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    The Link Between ADHD and Emotion Regulation

    ADHD and Emotion Regulation

    IF you’re living with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) you may sometimes feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster of emotions. The highs of boundless creativity and enthusiasm to the lows of frustration and overwhelm. That whirlwind of feelings can be challenging to manage. 

    ADHD is generally associated with difficulties in attention, focus, and impulse control. But the link between ADHD and emotion regulation is often overlooked. There is an intricate relationship between ADHD and emotion regulation. So, the unique challenges you may be facing require strategies for navigating an emotional rollercoaster.

    Understanding Emotion Regulation and ADHD

    Emotion regulation means the ability to recognise, understand, and manage your emotions in a constructive manner. However, if you have ADHD, you may find regulating emotions a little like trying to tame a wild horse. It may feel unpredictable, overwhelming, and often exhausting. The neurobiological underpinnings of ADHD, including differences in brain structure and neurotransmitter function, contribute to difficulties in emotion regulation.

    Challenges Faced by those with ADHD

    • Emotional Intensity: you may experience emotions more intensely than your neurotypical peers. This can lead to heightened sensitivity and reactivity to environmental stimuli.
    • Impulsivity: a hallmark feature of ADHD, can manifest in impulsive emotional responses. You may have outbursts of anger or frustration — without foresight or consideration of the consequences.
    • Difficulty Shifting Attention: ADHD-related difficulties in shifting attention can result in perseverative, or stuck, thoughts and rumination. This exacerbates emotional dysregulation and prolongs distressing feelings.
    • Executive Functioning Deficits: these include difficulties in planning, organisation, and self-regulation. This can impair your ability to effectively regulate emotions and implement coping strategies.

    Strategies for Navigating the Emotional Rollercoaster

    • Mindfulness Practices: Mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based interventions can help you cultivate awareness of your emotions. You can learn to observe them without judgment, and develop greater self-regulation skills.
    • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT techniques include cognitive restructuring and emotion regulation skills training. This can help you identify and challenge maladaptive thought patterns and develop healthier coping strategies.
    • Medication Management: Pharmacological interventions include stimulant medications or non-stimulant option. Atomoxetine can help alleviate ADHD symptoms, including emotional dysregulation, by modulating neurotransmitter activity in the brain.
    • Exercise and Physical Activity: Regular exercise improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances executive functioning if you have ADHD. This makes it an effective adjunctive strategy for managing emotions.
    • Supportive Relationships: Cultivate supportive relationships with friends, family members, or mental health professionals. This can provide validation, empathy, and practical guidance in navigating the emotional challenges of ADHD.

    Embrace the Journey

    Living with ADHD and navigating the rollercoaster of emotions that come with it can be a daunting yet transformative journey. Embrace self-compassion, seek support, and implement effective coping strategies. You can learn to ride the waves of your emotions with greater resilience and self-awareness. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. With the right tools and support, you can harness your unique strengths and thrive in all aspects of life.

    Categories: ADHD

    No, ADHD is Not a Superpower

    In recent years, there has been a growing misconception that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is akin to a superpower. One reason for this is pop culture portrayals that ‘ADHD’ers’ are all highly creative, energetic, and capable of extraordinary feats. It’s true that some individuals with ADHD possess unique talents and abilities. But it’s essential to recognise that ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This brings significant challenges and implications. Contrary to the romanticised portrayal, ADHD is not a superpower. It’s a complex condition that can significantly impact various aspects of one’s life.

    Heightened Creativity and Innovation?

    One of the most common misconceptions about ADHD is that it equates to heightened creativity and innovation. It’s true that individuals with ADHD may demonstrate creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. But it’s crucial to understand that these traits are not exclusive to ADHD. Creativity is multifaceted and influenced by lots of factors, including genetics, environment, and individual experiences. The creativity that can come with ADHD is often overshadowed by other challenges. Impulsivity, inattention, and difficulty in focusing, can hinder productivity and follow-through on ideas.

    Boundless Energy and Drive?

    Another misconception is the belief that individuals with ADHD possess boundless energy and drive. Some individuals with ADHD may indeed exhibit high levels of energy. But it’s important to recognise that this energy can be erratic and difficult to harness. Hyperactivity, a hallmark symptom of ADHD, can manifest as restlessness, fidgeting, and an inability to sit still. This can be disruptive and exhausting for the individual. The energy associated with ADHD is often accompanied by impulsivity, making it challenging to maintain focus and complete tasks efficiently.

