out your options and get unstuck. It won’t tell you what you should do, but it will show you what the real issues are and how you feel about them.

To use this technique, list all the possible options you’re deciding among, and then choose the best two. You can call them Option A and Option B. Then list all the advantages and disadvantages for both options. Once you’ve done that, you compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages for each option to get a point total score

  • If both numbers are positive, this is a can’t lose decision.
  • If both numbers are negative, it’s a can’t win decision
  • If both numbers are around zero, it’s a fence sitter.

A variety of other interesting patterns may also emerge. Remember that when you use the decision- making tool, you don’t have to feel trapped or locked in by the results. You can fill it out on several occasions until you feel comfortable with your decision.


#17 Anti-Procrastination Sheet

Rather than telling yourself you have to do everything all at once, break down an overwhelming task into tiny steps that you can tackle one at a time. Create an anti-procrastination sheet by dividing a piece of paper into five columns. In the left-most column, list each step that you need to do in order to complete the task. In the next two columns, predict how difficult and how satisfying each step will be on a scale from 0 (not difficult/not satisfying) to 100 (very difficult/very satisfying). After completing each small step, record how difficult and how satisfying it turned out to be in the last two columns. Now compare your predictions with the outcome. Many people discover that each step is far easier and more rewarding than they expected.


#18 Gradual Exposure and Flooding

When you use gradual exposure, you expose yourself to the thing you fear in small steps. For example, if you have an elevator phobia, you could get on an elevator, go up one floor, and get off. Once you’re comfortable with that, you could ride the elevator for two floors and gradually increase the length of time you spend in the elevator. You can use gradual exposure for any phobia, such as a fear of heights, needles, or dogs, as well as other forms of anxiety, such as shyness or OCD.

When you use flooding, you expose yourself to the thing you fear all at once. For example, if you have an elevator phobia, you can force yourself to get on an elevator and ride up and down, no matter how anxious you feel, until your fear disappears. Flooding is more frightening than gradual exposure, but it works more rapidly. In fact, I’ve treated a number of people with elevator phobias, and they all recovered in just a few minutes.

Both approaches have been used successfully in the treatment of nearly all forms of anxiety, so you can use the approach that appeals to you the most.


#19 Cognitive Flooding

Cognitive flooding is useful when you can’t expose yourself to the thing you fear in reality. For example, if you have a fear of flying, you can’t expose yourself to an actual airplane crash in order to overcome your fears! However, you can confront this fear in your mind using cognitive flooding.

Visualize your worst fear, such as feeling trapped in a plane that’s crashing toward the earth in a ball of flames while all the passengers scream in terror. Try to endure the anxiety for as long as you can. If you become panicky, don’t fight it! Instead, try to make the panic even worse. Eventually, the anxiety will burn itself out because your body simply cannot create anxiety indefinitely.


#20 Self-Disclosure

Instead of shamefully hiding your feelings of shyness or nervousness in a social situation, you can disclose them openly. This technique requires a good sense of self-esteem to be effective. If it’s done skillfully, it will allow you to form real relationships with people instead of trying to put on a show and pretend to be something that you’re not. This technique is based on the rather unintuitive idea that shyness without shame is actually an asset because it makes you seem more human and personable.


#21 Rejection Practice

If you’re shy and afraid of rejection, you can try to accumulate as many rejections as you can instead of trying so hard to find someone to love you. Although this takes tremendous courage, you’ll discover that the world doesn’t actually come to an end when you’re rejected. Paradoxically, when you stop fearing rejection, you stop getting rejected.


#22 Five Secrets of Effective Communication

The five secrets of effective communication can help you resolve virtually any relationship problem quickly. These techniques require considerable practice and must come from the heart or they’ll backfire.

  1. The Disarming Technique. Find some truth in what the other person is saying even if it seems totally unreasonable or unfair.
  2. Empathy. Try to see the world through the other person’s eyes. Paraphrase the other person’s words (thought empathy) and acknowledge how the other person is probably feeling based on what he or she said (feeling empathy).
  3. Inquiry. Ask gentle, probing questions to learn more about what the other person is thinking and feeling.
  4. “I Feel” Statements. Express your own ideas and feelings in a direct, tactful manner. Use I feel statements (such as “I’m feeling upset”) rather than you statements (such as “You’re making me furious!”)
  5. Stroking. Convey an attitude of respect even if you feel angry with the other person. Find something genuinely positive to say even in the heat of battle.