As I have stated in previous posts, I am a huge fan of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses one of the two main pillars I think a depressed person should work at to attain a better life; namely how you think (the other is what you do). Many depressed people think in a way that keeps them depressed. I am sure you know what I am talking about:
– I’m not worth any thing
– I’m ugly and fat
– I will never succeed at any thing
– Nobody will ever love me
Such negative automatic thoughts, which I also refer to as ‘demons’ in Rise from Darkness, are built up by, and consist of, thought fallacies. You will find a list of 8 such thought fallacies at the end of this excerpt from Rise from Darkness (click here for PDF: Thought Fallacies). Such thought fallacies are often pure lies, and for me, the main element of CBT is to learn how to distinguish the lies from the truth of your own thoughts.
One of the main techniques in CBT, commonly called ABC, is a simple and effective technique to achieve this. The technique derives its name from the abbreviation for Adversity, Belief and Consequence – ABC.
Adversity is when you are faced with a challenge in life. Belief refers to what you think about yourself and the situation. Consequences are what happen inside you, as a result of the situation and the beliefs you relate to it.
To illustrate with an example:
Joe, who is depressed, meets Christine in the stairwell outside his apartment. Joe is in love with Christine. He asks her out on a date; “Cinema on Friday?” Christine answers that she can not make it. Joe is heartbroken. He thinks that this means that Christine hates him, that everyone hates him and that he will never get a girlfriend. Depression increases, he skips the jog he was on his way to, and returns to the apartment to lie down in his bed.
The adversity here is that Christine replied that she could not. The beliefs are that Joe thinks this means that she does not like him and even that nobody likes him, and that no-one will ever love him. Here are many though fallacies! The consequences are the negative emotions and thoughts that arise as a result.
Here ABC can be very useful. I have made a form to allow you to use this technique very easily. Check the ABC cognitive-behavioral therapy form (click here for PDF: ABC_english), download it and print a few copies. You can also make your own forms in a notebook. Each time you experience a situation that leads to negative feelings and thoughts, you can use the form.
Let’s imagine Joe using the form on the aforementioned scenario.
1 – The situation
The first step is to describe, as objectively as possible, what it was that happened. Joe should write that he met Christine, asked her out on a date and that she replied that she could not make it. It’s important that he writes that she said she could not the specific date, not that she never wants to date him (because she never said so). Then he should describe the feelings he felt as a result (dejection, sadness, rejection, frustration, etc.) and the thoughts he had (she does not like me, nobody likes me, etc.). He thinks about it for a while and realizes that he gets the same feelings every time he is rejected, such as when his best friend cannot meet him for a beer. He writes this down as well.
2- Beliefs and thought fallacies
This is a slightly more difficult area, and requires that you have read a little about thought fallacies in advance. Therefore, read the extract about this here before using the form. Joe realizes that he has made the following mistakes: he is catastrophizing, i.e. he takes the rejection and blows it up out of proportion (one rejection meaning that no one ever love him); He generalizes, that is, he takes the rejection to mean that everyone will reject him and that they always will. Furthermore, he is mind reading, i.e. he thinks Christine does not like him. However, upon closer scrutiny, he realizes that all she said was she could not make it on Friday. Joe writes down those things on the form.
3- Alternative Thoughts
Then we come to perhaps the most important part of the form. Here you should ask yourself the question; could I think differently in this situation so that I do not end up with all these wounded emotions? Joe thinks about it for a while and realizes that all she said was that she couldn’t make it on Friday, and that does not necessarily mean she will not want to go on a date with him. Again, all she said was she could not make it on Friday. Joe also remembers that he has previously been on a date and that he has previously been with a person who loved him. It is therefore not true that no-one will ever love him. It’s just a thought fallacy.
You can keep some empty forms in your purse or wallet, or use a notebook where you divide each page into three – one for each of the three steps. Use this technique every time you face a situation that creates bad feelings and thoughts.
Need help to get started – find a therapist trained in techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy.
Here you can read about what happened when Tommy won over his inner demon.
Read more in Rise from Darkness.