Quotes from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

David D. Burns ·  736 pages

Rating: (19.5K votes)


“Labeling yourself is not only self-defeating, it is irrational. Your self cannot be equated with any one thing you do. Your life is a complex and ever-changing flow of thoughts, emotions, and actions. To put it another way, you are more like a river than a statue. Stop trying to define yourself with negative labels—they”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Table 3–1. Definitions of Cognitive Distortions 1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. 2. OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. 3. MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water. 4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. 5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion. a. Mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out. b. The Fortune Teller Error. You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact. 6. MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.” 7. EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” 8. SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment. 9. LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a goddam louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded. 10. PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as me cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Achievements can bring you satisfaction but not happiness.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“The price you pay for your addiction to praise will be an extreme vulnerability to the opinions of others. Like any addict, you will find you must continue to feed your habit with approval in order to avoid withdrawal pangs. The moment someone who is important to you expresses disapproval, you will crash painfully, just like the junkie who can no longer get his “stuff.” Others will be able to use this vulnerability to manipulate you. You will have to give in to their demands more often than you want to because you fear they might reject or look down on you. You set yourself up for emotional blackmail.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Much everyday anger results when we confuse our own personal wants with general moral codes.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy



“ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“But these abnormal emotions feel just as valid and realistic as the genuine feelings created by undistorted thoughts, so you automatically attribute truth to them. This is why depression is such a powerful form of mental black magic.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Remember that as the drug begins to work, you will feel less suicidal.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Let me explain why. "Perfection" is man's ultimate illusion. It simply doesn't exist in the universe. There is no perfection. It's really the world's greatest con game; it promises riches and delivers misery. The harder you strive for perfection, the worse your disappointment will become because it's only an abstraction, a concept that doesn't fit reality. Everything can be improved if you look at it closely and critically enough—every person, every idea, every work of art, every experience, everything. So if you are a perfectionist, you are guaranteed to be a loser in whatever you do.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Oxygen is a need, but love is a want. I repeat: LOVE IS NOT AN ADULT HUMAN NEED!”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy



“And most important, nobody could love or relate to you. It would be impossible to feel any love for someone who was flawless and knew it all. Doesn't that sound lonely, boring, and miserable? Are you so sure you still want perfection? Part V Defeating Hopelessness and Suicide”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“I suspect you will find that a great many of your negative feelings are in fact based on such thinking errors.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“For example, when a loved one dies, you validly think, "I lost him (or her), and I will miss the companionship and love we shared." The feelings such a thought creates are tender, realistic, and desirable. Your emotions will enhance your humanity and add depth to the meaning of life. In this way you gain from your loss.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“So remember three crucial steps when you are upset: Zero in on those automatic negative thoughts and write them down. Don't let them buzz around in your head; snare them on paper! Read over the list of ten cognitive distortions. Learn precisely how you are twisting things and blowing them out of proportion. Substitute a more objective thought that puts the lie to the one which made you look down on yourself. As you do this, you'll begin to feel better. You'll be boosting your self-esteem, and your”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“The attitude that depression is necessary strikes me as destructive, inhuman, and victimizing.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy



“It did not eliminate the tumor, but it did restore her missing self-esteem, and that made all the difference in the way she felt.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Self-esteem can be defined as the state that exists when you are not arbitrarily haranguing and abusing yourself but choose to fight back against those automatic thoughts with meaningful rational responses.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“my anger directed toward someone who has knowingly, intentionally, and unnecessarily acted in a hurtful manner?     2.   Is my anger useful? Does it help me achieve a desired goal or does it simply defeat me?”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Because of your twisted thinking, you see yourself in a trap from which there seems to be no escape. You jump to the conclusion that your problems are insoluble. Because your suffering feels unbearable and appears unending, you may erroneously conclude that suicide is your only way of escape.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“It would be nice if I could make my wife happy now because she seems upset. I can ask what she's upset about and see if there might be a way I could help." Or instead of "I shouldn't have eaten the ice cream," you can say, "It would have been better if I hadn't eaten the ice cream, but it's not the end of the world that I did.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy



“golden opportunity to learn to cope with criticism and anger effectively. This came as a complete surprise to me; I hadn't realized what good fortune I had. In addition to urging me to use cognitive techniques to reduce and eliminate my own sense of irritation. Dr. Beck proposed I try out an unusual strategy for interacting with Hank when he was in an angry mood. The essence of this method was: (1) Don't turn Hank off by defending yourself. Instead, do the opposite—urge him to say all the worst things he can say about you. (2) Try to find a grain of truth in all his criticisms and then agree with him. (3) After this, point out any areas of disagreement in a straightforward, tactful, nonargumentative manner. (4) Emphasize the importance of sticking together, in spite of these occasional disagreements. I could remind Hank that frustration and fighting might slow down our therapy at times, but this need not destroy the relationship or prevent our work from ultimately becoming fruitful. I applied this strategy the next time Hank started storming around the office screaming at me. Just as I had planned, I urged Hank to keep it up and say all the worst things he could think of about me. The result was immediate and dramatic. Within a few moments, all the wind went out of his sails—all his vengeance seemed to melt away. He began communicating sensibly and calmly, and sat down. In fact, when I agreed with some of his criticisms, he suddenly began to defend me and say some nice things about me! I was so impressed with this result that I began using the same approach with other angry, explosive individuals, and I actually did begin to enjoy his hostile outbursts because I had an effective way to handle them. I also used the double-column technique for recording and talking back to my automatic thoughts after one of Hank's midnight calls (see Figure 16–1, page 415).”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“There was nothing dreadfully wrong with me, I was just upsetting myself with my irrational thinking. I just couldn't admit it until I knew for sure. Now, I feel like a whole man, and I had to call you up and let you know where I stood . . . It was hard for me to do this, and I'm sorry it took so long for me to get around to telling you.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Your orbit is certainly big and fancy in comparison with mine. But I don't understand how that makes you a better person than I am, or how it follows that I'm inferior to you.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Many research studies, as well as my own clinical experience, have confirmed that severely depressed patients who appear very "biologically" depressed with lots of physical symptoms often respond rapidly to cognitive therapy alone without any drugs.5”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“Should statements based on the premise you are all-powerful assume that, like God, you are omnipotent and have the ability to control yourself and other people so as to achieve each and every goal. You”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy



“It can work the other way as well. I have worked with many depressed patients who were still stuck after I had tried numerous psychotherapeutic interventions. When I prescribed an antidepressant medication, many of these patients started to turn the corner, and the psychotherapy began to work better. It seemed as if the medication really did help them change their negative thinking patterns as they recovered from the depression.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“How long should we wait before we decide whether or not a person has developed a clinical depression during his or her life? Suppose, for example, that an individual with a strong family history of depression dies in an auto accident at the age of twenty-one without ever having had an episode of clinical depression. We might conclude that she or he did not inherit the tendency for depression. But if that individual had not died, she or he might have developed an episode of depression later on in life, since a first episode of depression can often occur when you are older than twenty-one.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“One of the most important tasks of any therapist is to help depressed patients find the courage and determination to resist and fight these hopeless feelings. This battle is often fierce and rarely easy, but nearly always rewarding in the long run.”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


“After all, we're all imperfect, and others have the right to tell us about it from time to time. But are you obliged to make yourself miserable and hate yourself every time someone flies off the handle or puts you down?”
― David D. Burns, quote from Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy


About the author

David D. Burns
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