Depression Part 5

In our next session, Sue reads from a journal she was keeping that records the times she was feeling strong emotion (especially painful feelings).  She brings this journal to her weekly sessions and we explored the situations in which she felt strong emotions.  We would many times take a look at the situation that prompted the conflictual emotions and the corresponding thoughts that generated these feelings.  I call this process of analysis an FFT (finding the truth).  Below is an example of this procedure and the results.

 

Sue

            I really felt bad after I received a B on a test in History.

Counselor

            What kind of feelings did you experience?

Sue

            I felt discouraged, depressed, helpless, frustrated, and shame.

Counselor

            What were you thinking?

 

As discussed earlier, Sue’s thinking [beliefs] was causing much of the feelings she was experiencing.  Many of her thoughts were so familiar to her that she simply accepted them as realistic [true].  This was a big mistake.  Thoughts are ideas, not like the cells of our body that are definitely part of us, but rather, electrical impulses within the brain that can be changed.  Many of these thoughts come from external sources [e.g. other people, satan, etc.] and are not always helpful in seeing life more realistically.  If our thoughts change then in most cases our feelings will follow.  As we have discussed earlier, most of the time, our thoughts lead and our feelings follow. 

 

Sue

            I thought “when will I ever get it together”?  

Counselor

            When will you get what together?

Sue

            When will I be able to be good at something?

Counselor

            What makes you think you are not good at something?

Sue

            I just don’t think that I am good at anything?  If I could be good at something, really good, I              think I would feel a lot better about myself.

Counselor

            Would you feel better because your mother would approve?

 

Sue thought about this for sometime as tears filled her eyes.  She reached down for the box of tissues that was beside her chair.

 

Sue

            Probably, I just can’t understand why my sister is so much better than me.  If I could just be               better, then  maybe mom would love and accept me also.

Counselor

            Why do you think your sister is better than you?

Sue

            She has so many friends, she is popular and, of course, mom shows her so much more attention.

Counselor

            How does your sister do in school?

Sue

            Will she spends a lot of time with friends and doesn’t have as much time as I do to finish her               homework.

Counselor

            She doesn’t get as good of grades as you do?

Sue

            Well, she gets fair grades but I do get better grades.

Counselor

            You say she has a lot of friends, what do they do when they are together?

Sue

            They mostly talk.  They are rather loud but seem to have a good time.

Counselor

            How do you get into their group?

Sue

            You have to be popular.

Counselor

            Is that the same reason that people are allowed close to you and your few friends?

Sue

            No, we talk to most everyone, were not stuck-up.

Counselor

            You say that your sister is better than you, how do you define better.

 

This last question caused Sue to stop and think. Sue was beginning to question internally some of her long held conclusions.

 

We all have trouble seeing life as it is [reality].  Much of this is because of distortions in our perception of the world around us.  Some of the cognitive [thinking] problems [distortions] that Sue encountered were:

1.  TUNNEL VISION.  People with tunnel vision see only what fits their attitude or state of mind, and ignore what does not.  Sue for instance, concentrated on her sister’s popularity and her mother’s approval of it and ignored or discounted her own strengths. 

 

2,  OVERGENERALIZATION.  Statements such as “I can never do anything right” usually are good examples of overgeneralizations.  Sue, for instance, fell into the snare of overgeneralizations when she made statements like “my sister is better than me”, “I can’t seem to do anything well”.

 

3  MAGNIFICATION.  The tendency to exaggerate the qualities of another person, whether good or bad, and to “catastrophize” by inflating the severity of a particular event’s consequences.  Sue exhibited this thinking distortion when she looked at her sister’s popularity assumed that this made her better than herself and she would never be able to measure up.

 

Sue and I continued to meet on a regular basis for several more months.  Slowly the distorted beliefs she had embraced began to erode.  They eroded because they were simply not true.  Most beliefs have some element of truth and incorrect areas and the challenge for Sue and for all of us is to determine what is true and retain it while cutting loose the false.  If we can see life as realistic as possible we tend to have appropriate feelings for the situations we find ourselves in.  This leads to more appropriate actions.

 

Eventually Sue would come up with more realistic beliefs such as:

            “My sister is popular and has good traits, but she also has some traits that are not so good.  It is the  same with me.  I have some good and some not so good traits.  We are both human.”

 

            “My mother is also human and makes mistakes.  She is a rather insecure woman that is prone to seek  significance in any way she can, even through others.  Therefore, my sister’s popularity is a real drawing card for her.  I love my mother even as I disagree with her.  I will try to have the best        relationship with her that I can; the best, of course, would be one based on mutual respect.  But,        regardless of what kind of relationship we have, I will no longer base my worth on her thoughts and     opinions.”

 

 

           

We also discussed, in the course of counseling, the value that God places on us.  We are all humans and therefore possess weaknesses.  He proved on an old Roman cross that He cares enough to reach out to us on a personal level if we allow Him to. 

 

The Bible states that God is no respecter of persons, I believe that this means he values all humans the same.  It makes no difference what our gender, physical appearance, intelligence, role in life or our position is; He values us the same regardless of these factors.  He does care about how we interact with Him since all “good” relationships are conditional.  If Sue was to have a “good” relationship with her mother there were certain conditions that must be met [mutual respect for one].  If we are to have a “good” relationship with God, there are certain conditions that must be met [like yielding to his leadership, loving Him with as much of our heart as we are capable of, obeying Him, and loving others].  I explained to Sue that there is a huge reservoir of help for those that have given their life to the Lord.  Of course, God will not live our life for us, but if we are walking with him, He will be there in the midst of life’s pain and confusion.  Even though Sue was a Christian, she was learning to depend and trust her Lord in new and deeper ways that helped her to see life more realistic.

 

We can have all types of relationships with people.  Some are “good” and some are sacrificial [we put up with a lot to keep the relationship alive].  Sue wanted a relationship with her mother.  The relationship Sue would eventually have with her mother could be “good” [if her mother would treat her with respect], sacrificial or a combination of the two.  Ultimately the “goodness” of the relationship between Sue and her mother, rested mostly with her mother.