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Learning to Tell Myself the Truth

Learning to Tell Myself the Truth

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Learning to Tell Myself the Truth

4/5 (3 valutazioni)
320 pagine
5 ore
Nov 1, 1994


A 6-WEEK PROGRAM Designed to Bring Immediate and Long-lasting Results to the Way a Person Thinks, Feels, and Acts.What Is Truth Therapy?With over half a million copies of Telling Yourself the Truth sold, tens of thousands of people have benefited from author William Backuss life-changing principles of truth therapy. Utilizing the resources of the Christian faiththe power of the truth and the Spirit of truthtruth therapy has already empowered people to break from the tyranny of anger, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, and other emotional difficulties.Why a Workbook?Learning to Tell Myself the Truth is a stand-alone workbook designed to provide readers with the directive tools to implement truth therapy into their lives. Through self-evaluation, growth exercises, and the spiritual discipleship unique to a workbook, readers will be enabled to identify their own misbeliefs and replace them with the truth. Based on the premise that people feel and act the way they think, freedom from emotional anguish and behavioral paralysis is possible if true thoughts replace the lies a person believes.Who Is Helped by Truth Therapy?Anyone who has difficulty controlling inappropriate emotions and/or actionsdepressed people, anxious people, habitually irritated or angry people, people who want to break tough habits, and people who would like to feel better or establish better control over some aspect of their behavior.Will It Work for Me
Nov 1, 1994

Informazioni sull'autore

William Backus, PhD, founded the Center for Christian Psychological Services. Before his death in 2005, he was a licensed clinical psychologist and an ordained Lutheran clergyman. He wrote many books, including What Your Counselor Never Told You.

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Learning to Tell Myself the Truth - William Backus


Part One

Before You Get Started


Will Truth Therapy Work for Me?

Arthur was unquestionably a Type A person. You know the type: intense, abrupt, quick-tempered. He was the kind of guy who races through life tackling three jobs at once, while complaining about what he is not accomplishing. A sales manager for a computer systems company, Art was a man who delivered impressive sales results—and he quickly let me know he expected outstanding results from me.

Arthur, what brings you here today? I asked during our first session.

Stress! he shot back.

Yet unlike my other clients, he didn’t continue describing his difficulties. Rather than waste time telling me more about himself or his situation, he demanded to know a timetable for improvement.

How soon can you take care of this? Art asked, as if asking for a non-negotiable delivery date for the latest computer software. You psychologists try to keep people coming back forever, but I don’t have the next five years to fool around. I want to get this over with and get on with life. Time is money. How long is this going to take?

The Unspoken Questions

I’ve often wondered why more people don’t ask questions about what their counselors plan for their course of treatment. Although Art may have been unnecessarily aggressive, his questions were quite valid. Yet few clients begin treatment by asking their counselor or therapist, Can you help me? How long will I need to come? or Why do you think your method of therapy will work for me?

Perhaps psychology has been shrouded in the mystery of the subconscious for so long that many people view the counseling process as complex, complicated, or too deep for someone to understand without advanced training. Yet this perception is simply not the case for those individuals who employ the process of truth therapy as presented in this workbook.

I’m glad to tell you what I told Art: Compared to other methods of psychotherapy, truth therapy gets results quickly. Today, because of constraints imposed by many health insurance companies, a client may have insurance coverage for no more than eight to ten hours of psychotherapy. Even in that brief period, the results of truth therapy are encouraging. You can change the way you feel. If you follow this proven plan for self-help, you will find freedom from the tyranny of anger, anxiety, depression, and perfectionism.

Why can I make this bold assertion? How can real, lasting help come from a book? Isn’t seeing a professional necessary if you really want to improve your emotional life? You may be asking yourself any or all of these questions. Before you spend any time working through this workbook, let’s address these concerns and look briefly at a few other valid questions.

