PART II – Practical Applications
Chapter 4: Start by building Self-esteem
Burns explains that depression is all about your feeling of self-worth. The more depressed you are the more worthless you feel (80 % of depressed patients dislike themselves to one degree or another!). The qualities you want to possess are the ones you think the lowest of yourself (intelligence, attractiveness, achievements,…).
“A poor self-image is the magnifying glass that can transform a trivial mistake or an imperfection into an overwhelming symbol of personal defeat.”
A short conversation between Burns and a depressed boy further shows us that something as unimportant as giving a wrong answer in class wreaks havoc in the boy’s mind! His automatic thinking goes like this:
Thought about giving the wrong answer occurs:
→ I’ll make a fool of myself!
→ Everyone would look down on me!
→ I would feel miserable because I wouldn’t be a worthwhile person and I would get a bad grade!
→ It would ruin my dream career!
→ I would be a failure! Life would be empty! I would be worthless!
“[…]during periods of depression you lose some of your capacity for clear thinking[…]. Negative events grow in importance until they dominate your entire reality – and you can’t really tell that what is happening is distorted[…]. The illusion of hell you create is very convincing.”
How can you improve this kind of thinking?
Every day for 15 minutes for 1-2 months minimum:
1. Write down every negative thought that occurs.
2. Find the distortion in your thinking (Chapter 3) and write them down.
3. Think of a rational substitution for your thought!
1. I’m a failure! I can’t do anything right!
2. All-or-Nothing Thinking, Overgeneralization, Mental Filter, Magnification, Labeling
3. I didn’t do as well as I hoped I did but I did pretty well the last few times! Also I’m really good at […] so I’m really far away from being a failure! Next time I will try to […] to get better at this!
I highly recommend reading the book “feeling good” for more examples and detailed instructions!
That’s a thinking pattern I really well know of having for the past 10-15 years at least – really even as long as I can think! This automatic negative thinking pattern kills everything in you that you otherwise could just let slide if it wouldn’t take this destructive path. You can learn to just stop this negative thinking! I’m better at this now and sincerely hope you will get better, too 🙂
Click here for Part 3 of my book summary!