When I’m working with clients who are dealing with serious depressive issues, the hopelessness that they experience can wreak havoc in their lives. Many times these clients forget that they have options. They become lost in “all-or-nothing” thinking, which perpetuates their negative mood.
If you are someone who is living with depression, I want to remind you that you always have options. Even if the options are not very good, you have options. It may seem as though you have only poor options to choose from, so choosing them seems to be pointless. I will acknowledge that there are times when all of us run into a “catch 22” situation. However one of your options will usually result in fewer negative consequences than the others. In these situations it is important not to underestimate the value of making such a decision. It is also important to look at the big picture. In such a problematic situation, it is easy to get caught up in viewing this one decision as your entire existence, but it is not. If you can minimize the negative outcomes from “catch 22” circumstances, and improve your decisions over the potential positives, your life will improve.
It is also important to watch out for “all-or-nothing” type thinking. This type of thinking makes it easy to be pessimistic and ignore the positives. “Bad things always happen to me.” “I try and try, but it never works out for me.” These are two examples of “all-or-nothing” thinking. If someone said that “nothing” works out for them, I could almost guarantee that I could prove that wrong. It’s not that you are defective or unintelligent if you get caught up in such thinking. Rather you just have old habits in your thinking that are not easy to break, especially when you are unaware that the problem is there at all.
The first step to making this change is by noticing when you are thinking in such a way. When you notice this, it is important to step away from your perspective. You can get feedback from others, or try to think about the accuracy of your thinking. What evidence do you have to back up your pessimistic thoughts? If you have some evidence, could others provide evidence to the contrary? Why not listen to the evidence as well?
I know that making a change in your thinking is easier said than done. However it is entirely possible. I’ve seen it happen too many times to not believe in it at all. With time, the army that was once attacking you by using problematic thinking will become more and more disarmed. This is a battle that you can win.