I confidently promise gratifying results from truth therapy for these reasons:

First, empirical evidence demonstrates that truth therapy will work, will work quickly, and will work powerfully to make a difference in the way you feel and act.

Second, truth therapy is not hard to understand. It isn’t a complicated process of looking into the deep, dark secrets of the past. Truth therapy simply requires rigorous honesty, plain common sense, and a desire to improve your life and/or relationships.

Third, truth therapy incorporates biblical principles and the power of a relationship with Jesus Christ into the healing process.

However, before we look at why this method of therapy is so effective, let’s first define what truth therapy is.

First Things First: What Is Truth Therapy?

For most of us, every day brings a mixture of good feelings and bad, behavior we’re proud of and behavior we’d rather not admit to, cheerful spirits at times and less agreeable moods at other times. Whether we struggle with dark moods, angry outbursts, or stressed-out living, at times, most of us would like to change how we feel. There’s nothing unusual about that. Yet for some of us, negative feelings can begin to dominate our lives, crippling our ability to function effectively, destroying our relationships, or spinning us into a downward spiral of depression or self-loathing.

What we too often fail to recognize is the connection between our feelings, our thoughts, and the ongoing internal monologue we carry on with ourselves at all times. This internal monologue—our self-talk—is the way we interpret events, emotions, and circumstances. The words and images running through our minds begin at an early age and determine our feelings and actions, our moods and habits. For many of us, our self-talk can be largely misinformed and distorted, causing emotional turmoil, maladaptive behavior, or relational difficulties. By never addressing the misbeliefs that inform our self-talk, we become victims of circumstances, events, and painful emotions. Like a fish on a hook, we allow our emotions to be yanked and tugged by everyday events and circumstances, regardless of the direction we are trying to swim!

As a result, most of us think events cause our ups and downs, never noticing how feelings and actions spring from the thoughts fed by our beliefs. It’s not the events themselves, but what we tell ourselves as we interpret what’s happening that makes all the difference.

The truth behind truth therapy may differ from what you have heard or read before. Our culture is heavily influenced by Freudian philosophy, leading us to believe that psychological healing can come only by exploring the past in depth, and that feelings are primary; feelings are the real problem or the main thing to be concerned about.

However, current research clearly refutes that orientation. Your feelings are no more the cause of your problems than red spots on the face of a child are the cause of measles! Feelings are not the cause of your emotional difficulties—they are the results.

The fact is, YOU FEEL THE WAY YOU THINK! The solution to the frustration of gray moods, negative self-concepts, and dismaying habits is to be found in recognizing this simple truth: You feel the way you think; you think the way you believe. Learning to control your emotions begins when you learn to listen to your self-talk. In other words, identifying your self-talk is the first step in determining what your basic beliefs are, beliefs that are the primary source of your attitudes, reactions, feelings, and behavior.

A Simple Experiment: Monitoring the Internal Monologue

You can experiment with this concept now. Ask yourself, What have I been thinking as I read? What are some of your thoughts right now?

Even if you find yourself drawing a blank, thinking I don’t know what I’m thinking, you are still thinking something! We all have a running commentary going on in our head all the time. We just don’t always notice it. Sometimes, our self-talk occurs as images rather than words. Yet we now know that this internal stream of words and images is continuously active—even during sleep.[1]

Actually, tuning in to our thoughts, our self-talk, takes a little practice. Many of us have habitually ignored our own self-talk, much like white noise generated by a fan. After a while, you don’t notice the noise at all. But ignoring that steady stream of internal thoughts doesn’t diminish the effect on our moods, feelings, and attitudes. The thoughts are still there, doing their work, just below the level of awareness.

Continue this little self-talk experiment by taking a few minutes to think about the soles of your feet. How do they feel? Cool? Warm? Pinched? Tired? Itchy? Relaxed?

Did the sensations begin just now? No, of course not. The sensations were there all the time. You simply kept them outside your awareness because you were concentrating on other things. You made yourself aware of your feet by directing your attention to sensations you were having all along, but not consciously registering.