    Competitive Advantage?

    The idea that ADHD confers a competitive advantage in certain professions or environments is misguided. It’s true that some individuals with ADHD excel in dynamic and fast-paced environments. But many others struggle to adapt due to difficulties with organisation, time management, and impulse control. In academic and professional settings, ADHD-related challenges such as procrastination, forgetfulness, and difficulty following instructions can impede success. This often leads to feelings of frustration and under-achievement.

    Romanticising ADHD as a Superpower

    Romanticising ADHD as a superpower overlooks the significant emotional and psychological toll it can take on individuals. ADHD is often accompanied by comorbid conditions. These include anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, which can exacerbate symptoms and diminish quality of life. The constant struggle to meet societal expectations, and the stigma surrounding ADHD can lead to feelings of shame, inadequacy, and isolation.

    It’s crucial to acknowledge that ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that requires comprehensive support and understanding. While those with ADHD may well possess unique strengths and talents, these should not overshadow the very real challenges they face on a daily basis. Instead of perpetuating the myth of ADHD as a superpower, we must strive to foster greater awareness, empathy, and support for those living with this condition. By getting rid of misconceptions and promoting acceptance, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all those affected by ADHD.

    Categories: ADHD

    5 Practical Strategies for Using Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in Your Daily Life

    In the realm of psychology, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) stands as a powerful approach that can help individuals manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours effectively. Developed by renowned psychologist Albert Ellis, REBT focuses on challenging irrational beliefs and replacing them with rational thoughts to achieve emotional well-being. While typically practiced in therapy sessions, the principles of REBT can be applied to our daily lives to enhance our mental health and overall happiness. In this blog post, we will explore five practical strategies for using Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy in your day-to-day experiences.

    Identify and Challenge Irrational Beliefs

    REBT emphasises the significance of identifying and challenging irrational beliefs that contribute to negative emotions and behaviours. Start by paying attention to your self-talk and inner dialogue. When you catch yourself engaging in negative, self-defeating thoughts, stop and ask yourself if these thoughts are based on evidence or if they are irrational and unfounded. Replace irrational beliefs with rational, logical thoughts that are more constructive and supportive.

    For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I must be perfect in everything I do,” challenge this belief by reminding yourself that nobody is perfect and that mistakes are a natural part of growth and learning.

    Practice Cognitive Restructuring

    Cognitive restructuring is a core technique used in REBT to modify negative thinking patterns. Once you’ve identified irrational beliefs, actively work on replacing them with more rational and helpful thoughts. Start by examining the evidence for and against your irrational beliefs. Consider alternative explanations or perspectives that are more realistic and empowering.

    For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, “I always fail at everything,” challenge this belief by reminding yourself of past successes and focusing on your strengths and abilities.

    Use Rational Self-Talk

    Rational self-talk involves using positive and rational statements to counteract negative or irrational thoughts. When you notice self-defeating thoughts arising, consciously replace them with affirmations or rational statements that reflect reality more accurately. Repeat these statements to yourself regularly to reinforce positive thinking patterns.

    For instance, if you find yourself thinking, “I’m worthless,” replace it with “I have inherent value as a human being, and my worth is not determined by my achievements.”

    Practice Emotional Regulation

    REBT recognises the strong connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. To effectively manage your emotions, it’s crucial to pay attention to the thoughts that trigger them. When you experience intense negative emotions, take a moment to identify the underlying irrational beliefs contributing to those emotions. Challenge those beliefs and replace them with rational thoughts that promote emotional well-being and resilience.

    For example, if you feel overwhelmed by a setback at work and start catastrophising, remind yourself that setbacks are temporary and that you have the ability to overcome challenges.

    Cultivate Self-Compassion

    REBT emphasises the importance of self-acceptance and self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when facing difficulties or making mistakes. Acknowledge that it is normal to have imperfections and limitations. Instead of harshly criticising yourself, practice self-compassion by offering support, encouragement, and understanding.

    For instance, if you make a mistake, instead of berating yourself with thoughts like, “I’m such an idiot,” remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s an opportunity for growth and learning.

