When I am depressed. I do not think clearly. I feel like I’m worthless and that no one really likes me. I feel like there is nothing that I can do.
I keep telling myself these negative thoughts:
I have no control.
I can’t get going and I have no motivation energy.
Things are always bad and they won’t get better.
This kind of negative or distorted thinking includes more than self-criticism. It is a negative view of the world and the future as well as a negative view of the self. This way of thinking is a well established habit. The more self-critical and helpless I feel the more miserable I am. The more miserable I am, the more depressed I feel. How can I stop this cycle? If I could keep the negative thought from crowding my mind I might be able to remember my good qualities. For example, I know that I am helpful, generous, flexible, and have a warm smile. I am truthful, caring, considerate of others, responsible. and thoughtful .
We want to foucs today on the connection bretween what I think and the way it makes me feel. The task will be to practice changing what I think in order to feel better. (See the Depressed Anonymous Publication : I’ll do it when I feel better (2016). Louisville. KY.
What I think determines what I feel. Thoughts produce feelings, feelings cause moods and moods cause behaviors.
It is sometimes hard to recognize the connection between what I think and how I feel. So, it may help to think about simple examples.
If I showed a spider to five people, one might scream, one might back away, one might poke it to get it to spin a web, one might put it by the fish pond so its web would catch mosquitoes, one might get a magnifying glass to look at the exquisite markings on its back. All of the responses, though different, resulted from what the person Thought about spiders.
The one who screamed THOUGHT spider bites were fatal.
The one who backed away THOUGHT “Be careful!”. He was mistrustful of what kind it was.
The one who poked it was curious. His THOUGHT was “what will it do!?”
The person who put it by the pond THOUGHT it was a useful insect.
The person who got the magnifying glass THOUGHT it was beautiful.
In each of these cases, the person could probably say th e spider caused the response when, in fact, what they THOUGHT about spiders determined how they responded and how they felt.
Similarly, what I think about myself, and how I believe I should behave, determines what I do and how I feel.
One of the goals of this session today and tomorrow is to stop the negative, self-defacing thoughts and beliefs that may result in symptoms of depression and replace them with useful, positive, constructive thinking.
One of the first steps is to become aware of all the different kinds of self-critical thoughts that cause trouble. Following are some examples of situations and reactions.
Situation: I didn’t get Sue’s invitation to the party
Negative thoughts: No one likes me.
Feelings and reactions: Rejection and depression. I won’t talk to her tomorrow.
EXERCISE # 1
In the following situations, look at the possible negative thoughts that might explain the person’s feelings and actions.
A man’s neighbor came over to ask if he could borrow a shovel. The man took him to the garage to get the shovel. The garage was cluttered with junk and tools. After some digging around he finally found the shovel to loan to his friend. His negative thought might be: (circle one of the below).
- How embarrassing to have my neighbor see this messy garage.
- I should keep this place clean all the time.
- It’s terrible to be so unorganized The man had “rules” that he thought he should follow. It wasn’t right to not always live up to his own values. Therefore, he was embarrassed by the clu tter in his garage. He was sure the neighbor would think less of him. When in fact the neighbor was thinking “Gee, this guy must be OK, his garage looks just like mine.”
Tomorrow we will continue our discussion on our important topic of how I think determines how I feel and respond to life situations and environments.
SOURCES: I’ll do it when I feel better(2016) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky.
Depressed Anonymous, 3rd edition. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville. Ky.
Quotations from A University of Oregon Doctoral Dissertation:A Depression Workbook.