During depression we sometimes confuse the normal thought process with “I must be mad” or “Why do I feel like this” or even “This only happens to me”. All of these are emotions which I have shown and displayed myself so I know that they happen.
What I would like to do here, is show you some normal thought processes and then try and give some hints and tips for you to try changing your perspective on events.
I agree that none of this is easy, in fact at first I could not see that I was doing any of the following. It was only after accepting that I was both “ill” and ” was not acting rationally to normal events,” that I then took another look at the way I viewed things. I was then able use the following to help me deal with “life” and “situations” again (in a more rational way).
Please read through this section and then see if you can identify with any of it?
- Human beings tend to be emotional.
- We tend to let our hearts rule our heads, a lot of the time.
We need however, to watch that such “emotional reasoning” doesn’t get us into trouble.
Do you ever think:
- “I feel guilty. This must mean I’ve done something wrong.”
- “I know that I can’t prove it but I just feel that its true.”
These are both examples of emotional reasoning. You are letting your heart rule your head.
Again you must search for evidence to support feeling this way. If you can’t find any then you will have to try to accept that you are being ‘emotional‘.
You are putting yourself down for no good reason. you have a choice:
- You can continue to ‘feel‘ guilty or let down (or whatever) for no good reason.
- Or you can tell yourself that there is no reason WHY you should feel this way and then try to work out how you should be feeling.
Should & Musts
Do you ever find yourself saying:
- “I should be able to pull myself together”
- “I must always try to appear cheerful”
- “I should always want to be with my family”
These kind of thoughts make heavy demands upon you emotionally. They make you feel that:
- You are a failure (if you can’t pull yourself together).
- You have let others down (if you aren’t always cheerful)
- You feel guilty (if you don’t want to be with your family).
It is one thing to want to try to be positive, or cheerful or loving. It is quite another to say you should or must always be like that.
When you find yourself using “should or musts” simply tell yourself to stop trying to be perfect. Go ahead and try to be positive, or loving or cheerful but don’t punish yourself if you can’t always keep it up.
When things go wrong you may find yourself sticking labels on yourself:
- When you have a quarrel with someone this may mean that you are a “rotten person.”
- When you try to tackle something but give up, this means that you are “hopeless” or “useless.”
You find it difficult to recognise that you are made up of “good bits” and “bad bits” – like other people. The label you apply usually suggests that you are all completely bad or hopeless or useless.
To check this error ask for the evidence:
- How do you know that you are completely bad?
- How do you know that you will not succeed next time round?
- How do you know that other people wouldn’t have found this equally difficult?
Beware of labels – they usually hide the truth.
The final error involves thinking that “everything always happens to me.”
You may think:
- That bad things like a sudden downpour on a sunny day – have a special relationship to you.
- That this is just another example of your bad luck.
- That in some way it is your fault.
- If people have an argument, it may be a as result of something you said.
- If someone is unhappy, it is because you must have upset them.
Although it is difficult to accept, the truth is that you are not really that important. Nobody is that important. Unless you can prove to yourself that it is your fault – by pointing to some evidence – then you will have to accept that you are making the error of personalisation.
You are tricking yourself into thinking that:
- Things always happen to you.
- Things are your fault.
This is simply not true.
Black and white thinking
Do you tend to see things in ‘black-and-white‘?
- Are you either a total success, or a total failure?
- If one thing goes wrong does this mean that everything is wrong?
This error can be called ‘all-or-nothing‘.
You seem to be saying to yourself:
- If I am not perfect, I must be a complete mess.
- If everyone doesn’t love me then nobody loves me.
You are making it all a case of all-or-nothing.
Try and check this error by asking yourself:
- What if the evidence for saying that everything is wrong
- That nothing is right.
It may be true that some things are wrong, or that some improvement could be made in a situation.
This is not the same as saying:
- That everything is wrong.
- Nothing is right.
Try to remember that reality is made up of a thousand shades of grey.
