Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David Burns

Anger is natural. It’s a normal part of life. But we don’t want to experience it for longer than necessary. Fortunately, our emotions aren’t entirely out of our control; by examining our negative beliefs, our accompanying negative feelings become less persistent and less convincing. There are many methods for doing so, but the one with the most evidence behind it is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

In The Feeling Good Handbook, one of the most-read books on the subject, David Burns details the process. I highly recommend this and other CBT books, or working with a therapist who uses the method regularly. (There are also CBT worksheets and instructions online.)

In spite of the prodigious amount of literature devoted to the subject, CBT is a simple, intuitive process. Working either with a therapist, or alone with a journal, you identify your most anxious, fearful or hateful thoughts. Then you examine it objectively, asking yourself if the thought is entirely true, or if it’s untrue or just partly true–an exaggeration. By the time you’re done, you’ve found at least a few more positive thoughts to counteract the negative ones, and as a result, your depression or anxiety is lessened. In a perfect world, every child would be taught the technique in school, and every adult would practice it regularly.

As one of the early, and most thorough and textbook-like books on cognitive therapy, The Feeling Good Handbook has become a legit self-help classic. However, other books on cognitive therapy use the same basic principles and might be more concise. I recommend reading at least a few on this subject and using cognitive therapy weekly at least throughout your life.

Key Takeaways:

  • The way to change how you feel is to change how you think.
  • “If you say, ‘I just can’t help the way I feel,’ you will only make yourself a victim of your misery–and you’ll be fooling yourself, because you can change the way you feel.”
  • “I don’t believe you should try to be happy all the time, or in total control of your feelings. That would just be a perfectionistic trap. You cannot always be completely rational and objective.”
  • Beware of the ten most common forms of twisted thinking, namely: all-or-nothing thinking; overgeneralization; using a mental filter; discounting the positive; jumping to conclusions; magnification; emotional reasoning; ‘should’ statements; labeling/name calling; personalization; and blame.
  • The author suggests ten ways to question your negative thoughts: examining the evidence (like a judge would); using the experimental technique or the survey method (like a scientist would); thinking in shades of gray or using the semantic method (like a philosopher would); using the cost-benefit analysis method (like an economist would) and more.

About the Author

Matt Kahn is a spiritual teacher, author, and empathic healer. He is the author of several books on spirituality and personal growth, including Whatever Arises, Love That and The Universe Always Has a Plan. Kahn’s teachings emphasize the power of self-love and compassion to transform our lives and the world around us, and he has gained a large following through his YouTube channel and live events.


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