I can’t believe I’m falling for depression’s unhelpful thinking.
My work on this has been extensive. I have looked at each of the ten main unhelpful thinking styles in depth. And I have studied how depression uses these to control my actions very subtly, and worse, to control my thoughts.
It is clear to me now that I cannot control events.
Hurricanes, taxes, annual reviews, even how other people drive. But what I can control is my attitude towards events. This is the only thing I have complete control over. Yet it is easy to give that control to others.
Depression loves it when I slip into unhelpful thinking.
By inserting an unhelpful thought into my head, depression gets me to consider its ideas. Then, as the unhelpful thinking piles on, I am sucked into believing that what I am thinking is the truth. Little by little, depression gnaws away at me, keeping me from seeing that I have choices.
Depression has 10 major ways to invoke unhelpful thinking. Here is the list I received during my stay at 5 East:
- All or Nothing Thinking – Sometimes called “black and white thinking.”
- Mental Filter – Only paying attention to certain types of evidence.
- Jumping to Conclusions – There are two types; Mind-Reading (imagining we know what others are thinking) and Fortune-Telling (predicting the future).
- Emotional Reasoning – Assuming that because we feel a certain way, what we think must be true.
- Labeling – Assigning labels to ourselves or other people.
- Over-generalizing – Seeing a pattern based upon a single event or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw.
- Disqualifying the Positive – Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for some reason or another.
- Magnification (catastrophizing) & Minimizing – Blowing things out of proportion.
- Critical Words (should and must) – Using critical words like “should,” “must,” or “ought” can make us feel guilty or like we have already failed.
- Personalization – Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t completely your fault. Conversely, blaming other people for something that was your fault.
Each of these styles has its own mode of operation.
And often, they combine into mega unhelpful thinking. At times, one single thought could be categorized with two or more styles. I noticed this when I began to see how often I was slipping into one of these unhelpful thinking styles.
I hear someone say, “why did you put the used cup on the counter where the clean dishes are?
- First, I Jump to conclusions (That was so wrong of me, why couldn’t I understand what was really being asked of me?)
- Then, I catastrophize the situation. I blow way out of proportion by putting the cup with the clean dishes “I should have seen that they were clean and put the cup somewhere else.This is terrible.”
- Now it’s over-generalization. By not hearing exactly what was asked of me,” I always am not hearing what is being said.’
- And here we are at all or nothing thinking. Suddenly I am saying to myself, “you always do that.” This puts me on the defensive.
- Let’s try one more because now I am defending my actions. This is rationalization. While not included in the top 10, I use it often. I feel that I must defend my actions at all costs. Right or wrong, my actions ARE ME. If they are wrong, then I am wrong.
- I thought I heard, “I’m still using the cup, so don’t put it with the dirty dishes.” This left the area where the clean dishes are. And it’s not like the cup touched any of the clean dishes, even though it was on the same drying surface.
- And the worst part is; all I want to do is get out of here, to leave, to move to a different state and start over.
All this from the act of putting a cup in the wrong place on the counter.
It beats me how things got this crazy, but this series of thoughts ran through my head within seconds of the statement. Minutes later the person who said it was talking about something else, something we were going to do later. None of the unhelpful thinking styles were involved.
It was just a conversation about going to the park later.
No catastrophizing, no all or nothing, and certainly not any over-generalization. It was just a conversation about going to the park. It sounds fun to me, and I am now looking forward to going. Thankfully, I am not thinking of running away.