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  • Omar Khan

Beyond Depression

Updated: Jan 17

There is an epidemic of depression, suicides, antidepressant use afoot, and there are many reasons for the surge.


One "antidote" widely used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; it is found to be at least as effective as Prozac and other such medication.


It consists of learning the below varietals of mental and emotional distortion and locating your distress in one or more of them. And then, from that frame, you look at the actual facts, re-present them to your emotions, and decide what action you wish to take, or what frame you might try on instead. 


So, here they are:


1. Mind reading. Assuming that you know what people think without knowing their actual thoughts or by exaggerating them. “He thinks I’m a loser.” And the causal confusion. If everyone thinks I'm a winner, am I? No, it just means I'm popular. And if "someone" thinks I'm a loser, am I? Hardly. Virtually all the people we admire fell into that camp.


2. Fortune-telling. You predict the future negatively: things will get worse, or there is an inflated sense of danger ahead. “I’ll fail that exam,” or “I won’t get the job.” We can get really wild with this, "I'll never succeed," or "I'll never find love," because it has been elusive in the last 12 months. Hey, it's a chapter in a biography at most, not the whole book.


3. Catastrophizing. You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it. “I just couldn't face it if I failed.” For younger folk, this is made worse by overzealous parents trying to feel good via the achievements of their children.


4. Labeling. You assign global negative traits to yourself and others. “I’m undesirable,” or “He’s a rotten person,” or "The older generation is all corrupt." While actually, I may have an undesirable trait. Great, I can work on it. Someone may have succumbed to a terrible behavior choice. Imagine the inner hell propelling that before you write them off. That "older generation" may be as much a product of their times as we often are of ours.


5. Discounting positives. You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial. “That’s what someone you love is supposed to do—so it doesn’t count when she’s supportive of me,” or “Those achievements were easy, so they don’t matter.” Why make it so hard to feel good? Why not treat each breath as grand, each moment of peace as a gift, each good laugh as a celebration? 


6. Negative filtering. You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives. “Look at all of the people who don’t like me," or "Who can enjoy themselves with the heat and mosquitoes?" Oh, and forget that dazzling ocean in the background, or all the new relationships I could welcome if I got out of my own way.


7. Overgeneralizing. You perceive a global pattern of negatives on the basis of a single incident. “This usually happens to me. I seem to fail at a lot of things.” And, maybe I can take a positive next step to move my momentum in a new direction? Or maybe I can stop doing the same things over and over hoping for new results?


8. Dichotomous thinking. You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms. “I get rejected by everyone,” or “It was a complete waste of time.” "Everyone from that school is a jerk." Sweeping generalizations about life or others are the Devil's playground.


9. Blaming. You focus on the other person as the source of your negative feelings, and you refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. “She’s to blame for the way I feel now,” or “My parents caused all my problems.” Even better, "Who could blame me for feeling or thinking this way?" As if it's about "blame" and "whodunit" rather than owning your own freedom.


10. What if? You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers. “Yeah, but what if I get anxious?” or “What if I can’t catch my breath?” Or "What if they reject me?" You'll learn, grow, and outgrow the experience if you allow yourself to have it. And what if none of these things happen, and their opposites occur?


11. Emotional reasoning. You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality. “I feel depressed, therefore my marriage is not working out” or "I'm down, so my job must be crap." Experience the emotions, navigate them, learn from them, and they'll deliver their message and leave, rather than becoming in-laws.


12. Inability to disconfirm. You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. For example, when you have the thought, I’m unlovable, you reject as irrelevant any evidence that people like you. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted. “That’s not the real issue. There are deeper problems. There are other factors.” You become a CSI locator of "rationalizations for hell"... forensically looking for the undermining data, the cloud marring the rainbow.


So, there you go. Have fun, dismantling, and rewriting your compact with joy and happiness!

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©2019 by Omar Khan