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Three-Minute-Therapy for Terrorism Anxiety.

Note: This is an older article, but the principles are still effective. Indeed they are effective for many other emotional dysfunctions, not just terrorism anxiety.  Dr. Edelstein's Three Minute Therapy is another version of CBT. He is a master therapist, trained in REBT under Dr. Albert Ellis

By Dr. Michael Edelstein

In the aftermath of the tragic New York and Washington terrorist attacks, some individuals continue to experience paralyzing feelings of anxiety, hysteria, panic, phobias, and depression.

  Three Minute Therapy (TMT), based on the pioneering work of psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, offers a simple process for overcoming these debilitating feelings. TMT is based on clear principles having profound implications:

  1. You are responsible for your own emotions and actions, 

  2. Your harmful emotions and dysfunctional behaviors are the product of your irrational thinking,

  3. You can learn more realistic views and, with practice, make them a part of you.

  4. You'll experience a deeper acceptance of yourself and greater satisfactions in life by developing a reality-based perspective.

Follow these simple steps:

Step I. Recognize that you create your anxiety, phobias, and depressions. Events themselves, no matter how tragic, never can. Such disasters lead to appropriate sadness, grief, and mourning. However, unrealistic thinking distorts these adaptive emotions.

Step II. Identify your "musts." Once you admit that you disturb your own emotions and actions, then determine precisely how. The culprit usually lies in demands you place on yourself, others, or situations, for example:

  1. I MUST function perfectly normally right now or else I'll never return to my prior normal state. Functioning abnormally turns me into an inadequate failure.
  2. The world MUST be completely free of extreme tragedies and since it's not, I can't bear it. This proves the world is a horrible, terrible place.
  3. I MUST have a guarantee I'm absolutely safe from danger or else I'm not safe at all. I can never be happy without certainty.

Step III. Dispute your "musts." The only way you can ever get undisturbed about adversity is by vigorously, persistently challenging and contradicting your flawed view. Once you've bared them, then relentlessly confront and question your demands.  it's not, I can't bear it.

Begin by asking yourself: "What's the evidence for my `must?'" "How is it true?" "Where's it etched in stone?" And then by seeing: "There's no evidence." "My `must' is entirely false." "It's not carved indelibly anywhere." Make your view "must"-free, and then your emotions will heal. Three Minute Therapy details effective ways to achieve this most important step.

Step IV. Reinforce your preferences. Conclude, therefore: 

  • I strongly PREFER to function normally right now, but even if I don't, I will accept myself unconditionally. At worst, all this proves about my personhood is that I'm an imperfect human who acts imperfectly, never an inadequate failure.

  • I deeply PREFER that the world be completely free of extreme  tragedies but since it's not, I can still enjoy life somewhat, although I would enjoy it more in a perfect universe.

  • I keenly PREFER to have a guarantee that I'm absolutely safe from danger and it's uncomfortable not to have such guarantees, but I can live happily in an uncertain universe as long as I refuse to demand more.

Assuming that you take the above suggestions to heart and thereby greatly reduce your anxiety, panic, and depression, what remains? Will you exist robot-like, devoid of human feeling and motivation? Hardly! Without your turmoil, you'll more easily experience involvement, satisfaction, and joy in a deeply flawed world.


© Copyright Mill Valley, 2001,  (Reproduced with permission of Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D.

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