But—and this is the most significant point—you can learn to pay attention to your internal monologue, just as you directed your attention to the soles of your feet. You can tune in to your own self-talk and learn to monitor your thoughts, with a little practice.

The Straight Talk About Self-Talk

I want to die, Kathy told me. I just don’t have any hope anymore. If I died, my baby would at least have a chance. Somebody would adopt her and give her a life!

Kathy’s prospects did look bleak. Her husband of two years had left her, and Kathy had no idea where he was. Her six-month-old daughter needed eye surgery to prevent blindness in one eye. And the young woman’s employer had announced he was closing the office and moving to another state; in thirty days she would be without a job, without health insurance, and without a way of making mortgage payments on the little house she and her husband, Keith, had bought eight months ago. Kathy was understandably overwhelmed by her circumstances.

Yet were things really hopeless? Was her interpretation of events really true? Was considering suicide the only reasonable alternative she had?

I asked Kathy to examine her situation in detail, to scrutinize what she was telling herself. She identified these beliefs underlying her self-talk:

I would be better off dead.

My baby would be better off without me.

My parents don’t want me and would be happier if I weren’t around.

Keith didn’t want me so nobody probably ever will.

I’ll never be able to manage my life alone.

As she reexamined her situation, she began to see things differently. Her situation was difficult, not hopeless: Even if she couldn’t find a job, she and her baby would not be destitute. She could qualify for temporary welfare payments and medical assistance if necessary. Rather than making assumptions about her parents’ preferences, she asked her parents what her options might be. Her father assured her that she and her daughter could live with them until she got on her feet again.

This young woman’s assumptions about her life were false. Yet with these false assumptions she had tormented herself to the point of considering suicide. By taking a new look at reality and correcting her erroneous self-talk, Kathy discovered truth was on her side. She began refuting the self-talk born of misbeliefs by rewriting her internal monologue:

I refuse to believe I would be better off dead. My life is in God’s hands. Killing myself says that I know more about my baby’s future than God does—and I know that’s not true.

My baby wouldn’t be better off without me. I’m her mother and she’s entitled to the best of me. We can rebuild our lives together.

My parents don’t want me? That’s absurd! Imagine my parents standing around my coffin telling each other how much better they feel now that their only daughter is gone! Living with them for a short time may be inconvenient for all of us, but it is certainly better than not living at all.

Keith never knew what he really wanted in a relationship and he never wanted anybody for very long. I remember how often he changed girlfriends when we were in school. I deserve better than that.

Why can’t I manage my life alone? Plenty of women have done it, and so can I! In fact, it will probably be easier not to have to manage my life and Keith’s, because that’s what our marriage had become.

Kathy didn’t incorporate all this truth into her self-talk at once. She had to evaluate each of her assumptions in the light of facts, evidence, reason, and biblical truth. She had to use her will, forcing herself to replace her false ideas with the truth as she came to understand it. However, replace them she did, and the results were empowering and healing—just as they are for countless others who have found the freeing power of truth undergirded by faith.

Truth therapy is simple; but don’t be mistaken, it’s not easy. The human personality, created in the very image of God, is an enigmatic mystery, and the workings of the mind will never cease to present challenging puzzles to psychological science. But you will feel better and gain greater control over your emotions and actions by giving yourself—and truth therapy—a chance. When Kathy came to see me, she had little to lose by giving this process a chance—and a lot to gain. By learning to listen to her self-talk and choosing to replace her false assumptions, her misbeliefs, with the truth, she chose to live life fully and joyfully, freed from the paralysis of hopelessness.

Performing a Mood Check

Now it’s your turn to start identifying your self-talk. Try this experiment: Give yourself a periodic mood check. For one day, set a timer or an alarm for every two hours. When the alarm goes off, stop whatever you are doing and ask yourself, OK, how am I feeling right now? Rate your mood at that moment on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being as down, negative, or upset as you can ever remember feeling, and 10 being an absolute high. Write down the time of day and your mood rating.

