Do you suffer from depression, especially situational depression that comes and goes, but that can be very debilitating? Perhaps you’re also taking some medication and see a therapist regularly, as in the case of those who suffer from clinical depression.
In any case, lifestyle changes are always in order when we get depressed. One of these is the way we think. Dr. David Burn who wrote The Feeling Good Handbook tells us about “cognitive therapy” that is, ways in which we can identify what we are thinking and saying to ourselves and how it can lead us either into depression or melancholy, or out of it.
I’ve come up with my own favorite “top eight” ways in which I can drive myself into a sadness if I’m not aware of them. Each is a habit that can be broken with time and practice. Maybe you’ll see yourself in one or more of them!
Wishing upon a star. Melancholy thrives on magical thinking. If we believe hard enough and trust in some benevolent force, we hope our dreams for life will come true. When they don’t our disappointment leads to feeling unvalued, ignored, or left out.
The Victim. An unattractive but prevalent and tenacious habits, feeling like a victim lays the foundation for cognitive dissonance. We are automatically pitted against the world, in which there are sinister intentions, conspiracy theories, indifference toward our needs, and lots of shaming.
Idealistic expectations. This is “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” thinking at its worst. It is compounded when we also insert an idealized universe based in a religious interpretation. These expectations will back-fire nearly every time.
Pipe dreams and romantic reverie. Daydreaming is a great escape, but can also emphasize the disparity between life as it is and as it should be in our “perfect” world. Ultimately it means that our lives are not enough.
Lack of emotional boundaries. This plagues the highly sensitive, but to some degree everybody. We fail to establish the filters that regulate external stimuli. Our sense of empathy goes wild and overwhelm leads to depression.
Comparison and envy. These habits tap into our righteous indignation and trap us in a continuous analysis loop: I’m not like her; she’s more successful (better looking, thinner, richer, etc.); I wish I was more successful; I wish I was more like her; I’m not like her; she’s more successful… and so we move through a continuous loop to nowhere.
I’m not enough or good enough. In this state of mind, no matter how hard we try, no matter what we are given to work with, no matter what good things others say about us, we don’t believe we have what it takes to please others, to meet their needs, to find a relationship, or to get validation and recognition for our accomplishments.
Cause and effect spirituality. This view undergirds a lot of religions. It is a warped understanding of grace from misinterpreted texts. In this view we don’t really believe God will help us until and if we live up to God’s ideal expectations and “please him”.
I find that identifying these triggers is 90% of the solution to my depression. When I say them out loud I realize how silly I sound and if I’m honest with myself, I’m able to counter these statements with the truth. Try it and let me know how it works for you!
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Text and artwork copyrighted by Michael Parise