Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Telling Yourself the Truth” by William Backus and Marie Chapian

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Telling Yourself the Truth: Find Your Way Out of Depression, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Other Common Problems by Applying the Principles of Misbelief Therapy by William Backus and Marie Chapian was my introduction to cognitive therapy. At the time, I didn’t realize it; I thought I was reading about a uniquely Christian approach to overcoming depression. It helped me greatly at a time I believed therapy was less effective than religion, and for that, it holds a place in my heart forever. It was what was needed.

Read this book if you need a simple, inspiring introduction to cognitive therapy–one that doesn’t involve worksheets or lengthy explanations of common cognitive distortions. Also read it if you appreciate the biblical references.

Key Takeaways

  • Telling Yourself the Truth is a book is about just that: learning how to balance your long-held negative stories with more realistic, logical truths. The authors call this “Misbelief Therapy” and posit that much of one’s low mood is related to the misbeliefs they have about the world and about themselves.
  • Question your self-talk, they preach in this work. Sweep away your misbeliefs by consistently reminding yourself of larger truths that can bring peace. These truths might include: “God loves me and forgives me,” “Life has purpose” and many more.
  • An example the authors provide is that of Jerry, who changed his self-talk from “I’m a failure and no good” to “The marriage failed, but I am deeply loved by God.”
  • The authors recommend relentlessly committing onesself to the new story, no matter how the story feels to you, until you are able to fully believe the new, more objective truth.
  • On self-esteem, the authors quote psychiatrist Willard Gaylin, who said, “A denigrated self-image is a tar baby. The more we play with it, embrace it, the more bound we are to it.” Don’t play with negative thoughts about yourself. Leave them on the curb and walk away.
  • It can be hard to retrain our beliefs, say the authors: “Misbeliefs generally appear as truth to the person repeating them to himself. They might even seem to be true to an untrained counselor. That is partly because they often do contain some shred of truth, and partly because the sufferer has never examined or questioned these erroneous assumptions.”
  • It’s important to question the assumptions that lie underneath our negative thoughts, to challenge the basic truths we’ve long held.
  • On relationships, the authors write, “Often, but not always, relationships change dramatically when one person drops the misbeliefs that generate and perpetuate bitterness and anger. Always the person who works to change misbeliefs will benefit even if the other person does not change.”
  • A final tip: Anger isn’t something anyone else makes you feel. “One psychologist tells his patients that the truthful statement to make when you’re angry is, ‘I make myself angry.’”

About the Authors

William Backus was a licensed psychologist and the founder of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF). He held a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Minnesota and was an advocate for integrating biblical principles with psychological understanding. Backus believed in the power of faith in helping individuals overcome emotional and psychological struggles. He authored and co-authored several books, including Telling Yourself the Truth and What Your Counselor Never Told You, which provide practical guidance for addressing negative thoughts and emotions from a Christian perspective.

Marie Chapian, an author and speaker, has collaborated with William Backus on multiple books. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology and has written extensively on topics related to personal growth, faith, and emotional healing. Chapian’s contributions to their collaborative works often bring a compassionate and empathetic perspective to the challenges individuals face in their emotional and spiritual journeys.


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