Friday, November 18, 2011

Being Alpha: Thinking Happy

"That's one of the peculiar things about bad moods - we often fool ourselves and create misery by telling ourselves things that simply are not true."  -Dr. David D. Burns

"I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me." -Abraham Lincoln

Do you ever feel like a failure? Many people do and they feel this more often than they realize. The human brain generates a thought a second on average and 70% of these thoughts are self critical. For the less fortunate, these thoughts lead to a downward spiral of self reinforcing negative beliefs, actions and results. Is it any wonder that15% of our population suffers from chronic depression with the rate for women being far higher at 30%? Fortunately, there is a simple technique for turning this situation around and it does not involve drugs.

Being Alpha

Being Alpha is dedicated to the little tricks that lead one towards a happier and more fulfilling life. In this installment of Being Alpha, JohnQuincy examines how depression can be overcome using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Other installments in this series include:

The Slow Knowing Smile

Cognitive Theory of Depression in a Nutshell

 As opposed to psychoanalysis which dwells on the past, cognitive therapy emphasizes how our current thought processes predispose us to depression. Our feeling our caused by our thoughts. Many of these thoughts tend to be negative. Depressed people are trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts many of which are distorted yet are accepted without question. 

Here is a good summary:

Rotten to the Core - A Negative Self View

 At the core of this cycle of depression are a series of self reinforcing negative thoughts, which Cognitive Theory labels the Triad:

1.The self (i.e., self is worthless)
2.The world/environment (i.e., world is unfair), and
3.The future (i.e., future is hopeless).
Source: Wikipedia - Beck's cognitive triad

Here is a good description of this:

...or if you prefer song, here is a good example of the phenomena from popular culture:

Lately work on this subject seeks to reduce this negative self view into one dimension:

Beck's cognitive triad: One versus three factors

"Accordingly, Haaga et al. (1991, p. 218) suggest that one tenable way to make the triad a less cumbersome model is to simply reduce it to one dimension: "negative view of self." "

Intermediated Beliefs - Conditioned

Sitting beneath this core of negativity lies certain false rules, beliefs and assumptions that have developed to bridge the gap between a depressive's negative self view and the world in general:

Cognitive therapy with chronic pain patients By Carrie Winterowd, Aaron T. Beck, Dan Gruener

Automatic Thoughts - Our Inner Demon

Lying just below the surface beneath our core and intermediate beliefs are Automatic thoughts. Our minds spit out on average a thought a second with the majority being self critical. For a depressive, this negative drum beat is constant and overwhelming.

Depression: theories and treatments : psychological, biological, and social ... By Arthur Schwartz, Ruth M. Schwartz

Here is a good lecture on this subject:

Cognitive Distortions - A Cracked Lens

Reinforcing this belief structure are Cognitive distortions. These are habitual modes of thought that negatively influence how one interprets the world. These false schemas or reference frames are deeply etched thought processes that prevent positive change and lead to dangersous mental traps.

Here is an excellent sermon on this topic:

Some of the more common distortions include:
  • Filtering - Seeing only the negative.
  • Polarized Thinking - Seeing things as only bad or good and, if things are not perfect, defining things badly.
  • Overgeneralizing - Coming to a negative conclusion based on limited experience.  
  • Jumping to Conclusions - Predicting negative outcomes or judgements without a reasonable basis.
  • Catatrophizing - Minimizing significant positive outcomes and exaggerating minimal negative outcomes.
  • Personalization - Attaching negative labels to ourselves rather than a negative situation.
  • Control Fallacies - Seeing ourselves as helpless victims or blaming ourselves for things that we cannot control.
  • Fairness Fallacies - Resentment generated by believing that life is fair.
  • Blaming - Holding others responsible for our pain.
  • Shoulds - Rigid rules we construct that we punish ourselves for not following and get angry when others do not respect.
  • Emotional Reasoning - Believing that our temporary feeling are true.
  • Change Fallacies - Relying on others to make us happy by changing to suit our needs.
  • Global Labeling - Tagging individuals including ourselves and situations with emotionally loaded labels.
  • Always Right - Striving to prove that one is right at the expense of others and at the expense of our own intellectual growth.
  • Heaven's Reward - Believing that self sacrifice should always come with a tangible reward.
The ABC's of REBT


An Overview of Beck's Cognitive Theory of Depression in Contemporary Literature
Silencing the Voice That Says You're a Fraud
Definitions of Cognitive Distortions
15 Common Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive Distortions: Ten Forms of Self Defeating Thought
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Major Depression
Demystifying CBT: Effective, easy-to-use treatment for depression and anxiety

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