    Incorporating Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy strategies into your daily life can be transformative. By challenging irrational beliefs, restructuring negative thought patterns, using rational self-talk, practicing emotional regulation, and cultivating self-compassion, you can enhance your emotional well-being and lead a more fulfilling life. Remember that change takes time and practice, so be patient with yourself as you continue implementing these strategies. With consistent effort and a commitment to self-reflection, you can gradually rewire your thinking patterns and develop a healthier mindset.

    It’s important to note that while these strategies are valuable for personal growth and emotional well-being, they are not a substitute for professional therapy. If you’re dealing with severe or persistent mental health issues, seeking the guidance of a qualified therapist or psychologist trained in REBT can provide additional support.

    Incorporating REBT into your daily life requires a conscious effort to become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Start by setting aside a few minutes each day for self-reflection. Journaling can be a powerful tool for examining your beliefs and identifying patterns that may be holding you back.

    As you become more familiar with your irrational beliefs, practice challenging them by asking yourself questions such as:

    • Is this belief based on evidence or assumptions?
    • Are there alternative explanations or perspectives that are more rational and realistic?
    • How would I advise a friend in a similar situation? 
    • Would I offer the same harsh judgments to them?

    Remember, the goal is not to eliminate all negative emotions but to develop a more balanced and rational outlook. Embrace the idea that setbacks, failures, and negative emotions are a normal part of life. By reframing them as opportunities for growth and learning, you can build resilience and bounce back stronger.

    Incorporating positive affirmations and rational self-talk into your daily routine can help counteract negative thoughts. Consider creating a list of affirmations that resonate with you and recite them regularly. You can also write them on sticky notes and place them in visible areas to serve as reminders throughout the day.

    Practicing emotional regulation involves recognising the connection between your thoughts and emotions. When you find yourself overwhelmed by negative emotions, take a step back and assess the underlying beliefs contributing to those emotions. Challenge those beliefs and replace them with rational thoughts that foster emotional well-being.

    Lastly, cultivating self-compassion is crucial in your journey towards applying REBT in your daily life. Treat yourself with kindness, empathy, and understanding. Practice self-care activities that nurture your well-being, such as engaging in hobbies, spending time in nature, or connecting with loved ones.

    In conclusion, incorporating Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy into your daily life can be transformative in promoting emotional well-being and personal growth. By identifying and challenging irrational beliefs, restructuring negative thought patterns, practicing emotional regulation, and cultivating self-compassion, you can develop a more rational and resilient mindset. Remember, change takes time, so be patient and gentle with yourself as you navigate this process.

    Categories: behavioural psychology

    Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): What is it and how can it help you?

    Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy that has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions, including borderline personality disorder (BPD), eating disorders, and substance abuse. DBT is a skills-based therapy that teaches people how to regulate their emotions, manage their behaviour, and improve their relationships.

    DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan in the 1980s. Linehan is a clinical psychologist who was working with women who had BPD. She found that traditional therapies were not effective in helping these women. This is because BPD is a complex disorder that involves intense emotions, impulsive behaviour, and unstable relationships.

    Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is based on the idea that change is possible, even for people with BPD. The therapy teaches people how to accept themselves, even with their flaws, and how to make changes in their lives that will improve their quality of life.

    Individual and group therapy

    DBT is a comprehensive therapy that can include individual therapy, group therapy, and phone coaching. Individual therapy is the core of DBT. In individual therapy, the therapist helps the client to understand their emotions, develop coping skills, and make changes in their life. Group therapy can also be an important part of DBT. In group therapy, clients learn skills from each other and from the therapist. Phone coaching is available for clients who need additional support between sessions.

    DBT can be a challenging therapy, but often very helpful. If you are struggling with BPD or another mental health condition, DBT may be the right option for you. 

    Here are some of the benefits of DBT:

    • DBT can help you to manage your emotions more effectively.
    • DBT can help you to develop healthy coping skills.
    • DBT can help you to improve your relationships.
    • DBT can help you to reduce self-destructive behaviours.
    • DBT can help you to improve your quality of life.

    If you are interested in learning more about DBT, there are many resources available online and in your community. You can also talk to me and we can see if DBT is right for you. 

    Categories: behavioural psychology

    The ABCs of REBT: Understanding and Changing Your Irrational Beliefs

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is a type of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) that helps people change their irrational beliefs. REBT was developed by Albert Ellis, a psychologist who believed that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all interconnected. When we have irrational beliefs, they can lead to negative emotions and self-defeating behaviours.

