Let’s be honest; most experiences are not horrible. They might be unfortunate or, at the very least, unpleasant. If you tell yourself that uncomfortable situations are horrible, you will experience more stress.
When we exaggerate our experiences, we increase our emotional intensity and make situations harder than they need to be.
Inaccurate Thinking Increases Stress
Many people, including myself, have at least a few faulty thinking habits. We exaggerate, make sweeping assumptions, assume we can read other people’s minds, think in black or white terms, and awfulize situations that are merely uncomfortable.
How we interpret a situation determines whether we are happy about it, miserable, or neutral about it. We are most authentic and at peace when we neither exaggerate how wonderful things are, nor exaggerate how negative things are.
Being either overly optimistic or overly pessimistic interferes with our ability to see situations accurately. If we don’t see things accurately, we don’t make good choices.
Everything is as it Should be
A common thinking error is to judge everything as right or wrong, or to judge situations and people for how they should or shouldn’t be.
You will experience greater peace in your life if you replace the word “should” with “wish.” Recognize that everything is exactly as it should be given the laws of nature. When “X” happens, “Y” follows.
Each person behaves exactly as they should given the way they think, their values and beliefs, their way of interpreting the world, and their personal needs and wants. To say that circumstances or people “should” be different is not only pointless, it’s inaccurate.
If I say “I should” be 135 lbs, that’s actually inaccurate. I should weigh exactly what I do weigh given the way I eat and live. However, if I say, “I wish” I was 135 lbs, that’s a fact. It’s also more calming. The word “should” is a judgment and judgements always increase our emotions.
All Things Possible Doesn’t Mean Probable
Another common thinking error is to confuse possible with probable. Confusing the two keeps us stuck in unhappy situations. Just because it is scientifically possible for me to weigh 120 lbs, doesn’t mean it’s probable.
Change the “should” statement to anything that fits your circumstance: just because he could quit cheating, doesn’t mean it’s probable. Just because she could quit drinking, doesn’t mean it’s probable.
It is actually most probable that all of us will continue to behave in ways that are consistent with who we are, how we think, our values and beliefs, and our perceived needs and wants. If you want to change the way you behave, change the way you think.
Accept Reality and Make Better Choices
We make better choices and are happier when we stop living in the world of how things could or should be, and live in the world of ‘how things are.”
Learn to see yourself, others, and situations accurately and you will decrease the intensity of your emotions, be more authentic, make better choices, and have greater joy and peace.
DBT Skill: Radical Acceptance
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) helps people learn to understand and regulate their emotions by building Four Key Skills: Basic Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Relationship Skills.
"Radical acceptance" is when we stop fighting reality and stop being angry because things or people are not the way we wish. Radical acceptance does not mean we like or approve of something. It also doesn’t mean that we can’t try to do something to change things. What it does mean is that we accept that there is a cause for everything, and to say something shouldn’t happen is to deny this reality.
Sometimes we aren’t ready to radically accept the truth of something. In this case, it is helpful to simply “turn the mind.” Turning the mind means we recognize that we have come to a fork in the road. We can either turn towards anger and bitterness or we can turn towards acceptance. We decide to turn towards acceptance, even if we are not there yet.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
To learn more about skills for a better life, or if you are interested in counselling services, please visit Validity Counselling's homepage,
Author: Jenny DeReis
Jenny is CEO and therapist at Validity Counselling in Prince George, BC. She has a Master's Degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Calgary.
Jenny has intensive and advanced training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) from Dr. Charlie Swansen, author of several books on DBT . She has also received DBT training from the Behavior Tech Institute, and from DBT expert Sherri Van Dijk.