Inadequate account of human emotions

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A second common critique of cognitive therapy is that it focuses on cognition to the point of discounting the role of emotions in effecting change during psychotherapy. Other critics maintain that cognitive therapy is rationalistic in the sense of making a detached or common-sense attitude toward life as the implicit goal of therapy. Cognitive therapy does not, however, regard intellectual insight by itself as sufficient to bring about change, nor does it hold that all emotional distress is caused by dysfunctional thinking.

A related objection to cognitive therapy's approach to the emotions is that it encourages people to trivialize painful feelings or reinterpret them in inappropriately positive ways. One commentator refers to David Burns's popular book Feeling Good as an example of this reductionism, quoting Burns on the proper way to grieve for someone's death:

[Burns says] "You validly think 'I lost him (or her), and I will continue to miss the companionship and love we shared.' The feelings such a thought creates are tender, realistic and desirable. Your emotions will enhance your humanity . . . . In this way you gain from your loss."

My first thought on reading this was "Thank God I am not loved by David Burns." What about mourning? The new rush to "positivize" everything turns even death and mourning into a matter of gain. . . . David Burns' idealized mourner is a narcissist who is incapable of any deep feeling at all, or who has to distort emotion into a "desirable" channel before it can be felt.

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