    The ABCDE

    The ABCDE model is a tool that can be used to identify and change irrational beliefs. The ABCDE model stands for:

    A = Activating event: This is the event that triggers the emotional reaction.

    B = Beliefs: These are the thoughts that we have about the activating event.

    C = Consequences: These are the emotional and behavioural reactions that we have to the activating event.

    D = Disputation: This is the process of challenging our irrational beliefs.

    E = New Effect: This is the new emotional and behavioural reaction that we have after challenging our irrational beliefs.

    To use the ABCDE model, we first need to identify the activating event that is triggering our negative emotions. Once we have identified the activating event, we need to identify our beliefs about the event. Are our beliefs rational or irrational?

    Rational beliefs are realistic and flexible. They allow us to accept ourselves and others, even when things don’t go our way. Irrational beliefs are unrealistic and rigid. They lead to negative emotions and self-defeating behaviours.

    rational emotive behaviour therapy
    Thoughts create feelings

    Once we have identified our irrational beliefs, we need to challenge them. We can do this by asking ourselves the following questions:

    Is it absolutely necessary that this happen?

    What is the worst thing that could happen?

    Can I tolerate the worst thing that could happen?

    What is the most likely outcome?

    By challenging our irrational beliefs, we can change our emotional and behavioural reactions to the activating event. We can learn to accept ourselves and others, even when things don’t go our way. We can also learn to cope with difficult situations in a more effective way.

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is a powerful tool that can help you change your irrational beliefs and improve your life. If you are struggling with emotional problems, I encourage you to learn more about REBT.

    Categories: behavioural psychology

    How Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy Can Change Your Life

    Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, or other emotional problems? Are you tired of feeling like you’re not in control of your life? If so, rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) may be the answer for you.

    REBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps you identify and change the irrational beliefs that are causing your emotional problems. It is based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all interconnected. When you change your thoughts, you can change your feelings and behaviours.

    Rational emotive behaviour therapy is a short-term, goal-oriented therapy. It typically takes 12-20 sessions to complete. During therapy, you will work with your therapist to identify your irrational beliefs and develop new, more rational beliefs. You will also learn how to challenge your irrational beliefs and replace them with more rational ones.


    REBT has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, anger, low self-esteem, and relationship problems. It is also effective in helping people achieve their goals and live more fulfilling lives.

    If you are interested in learning more about REBT, please contact me. REBT can help you change your life for the better.

    Here are some of the benefits of rational emotive behaviour therapy:

    It is a short-term, goal-oriented therapy.

    It is effective in treating a wide range of emotional problems.

    It is based on sound psychological principles.

    It is a collaborative therapy, which means that you will work with your therapist to create a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs.

    It is a practical therapy that teaches you skills that you can use to manage your emotions and improve your life.

    If you are struggling with emotional problems, REBT may be the right therapy for you. Contact me today to learn more.

    Categories: behavioural psychology

    What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy?

    What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy or REBT?

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, also known simply as REBT, is a type of psychotherapy and a philosophy of living created by the well-known and renowned psychologist Albert Ellis in the 1950s.

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy’s (REBT) roots are based on the concept that when we become upset, it is not the actual event taking place that upsets us, but rather the beliefs that we hold that cause us to become depressed, anxious, furious… and so on. In other words we are upsetting ourselves. Think of a recent example where you were upset or angry? What were you telling yourself about the situation? What were you ‘demanding’ of yourself…? Or someone else…?

    The idea that our beliefs upset us was first articulated by Epictetus around 2,000 years ago when he said: “Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”

    The Goal of Happiness

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

    According to Albert Ellis (pictured left) and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the vast majority of us want to be happy.

    Who wouldn’t? We all want to be happy whether we are alone or with others. We want to get along with others — especially with one or two close friends. We want to be well-informed and educated. We want a good job with good pay. We want to enjoy our leisure time…

    Unfortunately, as most of us know, life doesn’t always allow us to have what we want or go in the direction we would like.

    And life is so often ‘not fair’. Our goal of being happy is often compromised by, as Hamlet states so well, the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’

    However, when our goals are blocked we still have a choice: we can respond in ways that are healthy and helpful, or we can react in ways that are unhealthy and unhelpful.

