I had a good session with my cognitive therapist. I have a much better understanding of how cognitive distortions are making me feel depressed. Just the fact that there is some way of understanding what I’m going through gives me hope.
I was reluctant to buy the whole thing about not thinking negatively. If my situation is terrible I need to be aware of it, and not allow any therapist to convince me to think happy thoughts. I don’t want to be a happy idiot that ignores the truth.
But the more I get into this cognitive therapy treatment, the more I realize I have been distorting my thinking. I trust my therapist now that she will help me identify cognitive distortions and that she will not try to make me distort things in a positive way either, but simply help me interpret my current situation rationally.
I sure have nothing against thinking rationally, and if it helps me feel better and get my life back in order, well, that’s a no brainer.
I guess I am not the only depressed patient that has cognitive distortions because people have bothered to even put the different types of cognitive distortions into categories. It turns out I tend to fall into the following types of distorted thinking:
Black or white thinking:
Lately I’ve been frequently telling myself that I am a complete loser, a failure, that I have no chance of ever working again, that I’ll run out of money and my wife will leave me. I can see now how every single one of these phrases was distorted thinking. Every one of these statements takes something that is partially true to the extreme. I might not be very successful in my career, but I am not a complete failure either. My finances will deteriorate sharply if I don’t find a job soon, but it is unlikely I will be completely broke. My chances of working again are not great, but they are certainly not zero. The relationship with my wife might get worse, we might become more distant, but she might not leave me.
Anyway, I am clearly far away from having any “happy thoughts”, but avoiding the black-or-white all-or-nothing thinking has helped me avoid the deepest feelings of depression.
They say one bad apple spoils the other apples. I guess it’s the same with thinking. I am going through a tough phase in my career right now, but I generalize it and tell myself I’ve always been mediocre at work. I know I haven’t always felt that way.
I also tell myself nobody wants to be around me anymore. And it’s true that my wife keeps avoiding me. And I understand I’ve been irritable around her. Again I overgeneralize and include other people that have not avoided me at all. In fact my children are calling me often. Talking about my children here’s another cognitive distortion I’ve caught myself falling into: “discounting the positive.”
Discounting the Positive:
I honestly felt ashamed when my therapist asked me about any positive feedback I had ever got at work or from my family.
I hadn’t thought about those things for a while, but when she asked I remembered.
I remembered every time my ex-boss called me to his office to thank me for a good job I had done (well he actually said great, but I can’t help myself still discounting the positive a little bit).
I remembered the time my son told me he was proud of me and the many times my wife has told me how good a father I am.
It’s really amazing how I’ve blocked all these positive memories from my mind when thinking what a failure I am. It’s like I already made the conclusion and I only look in my memories for evidence to corroborate my negative thinking.