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The Importance of Disputing Irrational Beliefs

When you change your thinking, you change your emotions. 

Key points

  • Our emotions are generated by our thinking about situations.
  • Identify the thinking that's causing your emotional disturbance.
  • Question, challenge, and contradict your irrational thinking. Search for the data to support it. (You won't find it. It doesn't exist.)
  • Practice this process again, and again, and again.

Below is what I call a Three Minute Exercise (TME) to master irrational beliefs that sway our emotions.

A. Activating event: Suppose in preparing for a new job you've researched the options and had interviews. One was with the company that was your first preference. The bad news: you failed to get hired by the company of your choice.

B. Irrational Belief: You told yourself, "I absolutely must have my first choice. It's the end of the world since I failed. I can't stand being rejected."

C. Undesirable emotional Consequences: Depression, hopelessness.

D: Disputing or questioning your irrational belief. "What is the evidence I absolutely must get my first choice and it's the end of my world if I don't? Where is it written I cannot stand being rejected? How is this rejection awful, terrible, and horrible?"

E: Although I strongly prefer to get my first choice of a company to work at there's absolutely no reason why I absolutely must get it. I would not like 2nd, 3rd or even 10th choice, but I can definitely stand what I don't like. I've survived with less than I want in the past and I will survive this time. This would provide me with a golden opportunity to practice unconditionally accepting less than #1 in my life.

F: New Feeling. Hopeful.


D. is based on scientific inquiry which employs the empirical method. It consists of a thought experiment. In general terms, you devise an hypothesis then think about evidence for or against it. For example consider this hypothesis: humans act. Think of a case where this is false. I'm reasonably certain you cannot. Or consider this hypothesis: the earth is flat. Think of a case where a sailor circling the globe has never been heard from again. If the earth were flat we'd have numerous cases of disappearances. It has not happened. You arrived at these conclusions using a thought experiment. These are the kind of thought experiments D refers to.

Now start practicing!


Edelstein, M.R. & Steele, D.R. (2019). Three Minute Therapy. San Francisco, CA: Gallatin House.

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