    Let’s take a closer look at what makes a belief, or a thought, healthy or unhealthy…

    The ABC Model in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

    Albert Ellis and REBT suggest that our reaction to having our goals blocked (or even simply the possibility of having them blocked) is determined by our beliefs. To illustrate this, Dr. Ellis developed a simple ABC format to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioural responses:

    A. Something happens.
    B. You have a belief about the situation.
    C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

    For example:

    A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
    B. You believe, “She has no right to accuse me. She’s a bitch!”
    C. You feel angry.

    If you had held a different belief, your emotional response would have been different:

    A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
    B. You believe, “I must not lose my job. That would be unbearable.”
    C. You feel anxious.

    The ABC model shows that A does not cause C. It is B that causes C. In the first example, it is not your employer’s false accusation and threat that make you angry; it is your belief that she has no right to accuse you, and that she is a bitch. In the second example, it is not her accusation and threat that make you anxious; it is the belief that you must not lose your job, and that losing your job would be unbearable.

    The Three Basic Musts

    Although we all express ourselves differently, according to Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the beliefs that upset us are all variations of three common irrational beliefs. Each of the three common irrational beliefs contains a demand, either about ourselves, other people, or the world in general. These beliefs are known as The Three Basic Musts.

    1. I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.
    2. Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.
    3. I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want, and I can’t stand it.

    The first belief often leads to anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt. The second belief often leads to rage, passive-aggression and acts of violence. The third belief often leads to self-pity and procrastination. It is the demanding nature of the beliefs that causes the problem. Less demanding, more flexible beliefs lead to healthy emotions and helpful behaviors


    The goal of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. Changing beliefs is the real work of therapy and is achieved by the therapist disputing the client’s irrational beliefs. For example, the therapist might ask, “Why must you win everyone’s approval?” “Where is it written that other people must treat you fairly?” “Just because you want something, why must you have it?” Disputing is the D of the ABC model. When the client tries to answer the therapist’s questions, s/he sees that there is no reason why s/he absolutely must have approval, fair treatment, or anything else that s/he wants.


    Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) contend that although we all think irrationally from time to time, we can work at eliminating the tendency. It’s unlikely that we can ever entirely eliminate the tendency to think irrationally, but we can reduce the frequency, the duration, and the intensity of our irrational beliefs by developing three insights:

    1. We don’t merely get upset but mainly upset ourselves by holding inflexible beliefs.
    2. No matter when and how we start upsetting ourselves, we continue to feel upset because we cling to our irrational beliefs.
    3. The only way to get better is to work hard at changing our beliefs. It takes practice, practice, practice…


    Emotionally healthy human beings develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is highly unfortunate and unpleasant. REBT helps you develop three types of acceptance: (1) unconditional self-acceptance; (2) unconditional other-acceptance; and (3) unconditional life-acceptance. Each of these types of acceptance is based on three core beliefs:

    Unconditional self-acceptance:

    1. I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.
    2. There is no reason why I must not have flaws.
    3. Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

    Unconditional other-acceptance:

    1. Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
    2. There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.
    3. The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

    Unconditional life-acceptance:

    1. Life doesn’t always work out the way that I’d like it to.
    2. There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to
    3.  Life is not necessarily pleasant but it is never awful and it is nearly always bearable.

    Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) Today

    Clinical experience and a growing supply of experimental evidence show that REBT is effective and efficient at reducing emotional pain and is particularly effective for treating anxiety disorders. When Albert Ellis created Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in the 1950s he met with much resistance from others in the mental health field. Today, it is one of the most widely-practiced therapies throughout the world. In the early days of REBT, even Dr. Ellis did not clearly see that consistent use of its philosophical system would have such a profound effect on the field of psychology or on the lives of the millions of people who have benefited from it.

    Demons on the Boat

    Imagine you’re steering a ship far out to sea. Below the deck, out of sight, lies a vast horde of demons, all with enormous claws and razor-sharp teeth.

    These demons have many different forms. Some of them are emotions, such as guilt, anger, fear or hopelessness. Some are memories of times you’ve failed or been hurt. Others are thoughts like “it’s too hard,” or “I’ll make a fool of myself,” or I’ll fail.” Some of them are mental images, in which you see yourself performing badly or getting rejected. Others are strong urges to drink too much, smoke, harm yourself, or overt. And still others are unpleasant sensations, such as tightness in your chest, or a knot in your stomach.

