It’s gratifying to hear that mental health is part of the discussion so far after the recent tragedy in Newtown. Even if there hadn’t been a shooting, we have millions of people in the country who generate more emotion than is helpful or necessary, and than they know what to do with, and they suffer needlessly in a host of ways because they do. And there is a simple thing we could start doing tomorrow in every school across the nation that would be a major ounce of prevention worth many pounds of cure. And it wouldn’t cost a penny to do it. And it would be good for teachers as well. The vast majority of people walking this planet, including most teachers and parents, have an external locus. They wrongly believe that what others say and do, and what happens, makes them feel the way they do. This puts them at the mercy of their life events, and often causes them to generate more emotion than necessary or helpful, and to more importantly, to miss many opportunities to feel better. The formula for feelings is: EVENT THOUGHTS = FEELINGS. Anything that happens, or that others say and do is technically just an EVENT in the formula. It’s what we choose to think about those events, be they real or imagined, that really determine how we feel. Thoughts cause feelings, not events. It’s like that formula we all learn in algebra, a b = c, where a is a constant, and b is a variable. If a stays the same, and you change b, c changes. Likewise, if the EVENT stays the same, and you change your THOUGHTS about it, your FEELINGS change, either for the better or worse. Dr. Albert Ellis long ago invented the ABC Theory of Emotions, where: A = Activating Event (or adversity) B = Beliefs C = Consequences (feel, do) He contended that how you feel and what you do is a consequence of what you believe about the activating event, and sometimes yourself, others and life. We all do have a host of cognitive choices that we make all the time, usually without being aware that we do. We’re usually unaware because we make them so automatically because of prior practice and rehearsal. The choices include: 1) How we LOOK AT what happens, or ourselves 2) What MEANING we attach to what happens 3) What we REMEMBER about the past 4) What we IMAGINE well happen in the future 5) What we FOCUS on 6) What we COMPARE things to 7) What we EXPECT of ourselves, others and life 8) How much IMPORTANCE we attach to what does happen Making young people more aware of the choices they have, and teaching them how to make them differently and better, can be very empowering. It can “vaccinate” young people mentally and emotionally against all kinds of mental health, health and social problems. These choices can act like “mental and emotional karate” moves against bullying. It can give young people the mental and emotional fitness to function at levels they are capable of. And like I said, it wouldn’t cost a penny to implement this into school curriculum. And it would be good for teachers as well. Too many of them needlessly stress themselves out and disturb themselves because they have an external locus of control, and wrongly blame students for how they make themselves feel. And that causes them to make many mistakes with students, especially the most troubled and troublesome ones they can least afford to make mistakes with. You can learn more about the “tool” of an Internal Locus of Control” at: http://www.itsjustanevent.com/Pagefour.html If a teacher simply read that page, they could help themselves a great deal, and start a discussion tomorrow in their classroom. Do that simple thing in every classroom, in age appropriate ways, and we’d be headed in the right direction
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