Your thoughts do not define you and we all have negative thoughts, it is a human being thing not a depression thing.
I am only telling you this story because I hope that it will help you to understand the impact of thoughts. It’s shameful and embarrassing. But I am noticing these feelings and proceeding to tell you anyway. Last year I found myself in the very back row of Her Majesty’s Theatre anticipating with childhood excitement the beginning of the production “Annie”. It was winter so I was wearing a pair of heavy boots that laced up the sides. They tend to string out the beginning of the show, to create more anticipation I guess, so as I was waiting in my seat I looked down at my boots and thought “I could turf this boot into the crowd if I wanted to”. Now I had no idea what reaction I was wanting, had I actually hurled my boot into the theatre crowd. Rage? Panic? Shock? Probably shock. I have never done anything like that before and as far as I can tell I’ve never had a thought like that before either. The only reason I noticed this thought was because my brain told me it was relevant. I held on tightly to that thought so that I could tell a client about it that next week. I held onto the thought as a prize “uh ha! See? Everyone has strange thoughts that they’d never act on and that normally they’d never notice!” This client’s mind was beating her up badly and she thought that having bad thoughts meant that she was a “bad person”.
We only hold onto thoughts that confirm our beliefs, in fact we go looking for thoughts and feelings that confirm our experience. Our brain says “ah yes, that thought about you being useless is very relevant to your depression.” So when we are feeling depressed, we hold the thoughts that confirm this idea very tightly. Before this experience they simply passed like the cars outside on the road because they were of no interest. If I held tightly to my negative thoughts and let them stop me from doing things, I certainly wouldn’t be blogging right now. “You’re never going to help these people” … “they won’t take you seriously” … “you’re too young to give advice” … “remember that person that you didn’t help that time?” All of these thoughts crop up but my brain lets them go because I allow them to pass by with curiosity.
If you are attributing a label to yourself such as “Bad Person”… “Useless”… “Dumb” … etc. … you are making an error of judgement. Your thoughts do not define you and we all have negative thoughts, it is a human being thing not a depression thing. At least I really hope not, the shoe thing may get me admitted…
Here are some additional Negative Automatic Thoughts common in depression, from Resilient Mindset. If you experience any of these CONGRATULATIONS…YOU ARE A HUMAN.
All or nothing/ black or white thinking
- If I don’t do it perfectly, then I’m rubbish
- If I am not a perfect mother/father/daughter/son – then I’m useless
- If I don’t do well at every area of my job, I am hopeless
- If I don’t get on with everyone, no one likes me
- If my partner is annoyed with me, they must hate me
- If I don’t win the game, I must be a loser
Overcontrol and perfectionism
- Unless I do everything perfectly life is intolerable
- If my house is not perfectly clean, it is a pigsty
- If I don’t take care over my appearance, then I am a mess and I can’t go out
- If I allow paperwork to pile up, I will be out of control
Magical thinking or fortune telling
- My thoughts are so powerful, just by thinking it, something bad will happen
- I know exactly what she is thinking….
- I predict that if I say something about this to her, she will find me unacceptable
- If I don’t please everyone, they will hate me/ be disappointed in me
- If I don’t do well in my next exam, I am going to fail everything, get kicked out of university and be a failure for the rest of my life
- If I don’t get my act together soon, I never will
- If i don’t get this job, I will never get another one, and will be on the scrapheap
- If I get sick, I will never recover, and never be able to be happy again
- If I split up with my partner, I will never meet anyone again, and will be alone
Pessimistic or negative bias
- If something bad is going to happen, it is much more likely to happen to me
- This proves what I suspected all along
- You can’t trust anyone these days
- Everyone is out to rip you off
- I will never get out of this mess
- Bad things are always happening to me, or someone I care about
Personalisation, over responsibility
- You assume responsibility for bad things, even though you probably were not responsible
- A mother feels responsible for her daughters’ poor grades at school and concludes ‘I am a lousy mother’
- You complete a tender at work and your company is not awarded the work – ‘ I failed, I don’t deserve the trust and respect people give me’