I may be on my sixth therapist but who’s counting. I love that light feeling I used to get when I was walking out of the office after the appointment. Like I’d just been too confessional. Thing always felt more hopeful, even if they really weren’t.
Late last year, my then therapy gal told me she’d gotten a job in the big city and we were breaking up. She was really sweet and I hated to see her go but I knew I’d been sliding and gliding with her. I had done my work but I knew there was bigger work to be done and I needed bigger guns to do it.
Enter my new therapist Kathleen who is keenly aware of what I need to do to move myself on. And she gave me some feedback this week that smarted. Because sometimes I need compliments and sometimes I need truth. And I need new materials to mentally devour that aid in my processing.
Seems strange but in all my reading and studying up on self-help stuff, I apparently never studied cognitive therapy. Quick summation of this technique/concept: If you’re depressed, it means you’re having sad thoughts. And these give you sad feelings. And more often than not, those first thoughts you had are based on some illogical distortions that you have used to process your life since forever. When the bad feelings “validate” the bad thoughts, you are full circle. Your original feeling must be truth. Makes sense in the moment.
What if the first thought includes an “always” statement or a “never” statement. Like “I always lose” and “I’ll never win”. These are probably not truths but there you go basing your feelings on that self-fed misinformation over and over and over. A pattern has formed in my life that has so ensconced “never” and “always” in my psychic garden that I’m having a tough time pulling them out.
As outlined in David D. Burns, MD’s book Feeling Good The New Mood Therapy, there are 10 “cognitive distortions” us thinkers use regularly and I spoke about them in Summer’s Stutter Start. Like the 20 something fallacies I had to learn in my college Logic class, they’re like equations that once you’ve become familiar with them, you can recognize them again when they’re laid out. And you can either choose to believe them again or call them out for the phonies that they are.
My most popular distortion recently seems to be over-generalization where I see something bad happening and then assume it will always be like that. Three weeks ago, Fiona got sick. Her schedule was thrown off, she was clingy, waking up all night, and generally life wasn’t much fun. The next week, I believe she was getting her molars in. Another week of not quite rightness and I could only expect that the rest of my life with this child was going to ridiculously hard and exhausting.
Those thoughts stressed me out and my eye twitch returned for an encore jiggity-jig. And then the following week, she’s lovely. She’s talking and playing on her own and napping. And I think, “Hey wasn’t she supposed to be terrible for the rest of our lives? “. This isn’t the first time I’ve concluded another distortion called Catastophrization. Or how about The Fortune Teller Error as in “I can see that it will always turn out badly”. Why try right?
So here I am really starting to realize that my thought processes are a little hinky when my therapist, with mere seconds on the clock before her alarm sounds, gives me this :
I tend to look for things I know I’ll fall short on instead of giving myself credit for my accomplishments.
I had to write that one down. Then I felt sad. That seems like such a mean thing to do to somebody. If this was my daughter, wouldn’t I praise her efforts and her accomplishments? Wouldn’t I smooth over the crappy stuff and help her focus on the hopeful skill building fun future stuff? Yuck.
From an article written by Alice Boyes, PhD on the Psychology Today blog, a little overview of Cognitive Distortions and
– Mindful awareness –You have to catch yourself having cognitive distortions to be able to do anything about them,
– Consider Other Possible Outcomes
Consider positive predictions, neutral predictions, and mildly negative predictions, not just very negative predictions.
– Make a Distinction Between Significantly Unpleasant and Catastrophe
Key to overcoming catastrophizing is making a distinction between something being significantly unpleasant and it being a catastrophe. Failing an important exam would be extremely distressing but it does not doom the person to a life of failure.
– Increase your perception of your ability to cope.
If you believe you can cope with negative events, anxiety will be much less of a problem for you “
That last one is about self-efficacy. I am in dour need of upping my self-efficacy. I’ll be studying my cheat sheet of cognitive distortions to help my mind learning along and shove the happy life hot air balloon higher up into the sky.
And for your clarity, you can contract with a therapist for a specific amount of time with certain goals in mind. They make an action plan or a “treatment plan” with an end date on it. My plans are to work on seeing my potential and build my esteem around my writing and blogging. I can imagine many people don’t want to start therapy because it seems endless. There is another way.Doable chunks.
Let me know what you think about any or all of this. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
If you can’t tell, I don’t mind talking honestly.
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