Aaron Beck – Psychology and Happiness
Aaron Beck (1921- )
American psychologist and the founder of cognitive therapy, now known as cognitive behaviour
His most famous book is...
Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders (1976)
His tips on happiness and stress management
1. Be positive
Cognitive therapy believes that depression and emotional problems are caused by negative ideas about yourself,
the future and society (“automatic thoughts”) – see points 2 and 3.
Don’t be self-critical, or expect to fail.
2. Avoid “distorted thinking”
Distorted thinking is problematic thinking arising from 11 “cognitive distortions” that result in faulty
assumptions and preconceptions:
- all-or-nothing thinking – being a perfectionist and seeing
things in black and white (something is right or wrong without any compromise in
- overgeneralization – constant negativity resulting from one
single negative event.
- mental filter – dwelling on a single negative event.
- disqualifying the positive – rejecting positive experiences and evidence
contradicting negative beliefs.
- jumping to negative conclusions – without good reason.
- magnification (or minimization) – exaggerating negative
feelings and minimizing your strengths.
- emotional reasoning – assuming your negativity is reality.
- should statements - punishing yourself with musts, oughts and shoulds.
- labelling and mislabelling – attaching negative labels to
yourself and others.
- personalization – blaming yourself for something you’re not responsible for.
- self-worth – assuming that your self-worth depends on behaving in a certain
3. Remember the “cognitive thread”
Cognitive thread refers to three factors that unhappy people distort into something unnecessarily negative:
- yourself (negativity leading to low self-esteem and feelings of unlovability).
4. Learn from Albert Ellis
Beck was greatly influenced by Ellis’s ABC Model which says that unhappiness is
Activating a distressing event.
Beliefs (that are inappropriate for the event)
Consequences (damaging emotional responses to the
Ellis's (pictured right) Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) says that people and
things will upset us, only if we believe that they can.
So, like Beck, he was a big supporter of positive thinking.
Key quote on happiness
By correcting erroneous beliefs, we can lower excessive reactions.