WE GIVE IN TO THE MEANING OF DEPRESSION WHEN WE OVERGENERALIZE AND REACH NEGATIVE CONCLUSIONS ABOUT OURSELVES, OTHERS AND OUR LIFE SITUATIONS, BASED ON LIMITED EVIDENCE.
To identify the cognitions or perceptions that run us about with disempowering feelings that give power to the meaning of depression, we need to tune into our thoughts. Writing down our thoughts helps us to monitor them and to identify the beliefs sponsoring them. Especially the ones that savour our feelings with the true meaning of depression.
Our cognitions or perceptions, our thoughts about a situation and our underlying beliefs, determine how we respond to any given occurrence and the state of our feelings. Challenging the irrational aspects of our thinking helps us to mitigate our miserable feelings. When things do not work out as planned, in spite of our best intentions, it is important to be flexible. Inflexible beliefs often heighten our sense of despair.
Sometimes, we taste the meaning of depression by feeling anxious, sad, guilty, embarrassed, angry or some other burdensome emotion without being aware of any particular thought. In such a situation, it would be constructive to ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way right now? What kind of meaning am I reading into this situation.” This simple practice can help us to identify the thoughts behind particular emotions.
Faulty thinking like thinking in black-and-white, either good or bad, while ignoring the middle ground, contribute to most upsetting emotions. Not acknowledging that most situations are neither fantastic nor disastrous, but somewhere in-between is quite distorting. When we engage in distorted thinking, we tend to ignore other options that may lead us to favourable outcomes. Our obsession with our first preference will not allow us to explore the other options. Ignoring the fact that people have both positive and negative traits, and categorising people as strictly bad is an ill of distorted thinking.
We give in to the meaning of depression when we overgeneralize and reach negative conclusions about ourselves, others and our life situations, based on limited evidence. Some failed relationships are not enough for one to conclude that he or she is incapable of having a relationship. Failure is not an evidence that one is incapable of having a happy relationship or succeeding in life.
For us to personalise situations oppressively is to feel responsible for things that are not our fault or to wrongly assume that others are intentionally targeting us with their responses. The actions and responses of others are largely prompted by their emotional or psychological states. Bearing this fact in the mind helps us to go about it with a flexibility that motivates us not to take any outburst personally. Angry outbursts often reflect a vulnerable emotional state. The reward for this insight and flexibility is reduced stress and good relationships in the longer term.
To upset ourselves and become deficient in laughter is to nurture negative beliefs about ourselves, others and the world and allow it to bias the way that we perceive many of our experiences. Our mind is quick to alert us to events that validate our self-doubts, insecurities and fears. We tend to filter out information that contradicts those cognitions or perceptions. Thus, we find ourselves focusing on the negative aspects of situations to the exclusion of all other relevant constructive information. A habitual state of anxiety is often associated with the belief that the world is an unsafe place. Such a belief sets our mind and attention to all evidence that supports it while filtering out those that suggest otherwise.
Starting off with an excessive state of anxiety is akin to jumping to negative conclusions, in spite of limited evidence to support them. We do this by believing the worst when things go wrong and holding others’ comments or motives to a most negative light.
We are often wrong when we assume that we know what others are thinking. We frequently assume that others are judging us harshly, when in fact, they are not. Mind reading and perceived negative evaluation by others heighten social anxiety and social phobia. A person who believes that others consider him a loser may avoid social events like parties and miss out on the opportunity of fulfilling his or her desires.
Blaming and condemning others for their faults or shortcomings draws out bitterness, resentment and resistance that does not solve any problem. Blaming can be disempowering to us if it prevents us from taking responsibility for our lives and taking action to improve our situation.
Thoughts that focus on specific behaviours do not pose a problem to us, unlike the ones we use to label ourselves as a fool, idiot, failure, ugly and so forth. Making gross generalisations about ourselves based on specific behaviours or experiences diminishes our self-esteem. When we overgeneralise, we disregard the fact that we are a complex mixture of personal characteristics and behaviours and cannot be summarised by one or few of these. It is illogical and self-defeating to label ourselves or others, for it darkens our moods and the interpersonal climate. Distinguishing between a person’s action and the person as a whole is important. Thus, specific actions can be regarded as a selfish, but the person as a whole should not be labelled as selfish. To learn from our experiences and maintain a positive empowering outlook, it is crucial to identify the factors or habits that feed our negative experiences rather labelling ourselves in a very negative light.
The habit of focusing on negative possibilities like a failure, rejection, loss, pain and so forth makes us anxious in the present moment and robs us of the ability to engage fully with the world around us and live in the present. Uncertainty is a fact of life in our world. Finding ways to reassure ourselves that we will be able to cope in the face of challenging situations is helpful.
Comparing ourselves to others often greets us with feelings of inadequacy and bitterness because we will always find people who are doing better than us in specific areas, inevitably.
Negative or irrational beliefs often sponsor our strong upsetting emotions like anger, frustration, guilt, anxiety and so forth. To foster a more psychologically empowering way of thinking, it is important to identify our thinking patterns and to monitor our cognitions or perceptions and to logically challenge our irrational thoughts.