MH@H Book Reviews

Book Review: Don’t Believe Everything You Feel

Book cover: Don't Believe Everything You Feel by Robert L. Leahy

Don’t Believe Everything You Feel by Robert L. Leahy uses an emotional schema approach to help you manage anxiety and depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tools are ussd as part of this approach. It’s set up as a workbook, with a substantial amount of text interspersed with worksheets. Some of the worksheets are fairly structured, but mostly there are thought-provoking questions with space provided to answer them.

The author breaks emotions down into five part: sensations, beliefs, goals, behaviours, and interpersonal tendencies. He explains the difference between thoughts and emotions, and talks about identifying triggers for emotions.

The book treats all emotions as valid, and challenges the feeling rules that we learn in childhood and beyond. Once an emotion arises, we respond to it based on emotional schemas. The beliefs and strategies that make up these schemas are the main target of the book.

While emotions themselves aren’t problematic, the author explains that our responses to them may not be effective. These problematic responses include invalidation, guilt, and fear of loss of control. There’s a chapter devoted to feeling guilty about emotions, which I think is a common problem for people with mental illness.

Some of the principals of the emotional schema approach you many be familiar with, and some might be feel uncomfortable. Leahy explains that everyone experiences unpleasant emotions and disappointment, and difficult emotions have an important function in warning us about our needs. A chapter was devoted to ambivalence and mixed feelings, which the book frames as normal.

There was a section on becoming a victim that I wasn’t all that keen. To prevent being a victim, the author suggests asserting yourself and your rights, protesting, and seeking an apology or restitution. While those aren’t bad things, to me, that seems like a rather privileged stance.

While some of the worksheets had examples that were already filled out, the question and answer bits didn’t. I think providing some examples could have made it easier to reflect on the questions more effectively and at a deeper level.

This wasn’t the first CBT workbook I’ve read, nor will it be the last, and what I look for is something to make a book stand out. While the content of this book was good, I didn’t feel as engaged as I have with other similar books. There isn’t a strong sense of the author’s self being present in the book. That’s not necessarily a bad choice, but it misses out on a potential source of uniqueness. That doesn’t leave a lot of room to stand out from the pack.

Don’t Believe Everything You Feel is available on Amazon.

I received a reviewer copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

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30 thoughts on “Book Review: Don’t Believe Everything You Feel”

  1. That’s really interesting. I’m intrigued by why so many people are anti-victim, when in reality, a lot of people are genuinely victimized. Like, okay, someone’s house gets burglarized. That homeowner is, by definition, a victim. And yet victimhood has taken on all these negative connotations. Obviously there’s a limit. Like, what was that quote you liked from my Enervation of Eve book? Something about how the boy skinned his knee. But the whole problem with shaming victims is that trauma is often quite real, and it is what it is. Not sure if that makes sense, ’cause I’m not awake yet! Oh! But if you want to read a book where the victim-blaming is just off the charts to the point of extreme offensiveness, check out Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can by Caroline Myss. She slams incest victims and calls them whiners. Incest victims. Geez.

    1. I dislike victim blaming in all capacities, but I wonder if the real problem comes with people who feign victimization for attention or those who get stuck in the role of victimhood and struggle to ever get out of it, seeing themselves as victims at every turn? I know I sometimes struggle with the latter. Even with all the therapy and healing I’ve done. I have to be careful to not get stuck in the mindset of victimhood.

      1. That makes sense as a problem! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but if you see yourself as a victim all the time, you’d create self-fulfilling prophecies and good things would be less likely to enter your life!! That would bite!! Since you’ve worked so hard on healing, you deserve happy things!!

  2. While I do not think the suggestions for how to stop being a victim would work for me – I already have the tendency to apologize for everything – I would definitely love to read the chapter about guilt!

    1. And sometimes people aren’t in a position to be able to speak up for themselves or seek apologies in the first placed because of imbalances in power and control.

      1. 100% true. And, that was me and still is to some extent. With time and work on myself (and a lot of circumstances lining up), I have made improvements in those areas. Unfortunately, no matter how much work I do, I can’t fix my illness.

  3. CBT and DBT were the stepping stones I used in the beginning of my healing 9 years ago. I really appreciate the mind- body connection to understanding the blueprints to my feelings. Lately I’ve been focused on heartcentered living. I’ve learned that the ones around us who shaped our conditioning and who were tasked with helping us connect to our feflings didn’t always teach us to embrace our feelings but wanted us to shut down, block out or simply ignore what we felt because that was easier for them. CBT and DBT had me review all my beliefs especially the core ones, challenge which ones didn’t serve and create new more aligned ones for who I am. Once we can break free from what was modeled and programmed into us, we can create what makes the most sense for our own being. It’s taken me years to figure this out, thus freeing my own spirit and awaken to higher consciousness. A very important tool, thank you for sharing my friend 🙏

  4. // To prevent being a victim, the author suggests asserting yourself and your rights, protesting, and seeking an apology or restitution. While those aren’t bad things, to me, that seems like a rather privileged stance. //

    Yeppppp. Omfg. I could go on a rant about the victim-survivor dichotomy

    1. I don’t think the author was intending to refer to people who’ve experienced trauma, but any time anyone starts talking about “playing the victim” or “victim mentality,” it’s a slap in the face to people who’ve been victimized by abusers.

      1. Yeah, and to be honest, I believe a trauma informed approach ought to be the default since trauma is really very common, and many survivors don’t even know they’ve been through trauma

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