Then check your self-talk by asking yourself, What have I been thinking right now? Jot down the thoughts or self-talk you find running through your head. At the end of the day you should have completed five or six mood checks.

Mood Check

Read over your notes carefully and notice the connection between your thoughts and feelings. Intense negative thinking always accompanies depression or any other persistent negative and painful emotion. When you’re in a bad mood, aren’t your thoughts quite different than when you’re feeling fine? One young woman described the interplay between her thoughts and feelings this way:

Every time I become depressed, I feel as if I have been hit with a sudden cosmic jolt, and I begin to see things differently. The change can come within less than an hour. My thoughts become negative and pessimistic. As I look into the past, I become convinced that everything that I’ve ever done is worthless. Any happy period seems like an illusion. My accomplishments appear as genuine as the false facade for the set of a Western movie. I become convinced that the real me is worthless and inadequate. I can’t move forward with my work because I become frozen with doubt. But I can’t stand still because the misery is unbearable.[2]

Read her description again. This young woman discovered that her depression is always accompanied by a change in her thoughts. She thinks about things negatively and pessimistically, even seeing the past selectively, as an unbroken series of evil events, and herself as a person of no value.

Now go back to your mood checks. How did you feel? If your thoughts were mostly pessimistic, you felt negative too, didn’t you? You might have felt discouragement or frustration at being asked to perform such a simple assignment. Your mood may have been, at least to some extent, a downer. If your thoughts were optimistic, hopeful, or upbeat, you felt good. Your feelings were positive.

As you begin to work this program you will come to see that your feelings follow your thoughts. Untruthful, negative thoughts lead to unpleasant feelings of anxiety, depression or frustration, while truthful, positive thoughts create correspondingly pleasant and upbeat feelings. Until now you may have placed a greater emphasis on how you feel; it’s time to change, to realize that feelings are the result of what you believe. Your feelings can serve as an alarm to remind you to question your thoughts and beliefs. Are they negative or positive? Are they true or false? Once you’ve begun to identify the underlying thoughts and beliefs, you are on your way to healing, wholeness, and happiness. You’ve made the first step toward change!

But Will It Work for Me?

I have to confess, I’m a born doubter. I’m the guy who takes the fun out of other people’s enthusiastic testimonials by taking a wait-and-see approach. Salesmen find me a frustrating customer, but I can’t help it. I’m inherently skeptical of promises and hype. You might need to be convinced, too. As you read these opening chapters, you may be asking, as I would, Will truth therapy work for me? Are you trying to eliminate feelings and turn people into computer-like machines with sterile, emotionless lives led by colorless logic?

No way! Truth actually frees your emotions; it doesn’t eliminate them. Are we trying to do away with all negative feelings? Heavens, no! Human life, even for Jesus Christ himself, included sadness, sorrow, anger, and frustration. These and other negative emotions are normal under certain circumstances, and can be accepted and experienced accordingly.

So who is helped by truth therapy? I hope you don’t think I’m exaggerating when I answer: Everybody who has difficulty controlling inappropriate emotions and/or actions—depressed people, anxious people, habitually irritated or angry people, people who want to break tough habits, and people who would like to feel better or establish better control over some aspect of their behavior can be helped by truth therapy.

I’m not saying truth therapy will cure everybody of everything![3] I’m also not promising you will never need to see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or pastoral counselor. You may already be receiving help from a counselor. If so, you will probably find that your counselor welcomes your decision to work with this material.

But will it work for you? That’s really the most important question on your mind and the answer is an absolute YES! If you are willing to work at changing some of your beliefs; if you are willing to examine your habitual self-talk and replace your old thinking, then I can say with complete confidence, truth therapy will work for you.

