Thought and Feelings | Matthew McKay

Summary of: Thought and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life
By: Matthew McKay


Embark on a transformative journey to conquer worry, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions with the profound insights offered by Thought and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life by Matthew McKay. This book introduces the reader to the powerful techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which emphasizes that our interpretative thoughts shape our feelings and actions. With this approach, the book provides practical solutions that include thought journaling, challenging limited-thinking patterns with balancing or alternative thoughts, and coping with anger through visualization exercises. Append these strategies to your emotional toolkit and achieve mastery over your thoughts and feelings, thereby creating a more fulfilling life.

Overcoming Negative Thoughts with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Learn to control and change your feelings by changing your thoughts with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Instead of delving into your childhood, CBT takes a direct approach by targeting the interpretative thoughts that precede harmful emotions. Negative thoughts are often automatic, but CBT can help you recognize and challenge them, guiding you towards better, more positive interpretations. By controlling your thoughts, you will control your feelings, and in turn, your life.

Analyzing Automatic Thoughts

Learn to identify and challenge automatic thoughts through a thought journal and by countering eight common types of distorted or limited thinking in order to gain control over your emotions.

To gain control over negative emotions, it is essential to first identify and analyze automatic thoughts. These thoughts are often instantaneous and difficult to capture, but they can be identified by paying attention to the bad feelings that follow them. Record these thoughts in a “thought journal” with three columns: the situation that caused the thought, your feelings rated from 0-100, and the automatic thought that came with the bad feeling. List them in shorthand, and flesh them out for better understanding. Recording these thoughts and feelings in this way for a week is the first step in gaining control over unpleasant emotions.

Once you have identified automatic thoughts, it is important to challenge and analyze them by countering eight common types of distorted or limited thinking. The first type is “filtering,” where you see everything through one filter. For example, if you are feeling depressed, everything in your life appears to represent loss, not gain. To counteract this, change your focus. The second type is “polarized thinking,” where you see things as black or white. A person is either evil or a saint, and a situation is either horrible or heavenly. Instead, think in percentages.

The third type is “overgeneralization,” where you project from the specific to the general. For instance, if you have a bad date with a redhead, you decide never to date redheads. Instead, check the evidence. The fourth type is “mind reading,” where you assume that you understand people’s motives. For example, if a friend doesn’t invite you to his party, you assume that he loathes you. Instead, don’t race to conclusions.

The fifth type is “catastrophizing,” where every tiny problem becomes a disaster. For instance, if your car has a knocking sound, you assume it means replacing the engine. Instead, assess things logically. The sixth type is “magnifying,” where you magnify a small problem into a major one. For instance, your back hurts, so you assume you need immediate surgery. Similarly, you minimize the good things in your life. Instead, tell yourself, “I can cope.”

The seventh type is “personalization,” which involves constantly checking yourself against other people and seeing yourself as the center of the universe. Instead, remind yourself that comparisons do not provide useful knowledge. You will always be better than some people and worse than others, and not everything is about you. The eighth type is “shoulds,” where you set firm, inflexible rules. Instead, watch out for any thinking that involves the words, “should,” “ought” or “must.” All values are personal, just like yours. Not everyone sees things your way.

When recording your thoughts and feelings in your thought journal, add three more columns to list the type of “limited-thinking pattern,” “balancing or alternative thoughts,” and a re-rating of your feelings from 0-100. For example, for the entry that read “angry – 95,” your new notation might say that your limited reaction was “magnifying,” the balancing idea could be, “If I work extra hours, I’ll get more pay,” and your re-rated feelings might have improved to 45. Comparing your re-rated column to your original feelings shows how balancing your thinking can lead to better emotional control. Balanced thinking can also suggest actions you can take to improve a situation. For example, instead of working through lunch, try coming to work a little earlier during a rush period.

In conclusion, identifying and analyzing automatic thoughts is essential for gaining control over negative emotions. Through a thought journal and countering eight common types of distorted or limited thinking, you can learn to challenge automatic thoughts and improve your emotional responses.

Change Your Thoughts

The book suggests changing your hot thoughts that automatically upset you. By substituting “Evidence For” and “Evidence Against” columns instead of limited thinking patterns, one can analyze the situation more objectively. Balancing or alternative thoughts can then be recorded on index cards to review during bad feelings. An action plan can be devised by correcting or improving the factors in the evidence against column. Ultimately, changing your thoughts can lead to a more positive and productive outlook.

Overcoming Worry

Learn practical ways to overcome worry by relaxing your muscles, assessing the probability of your concerns and dealing with problems head-on.

Worry is a common feeling experienced by most people. However, constant worry can cause fatigue, restlessness, and irritability. To deal with excessive worry, it is important to learn relaxation techniques that involve breathing and muscle relaxation. By repeating cues of “Breathe in” and “Relax” with each breath, the body begins to associate these with relaxation. Visualization techniques also help to imagine a peaceful state.
Assessing the probability of worries is another way to combat excessive worry. Often, worriers magnify their concerns. By ranking legitimate worries on a scale and visualizing the worst-case scenario, it is possible to assess the probability of such worries occurring. Additionally, dealing with worries head-on can help to overcome excessive worry. Writing down problems, rating them, drafting goals, and creating alternative strategies will help to deal with problems efficiently. The best alternative strategy can then be put into action, and its effectiveness evaluated in five weeks.

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