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 used 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 parts: 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 targets 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 principles of the emotional schema approach you many be familiar with, and some might 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 on. 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 (affiliate link).
I received a reviewer copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.