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Cognitive Therapy Works

The Day I Learned How Powerful My Thoughts Can Be


Updated September 19, 2011

I'll never forget the day that I realized that I really could change my feelings with my thoughts. It changed my life forever.

I had been reading a book called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David Burns, but I hadn't really put any of it into practice. Although it sounded interesting, I didn't really believe it would work. Wouldn't it make more sense that depression was causing the bad thoughts and not the other way around? Also, if my thoughts are causing the feelings, this implied that I was doing this to myself and that idea didn't sit well with me.

Well, on this particular day I had made plans for my husband and I to wash and clean out our car when we arrived at his parent's house. When we got there, I got to work gathering together our equipment. Every few minutes, I'd give him a reminder that things were ready so let's get started, but he kept stalling. He may have agreed in theory to washing the car, but I could see he really didn't want to and I was getting more angry and upset by the minute. I kept thinking things like: "He does this all the time. He should be out here helping me, but he's goofing off and letting me do the work. He is making me so upset." Then the lightbulb clicked on. My mood had gone from good to bad in a matter of minutes because of what I was thinking about the situation. I decided at that moment that I would try out some of what I had learned in Dr. Burn's book. It was the perfect opportunity to see if it really worked.

As I began to reassess my thoughts and turn them into more rational and positive ones, my train of thought began to go like this: "He doesn't really do this all the time. He is actually very good about helping me out unless he has something else on his mind. He just drove a long way to get here and now he's excited about seeing his family. Of course, he's not going to want to clean the car right away. He deserves a chance to rest and visit with his family. Besides, no one can make you upset except yourself and I am going to choose to not get upset." Pretty soon I was scrubbing away and enjoying the beauty of the day. What shocked me was the realization that I now felt on top the world, all because I had changed what I was thinking. In the past, I would have stewed in my thoughts and been miserable the rest of the day. Taking responsibility for how I felt made me feel better.

Can Cognitive Therapy work for you? Some will need medications in addition to therapy; but, I believe it can be beneficial to anyone, provided they approach it with a willingness to believe it can work. If you feel threatened by the idea that you are contributing to your own depression, you may end up sabotaging yourself.

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