How Thoughts Affect Emotions:
At the Beach

Three men on a tropical vacation decided to spend a day at the beach while their wives went shopping. The first man had been raised in an unhappy family and tended to focus on the gloomy side of life. When he arrived at the beach he thought about being eaten by sharks, drowned by the surf, sunburned, and robbed. These thoughts caused him to feel anxious and he spent the day sitting under an umbrella warily watching strangers walk by.

The second man came from a chaotic family where neither parent exercised much foresight or leadership. Consequences were rarely considered. He viewed the ocean as completely safe, the sun weak and strangers harmless. As a result, he was nearly carried out to sea by the rip-tide, was badly sunburned and had his camera stolen.

The men returned to their hotel later in the afternoon. The pessimist complained to his wife that he had had a lousy time at the beach. He was bored, it was too hot, and there were thieves waiting to steal his things. He intended to spend the rest of his vacation in the hotel room reading thick novels and watching television. This upset his wife and they began to argue.

Though the idealist whined about nearly drowning, being sunburnt and having his camera stolen, his wife wasnít very sympathetic. After all, she had often warned him to swim more cautiously, to use sunscreen, and not to trust strangers.

The realistic man reported having an absolutely great day! He played in the surf for hours and didnít get sunburned. He felt safe on the beach because he had nothing to steal. Though he felt sorry for his unfortunate friends he did not let their problems ruin his mood. After all, they always ignored his advice and even seemed to prefer to learn the hard way.

All three men went to the same beach. Their emotions and actions were controlled by the nature of their thoughts. By accepting his negative thoughts without question, the pessimistic man felt in danger and hid. The idealist ignored the hazards posed by the sea and sun and was harmed. The realist viewed the beach in a balanced fashion, offset the dangers and enjoyed himself.

To improve their enjoyment of the beach, the pessimist and the idealist would have to learn to think more like their realistic friend. The pessimist needs to recognize the negative thoughts that ruin his mood, and then to either ignore or replace them. To avoid danger, the idealist must learn to predict the consequences of his actions more accurately.

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