    Now, as long as you keep that ship drifting out to sea, the demons will stay below. But as soon as you start steering toward land, they clamber up from below deck… flapping their wings, baring their fangs and generally threatening to tear you into little pieces. Unsurprisingly, you don’t like that very much, so you cut a deal… “If you demons stay below deck, out of sight, I’ll keep the ship drifting out at sea.” The demons agree, and everything seems OK… for a while…

    The interesting thing is. although these demons threaten you, they never actually cause you any physical harm. Why not? Because they can’t! All they can do is growl and wave their claws and look terrifying — physically they can’t even touch you. And once you realise this, you’re free. It means you can take your ship wherever you want — as long as you’re willing to accept the demon’s presence. All you have to do to reach land is accept that the demons are above deck, accept that they’re doing their very best to scare you and keep steering the ship toward shore.

    The demons may howl and protest, but they’re powerless because their power relies totally on your belief in their threats.

    But if you’re not willing to accept these demons, if you’ve got to keep them below deck at all costs, then your only option is to stay adrift, at sea. Of course, you can try to throw the demons overboard, but while you’re busy doing that no one is piloting the ship, so you run the risk of crashing into the rocks or capsizing. Besides that, it’s a struggle you could never win, because there’s an infinite number of those demons in the hold.

    “But that’s horrible!” you may well protest. “I don’t want to live surrounded by demons!!” Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you already are… And those demons will keep showing up, again and again, as soon as you start to take your life in a valued direction.

    Now, here’s the good news: if you keep steering your ship toward shore (no matter how much the demons threaten you), many of them will realise they’re having no effect and will give up and leave you alone. As for the ones that remain… after a while you’ll get used to them. And if you take a good, long look at them, you’ll realise they’re nowhere nearly as scary as they first appeared.

    You’ll realise they’ve been using special effects to make themselves look a lot bigger than they really are. Sure, they’ll still look ugly… they won’t turn into cute fluffy bunnies, but you’ll find them much less frightening. And you’ll find that you can let them hang around without being bothered by them. And in any case, as you continue on that voyage you’ll find it’s not just demons that turn up… there are also dolphins, angels and mermaids!

    And it doesn’t matter how far away from shore you are. The instant you start heading towards it, you’re living life… you’re having an adventure… you’re moving in a valued direction. As Helen Keller said: “Life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all…”

    A variant of Passengers On The Bus – The Happiness Trap – Dr. Russ Harris, M.D.

    Categories: behavioural psychology

    Control What You Can and Ignore The Rest

    I’m sure you’ve heard the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this:

    “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” Basically control what you can…

    Reinhold Nieburh came up with it around 1934. The Stoics were preaching that basic idea… oh… about 2000 years earlier.

    The Stoics were really big on control. But they weren’t control freaks at all. A key part of Stoicism is just asking yourself: “Can I do anything about this?”

    If you can, do it. If you can’t… then you can’t. But worrying achieves nothing but stress.

    What the Stoics are saying is so much of what worries us are things that we have no control over. If I’m doing something tomorrow and I’m worried about it raining and ruining it, no amount of me stressing about it is going to change whether it rains or not. The Stoics are saying, “Not only are you going to be happier if you can make the distinction between what you can change and can’t change but if you focus your energy exclusively on what you can change, you’re going to be a lot more productive and effective as well.”

    Here’s a quick visual to help get the point across:

    So, next time you’re worrying, pause and ask yourself: “Do I have control over this?” If you do, stop worrying and get to work.

    If you don’t have control, worrying won’t make it better. And going back to the first point, it might be a good idea to ask yourself what your belief is that’s causing all this worry… Yup, it’s probably irrational.

    So sadness, anger and worrying are irrational responses and they’re not the right way to react when things happen. So what is the right way to react to stuff that doesn’t meet your expectations?

    Accept Everything — But You Don’t Have To Be Passive

    This is the bit everybody has trouble with. Nobody likes the word ‘accept’ — we think it means ‘give up’ — but it doesn’t.

    Let’s look at it this way: what’s the opposite of accept? Deny. As in ‘denial’ — and nobody ever recommends denial.

