Saturday, October 1, 2016

Beliefs About Events

 "We know what we are, but know not what we may be." - William Shakespeare
"Every new beginning, comes from some other new beginning’s end." -  Semisonic, 'Closing Time'
Ancient Stoics believed that inner calm and clear judgement could be attained through logic, reflection, and concentration. Albert Ellis the psychologist who developed rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) and is generally considered to be one of the founders of cognitive behavioral therapy, was influenced by Stoic philosophers and recounts it is not the events we experience that distress us but our beliefs about these events.

For example if we get fired from a job, and we believe that we just lost our dream job and we believe that there is no other employment available to us we may get depressed.  However, if we were miserable at our job, and believe that things have worked out for the best and more fulfilling/lucrative work will present itself in the future we may be thrilled to no longer have to deal with a long commute or unfriendly work environment.  The event is the same “getting fired” but the thoughts around why we were fired or what it means to be fired changes how we feel about the event.

Another example is a parent who calls an adult child daily.  One person may think my parent cares for me deeply and wants to share the day’s experiences with me. Another person may believe the parent is clinging to me and therefore may feel annoyed or resentful about the daily phone calls.  In each case the event is the same a daily phone call from a parent, it is the belief about the call that is different which leads to a different feeling about the interaction.

When it comes to family dynamics many of us are walking around with unhelpful beliefs about how we should or shouldn’t be treated.  Some people get stuck in repetitive thinking loops around how others must or ought to treat us . When these loops lead to excessive worry, low mood, and exhaustion it may be time to look for another way to cope. Learning to recognize how our thinking impacts how we are feeling offers many individuals relief.