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Can You Change The Way You Feel?

17 April 2013

± minute read

    Can You Change The Way You Feel?
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A technique to get you back in the saddle quickly

He didn’t grow up in a warm and loving household. His parents were emotionally distant to say the least. He was a sickly youth, and between the ages of 5 and 8, he was hospitalised no fewer than 8 times. He grew up to become a shy adolescent, but he would not fall victim to this tendency forever. By the age of 19 Albert Ellis reportedly forced himself to approach 100 girls in the Bronx Botanical Gardens over a period of one month. He didn’t get a date, but, according to him, he managed to desensitise himself of his shyness and fear of rejection. Later in life he would be hailed as one of the most influential psychologists in history. Albert Ellis is the father of Rational Emotive Therapy. His great contribution to 20th-century psychology was his insistence that you can modify and change your feelings by means of logical and deductive reasoning, instead of allowing your feelings to get the better of you. Rational Therapy proposes that it is your philosophy (the way in which you view the world) that contributes to your emotional empowerment or pain. By becoming aware of your self-defeating beliefs and their underlying irrationality and rigidity, you can begin to debate, dispute and discard them from your mind and replace them with more rational and empowering beliefs.


ABCDE is a system pioneered by Ellis, useful for altering your perceptions, attitudes, and behaviour. A = Activating event B = Beliefs C = Consequences Often we perceive an activating event (I.e. I didn’t get a raise) causing your feelings of depression. In other words:

A = C

We experience the cause for our feelings as originating from outside of ourselves and ignore the fact that it is our interpretation of the facts that is really making us feel depressed.

A + B = C

“I didn’t get a raise, because I’m not good enough, and now I feel depressed.”

D = Debate, dispute, discard

Believing the statement: “I am not good enough”, is what is causing the feelings of depression. By debating, disputing and discarding this belief, you can reframe your interpretation and subsequently the way you feel about the situation. Asking questions like the following will inevitably lead to more empowering feelings:

  • “Am I really not good enough?”
  • “Could it be that market conditions are playing a role?”
  • “Am I the only one not getting a raise, or is it company-wide?”
  • “Perhaps I wasn’t good enough this time, & next time I will work harder.”

E = Effects

The process of debating, disputing and discarding often leads you to reappraise the situation. It allows you to see the issue from many different angles. Once you are able to disentangle yourself from some of your automatic negative interpretations of reality, you gain more control over your emotional state. To see things differently is to feel differently.

Grab a piece of paper and do it yourself:

  1. Reflect on a recent troubling event (A)
  2. Recall how you were feeling and behaving (C)
  3. Notice your self-talk about the event. Are there any phrases, images or memories that come to mind that seem to support what you are feeling? (B)
  4. Debate, dispute & discard negative or irrational self-talk and beliefs identified in the previous step (D) Do you feel better? Can you see different options for behaviour? (E)


Stein, Steven J.; Book, Howard E. (2011-03-31). The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success. Wiley. "Albert Ellis." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Ellis Photo Credit: Camil Agapie via Compfight cc

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