Break Your Downward Emotional Spiral

Your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors can form a vicious feedback loop, sending you into a downward emotional spiral. You get a bad review from your boss, and start to feel upset. This negative emotion brings on thoughts about when you've made mistakes at your job, and you feel even worse. You now start imagining your boss firing you, and your mood sinks into despair. Let's dissect what's going on here. An event triggers an upsetting thought, and the thought causes negative emotion. With you...
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Finding Our False Beliefs

By definition, we believe that each of our beliefs is true. And yet, simultaneously, we must admit that some of our beliefs must be wrong. We can't possibly have gotten absolutely everything right. This becomes especially obvious when we consider the huge number of beliefs we have, the complexity of the world we live in, and the number of people who disagree with us. The trouble though is that we don't know which of our many beliefs are wrong. If we knew that, we should have stopped believing th...
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Fighting Against Your Counterproductive Inclinations

Sometimes, in a given situation, what we feel like doing is precisely the opposite of what would be best for us. Our natural inclinations about what action is helpful in a given circumstance can lead us in entirely the wrong direction. Consider, for example, what happens when you feel tired. The obvious and natural thing to do is to lie down. This works well when there is time to sleep or nap. But what if you are feeling tired and should leave your house in 10 minutes? While lying down is wha...
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The Interplay Between Your Reason and Emotions

It can sometimes be useful to think of yourself as consisting of multiple systems. You have an emotional system that constantly processes your sensory input and thoughts, and produces emotions like fear, anger, happiness and contempt based on this input. You also have a reasoning system, which is what you use when you are reasoning, planning, analyzing and consciously predicting. But the operations of these two systems are not independent. In fact, they each have the power to alter the operation...
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Still Living with the Emotions of our Ancestors

According to evolutionary theory, emotions evolved because they were helpful for survival. Anxiety alerts us to potential danger and makes us wary. Anger motivates us to fight and shows our allies that we need help. Jealousy motivates us to keep our mates to ourselves to help maximize the number of our offspring that survive to child-bearing age. But the environment we live in today is obviously very different from the environment of our distant ancestors for whom these emotions were optimized. ...
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