- Not all good.
- Not all bad
- Not always right.
- Not always wrong.
There is no ‘black-and-white‘.
In a similar way, do you:
- Tend to use one bad experience to colour other parts of your life?
- Ever make a mistake or fail at something and say to yourself, “I never get anything right.”
This is an example of over generalisation.
Just because you fail at one thing doesn’t mean that you will fail at everything.
Maybe you fall out with a friend and end up saying “nobody loves me”. You are taking your feelings from one situation and colouring other situations in an equally bad way.
Again, the easiest way to tackle this is to ask for the evidence:
- How do you know that nobody loves you?
- How do you know that you never get anything right?
There is no need to pretend that there is no problem. At the same time, there is no value in generalising your unhappiness from one situation to the rest of your life.
Try to tell the difference between:
- Things that are really ‘bad‘ or unpleasant.
- Things which you have ‘coloured‘ black by over generalising.
Most things which happen to you are not going to be all bad. They will be made up of ‘bad bits‘ and ‘good bits‘.
Do you tend to think just about the bad bits whilst ignoring the good bits?
This is like making coffee with ground coffee. However, instead of keeping the water which runs through the ground beans, you keep the ground beans instead. Even when making coffee there is a ‘good bit‘ (the coffee liquid) and a ‘bad bit‘ (the coffee grounds).
When you find yourself saying:
- “I didn’t have a minute’s happiness today.”
- “My life has just been one problem after another.”
You may well be using the mental filter.
You may be concentrating only upon the ‘bad bits‘ – to the exclusion of the ‘good bits‘. Make a list of all the ‘bad bits‘ and then try to list the ‘good bits‘ – no matter how small they appear by comparison.
Beware of ‘filtering‘ out the bad experiences and dwelling upon them.
Discounting the positives
In a similar way, you might be telling yourself that some of the ‘good bits‘ don’t count for some reason.
You might say:
- “OK, so I did my housework today. So what? I do it every day. It’s hardly a success.”
- You may be telling yourself that certain things don’t count as a positive experience.
You reject these as positive experiences and end up dwelling upon the negative experiences (the bad bits).
This error is another version of mental filter.
If you are obliged to recognise something which isn’t really bad, you discount it by saying that its not really good either. Its nothing. Try to remind yourself that filtering out good experiences only worsens your depression.
Discounting the positive is another way of focusing on bad experiences and another way of deepening your depression.
Jumping to conclusions
Often, you may tell yourself that things are ‘bad’ although you have no evidence to support this. This is a bit like crystal ball gazing. You are predicting that certain things will happen – a bit like a fortune teller.
You may tell yourself:
- “I’ll never get over this.”
- “I’ll never be able to do that.”
How do you know? Can you foretell the future?
At other times you may say that:
- “Everyone is fed up with me.”
- “People don’t like me any more.”
How do you know? Can you read their minds?
Jumping to conclusions is a very common error – we all tend to do this from time to time.
The easiest way to challenge this error is to look for the evidence:
- How do you know that this will happen?
- How do you know that people don’t like you or don’t want you?
There is no point just saying “well I feel that way.” This is just a sign that you are jumping to conclusions.
Most of us tend to exaggerate. Maybe you do this as well.
If something goes wrong do you ever say:
- “Oh, this is terrible, and there’s nothing I can do about it?”
You may well be magnifying the problem – almost as though you were holding a magnifying glass over it. You make it much worse than it really is.
At the same time you underestimate you own ability to deal with it – almost as if you were looking at your own abilities down the wrong end of a telescope. You make them appear much smaller that they really are. You minimise yourself – you make yourself appear less able or competent.
When things go wrong you should try to avoid turning a small problem into a disaster or a complete catastrophe.
Search for the evidence:
- How bad is it really?
- Is it really so terrible?
- Is it really the worst thing which could happen to you?
- Are you really not able to do anything?
Make a list of the sort of things you might at least try.