Many of us struggle with habitual negative thinking. This was understood many years ago and gave rise to one of the most powerful, effective approaches to psychotherapy and counseling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. It is a favored psychotherapeutic approach for depression, in tandem with appropriate medication. David Burns’ books are excellent starting points for anyone struggling with depression.
While going through some old papers recently, I came across a page entitled Irrational Thoughts and it contains six mistakes we make in our thinking that will always bring us down. If we understand these thoughts as not truth but simply as examples of negative thinking, we can spare ourselves a good deal of avoidable pain. We are engaged in mistaken negative thinking when we:
1. Turn wants or preferences (including strong ones) into absolute vital needs.
2. Convince ourselves that if the need isn’t met, it will be awful, terrible, catastrophic, unbearable, and the end of the world.
3. Draw incorrect conclusions.
4. Not consider the evidence.
5. Automatically attribute negative motives to other people.
6. Focus exclusively on self-deprecating thoughts.
When we are depressed, we truly and honestly believe the truth of many of our fears and negative thoughts. When we emerge from our dark place, these certainties do not seem all that certain any longer. Such is the power of unreined negative thought.