Not long ago I met with a new client. We discussed his situation and concerns and agreed on a treatment plan.

Is it time to stop already? he asked, looking surprised as the hour came to a close. But your books describe clients keeping notebooks and doing homework. Aren’t you going to give me some homework to do?

I am quite certain this man will improve quickly. Contrast this man with another client I’ve seen, the daughter of a very wealthy family. Over the years she has seen a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst, and now she is seeing me. For three months, this patient has said she wants to get over her depression. But she has yet to do a single homework assignment. Truth therapy won’t be of much help to her. Why? Because, for whatever reason, this woman has failed to realize that it is not the therapist’s job to make the client a well-adjusted, happy person. It takes work on your part to be happy. Reading this book won’t make you a different person, but doing these exercises and putting forth the effort will make a difference.

As a Christian, you are not in this alone. A relationship with Jesus Christ supplies daily power for making needed changes. God works with you powerfully, but you make the changes. How? By replacing inadequate, inaccurate, mistaken beliefs, and the sinful and maladaptive thoughts and behavior they cause, with truth and the Christlike behavior it generates. By living your Christian faith and making the most of the enormous power of truth, you can reach new levels of freedom from spiritual numbness, emotional anguish, and behavioral paralysis. This workbook provides the tools, you provide the willingness, and God provides the power to change.


What Makes Truth Therapy Different?

By all outward appearances, she had it all. A petite, attractive woman, with thick auburn hair, Corrine had two healthy toddlers, a loving husband, and a comfortable home. Good looks, good friends, good income—Corrine was living the American dream. Yet, as she sat in my office, she was inwardly falling apart.

I ought to feel on top of the world. I’ve got two beautiful kids, I’m married to a great guy, we’ve got plenty of money. But I’m miserable, she said tearfully. I would kill myself if I wasn’t scared God would punish me in hell forever.

For those who’ve never struggled with depression, anxiety, or emotional turmoil, it can be difficult to understand how anything could have been wrong for her. Yet, Corrine was her own worst accuser. All that she had going for her only served to make her feel like a terribly ungrateful woman who failed to appreciate her blessings. By telling herself what she should not feel, she only made herself feel more depressed. Fearful of the disapproval of others, she had suffered in silence for two and a half years, fighting suicidal tendencies despite taking prescription medication for clinical depression.

When did you first begin feeling so depressed? I asked her.

Well, I remember when we came home from the hospital after the birth of my second baby, I walked into the house and felt overwhelmed by the thought of taking care of two babies, keeping up the house, being a wife and all that. I just didn’t think I could handle everything. Since then, I wake up dreading each day. I know I’m a terrible mother.

Why do you say you’re a terrible mother? I asked.

Oh, I don’t know. It’s just that I hurt the kids’ feelings all the time. I lose my patience over little things. I yell at them all the time. I can’t wait to put them down for their naps so I can have time to myself. Then I feel guilty and selfish. Things like that.

When I pressed her for more examples of why she thought she was a terrible mother, she couldn’t come up with anything. Yet the evidence she had offered would convict almost any young mother with two preschoolers. She wasn’t, in fact, a terrible mother. She was an overly tired, normal young mother with unrealistic expectations of herself, and a head full of incriminating self-talk founded on significant misbeliefs. Although for some individuals medication is helpful, medication was not the answer for Corrine. Learning to listen to her self-talk, identifying those pesky, pervasive misbeliefs that formed the basis for what she was telling herself, and reconstructing her beliefs based on truth brought Corrine out of the darkness of depression—and such action will do the same for you.

Growing Toward Emotional Well-Being: A Construction Zone

The fundamental process Corrine had to learn to reclaim a happy, fulfilling life is a process we will call emotional remodeling.

Remodeling a home or office is usually a messy, inconvenient undertaking—whether the renovations are extensive, or as simple as new paint and wallpaper—and always involves these steps:

Identifying what needs to be changed.

Using a

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