    Albert Ellis told people they’d be much happier if they removed the word ‘should’ from their vocabulary. ‘Should’ is denial. You’re saying your expectations deserve to override reality:

    • “My kids shouldn’t be misbehaving!” (News flash: they are)
    • “Traffic shouldn’t be this bad!” (Um, but it is)
    • “It shouldn’t be raining!” (Say it louder — complaining might work this time…)

    Denial is irrational, and as we just learned, irrational beliefs are where negative emotions come from. So the first step is to accept reality. But that doesn’t mean you have to be passive.

    You accept the rain. It’s here. Denial and shoulds won’t change anything… but that doesn’t mean you can’t grab an umbrella.

    Acceptance to us means resignation but to the Stoics it meant accepting the facts as they are and then deciding what you’re going to do about them. The problem is that because we have expectations about how we want things to be, we feel like acceptance is settling, when in reality we have no idea what could have happened instead. This awful thing might have saved us from something much worse. Or maybe this is going to open us up to some new amazing opportunity that we can’t yet conceive. The Stoics are saying, “Let’s not waste any energy fighting things that are outside our control, let’s accept them, let’s embrace them and then let’s move on and see what we can do with it.”

    So, next time things don’t go your way, don’t deny reality. Accept it. It’s here. Then ask if you have control over it. If you do, do something. If you don’t, ask if your beliefs are rational.

    That’s how you go from: “It shouldn’t be raining! We can’t go to the park! The day is ruined!” to “Yeah, it’s raining. No park today. Let’s watch an awesome movie.”

    Alright, we’ve covered a lot of Stoic methods for beating bad feelings. That covers defense. Let’s talk offense. In the next article we’ll look at how you can improve your life…

    Events Don’t Upset You — Your Beliefs Do

    events and beliefs

    We all like a bit of ancient wisdom. But how many of us have actually read any of the Classics? How ancient wisdom, the Stoics and Albert Ellis can help you

    The funny thing is, we’re more likely to live happier lives if we visit the classics section of the book store than the self-help aisle. So, if we don’t read the classics, how can we learn what one group of brilliant dead blokes —The Stoics — had to say? Well, let’s have a go…

    Events Don’t Upset You — Beliefs Do

    So, you get dumped by someone you’re totally in love with. Feel sad? Yes. The world feels like it’s going to end. I think we’ve all been there… Let’s move on… Same scenario, but afterwards you find out that person was actually a psychopath who killed their last three partners. Feel sad you got dumped? No, you’re thrilled…

    So, clearly getting dumped isn’t the important issue here. What’s changed? Actually, nothing other than your beliefs.

    If you lose your job and you believe it was a lousy job anyway, and you also believe it won’t be hard for you to get a better job, you’re likely not going to be too bothered.

    However, if you believe it was the greatest job ever and believe you’ll never get another one that good — you’re devastated. Emotions aren’t random. They follow from beliefs.

    So, let’s move on to the Stoics. They believed there are no good or bad events, there’s only perception. Shakespeare put it well when he said: “Nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” What Shakespeare and the Stoics are saying is that the world around us is indifferent, it is objective. The Stoics are saying: “This happened to me,” is not the same as, “This happened to me and that’s bad.” They’re saying if you stop at the first bit, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens to you.

    Does this sound too simple? Well, yes, actually it is that simple. But this philosophy is what led renowned psychologist Albert Ellis to develop Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (or REBT) which was the first form of the more-widely known Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) pioneered by Aaron Beck and now well accepted as one of the most effective treatments for depression, anxiety and other disorders, including disordered eating.

    Most Bad Feelings Are Caused by Irrational Beliefs

    Next time you’re feeling negative emotions, don’t focus on the event that you think ’caused’ them. Ask yourself what belief you hold about that event. And then ask yourself if it’s rational:

    • “If my partner dumps me, I’ll never get over it.”
    • “If I lose my job, my life is over.”
    • “If I don’t finish reading this post, the writer will hate me forever.”

    Only the third one is true. The other two are irrational. And that’s why you get anxious, angry or depressed.

    Revise your beliefs and you can change your feelings: “Even if I lose my job, I can get another one. It’s happened before and I was fine.”

    So, you’re revising your beliefs to overcome sadness and anger. Great. But what about when you’re unhappy because you’re worried about the future?

    In the next article, Control What you Can and Ignore the Rest, we’ll look at the Serenity Prayer, the Buddhist angle and more about the Stoics…