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Change Your Stories; Change Your Life!

Updated on March 19, 2013

Do 1 in 5 Of Us Really Suffer Mood Disorders?

More than "1 in 5" people will experience depression and/or anxiety in any given year. "1 in 3" in their lifetime.

75 to 90 percent of family physician visits are related to stress. Many fall into the "worried well" group — down, anxious, even overwhelmed about health, money, relationships, jobs, their future….

Taking into account how many people only reluctantly to talk about "mood disorders," it doesn't surprise me that three out of ten people close to me could be experiencing difficulties I don't know about.

When experts say that 1 in 5 suffer these kinds of challenges, I know. I'm one of them.

Coping With "The Terror"

Back in the mid-seventies, I experienced emotionally overwhelming episodes of anxiety and depression. Off and on, for over three years, I fought "The Terror" (as I called it) with Valium and a beer or two before bed. It was awful, the most frightening time of my life.

Then a friend introduced to Albert Ellis' ABCs exercise and his book A New Guide To Rational Living. In this exercise, A stands for "the activating event" or an adversity you experience.

B stands for beliefs. It includes rational beliefs ("I made a mistake, and I can fix it") and irrational beliefs (I made a mistake so the whole project's wrecked. I'm gonna fail. Maybe lose my job.)

C stands for the feelings and actions that arise as a consequence of your thoughts/beliefs.

D stands for "disputing" or challenging your irrational beliefs, changing them and thus changing your emotions and actions.

Finally, E stands for the "energization and effectiveness" that emerges from telling yourself a new, self-supporting story and acting on it.

Essentially, the ABCs exercise enables you to find the distorted thoughts that give rise to your bad feelings, challenge and change them to more functional thoughts, generate positive feelings and increase energy and take effective action.

I might sound simple and it is, in theory. But to make it work you must practice it and become fluent in applying it to your thinking and action.

Practice. Practice. Practice.
Practice. Practice. Practice.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

And old joke feature a lost tourist in NYC who asks a kindly-looking old man, "What's the best way to get to Carnegie Hall?" The man (who turns out to be world-famous violinist Jacha Heifitz) leans forward and stabs the air with his finger and says, "My son, there is ONLY one way to get to Carnegie Hall, and that is to practice, practice, practice!"

And it's true. To develop fluency in any skill requires practice. The better you want to get, the more you'll have to practice. It's the same with changing your stories and changing your life.

It's not too hard to get good enough at the ABCs to get some relief from your bad feelings. But if you want to get good enough at using them to dissolve those bad feelings and create real and lasting positive feelings and effective actions, it'll take more time and effort.

But it's worth it!

With my friend's support and many hours of practice, I eventually changed the thoughts and stories with which I had self-created "The Terror." I dissoved my feelings of overwhelm, and generate energy I didn't know I had.

I learned how to monitor my self-talk and change it from self-defeating to self-supporting. I saw that many of my beliefs about myself, others and the world were false, even irrational. And worked to change them, too.

When I became fluent in changing stories and self-talk, I felt relieved, yes. But, also, much, much more. I felt stronger, better able to deal with difficulties and set backs. I felt energized and focused. I became good at creating results that matter. Doing so increased my positive feelings and that made it easier to create results.

By practicing The ABCs, I changed a dangerous downward spiral into despair into a gradually ascending, upward spiral toward increased skill, confidence and actions that supported what I most wanted to create in my life, work and relationships.


More Of My Writing

Bruce Elkin is the author of Simplicity and Success, Thrive! and The ABCs of Emotional Mastery. For more info, please visit my HubPages profile.


Barbara Fredrickson On Creating Positive Emotions


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    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      Hi Bruce,

      really nice hub that you have written here

      I learned alot about myself and how I can change for the better

      thanks and voted up