If you suffer from depression, or you know somebody who does, this post could be useful. It explains why somebody who is depressed will tenaciously cling to a negative view of the world or interpretation of events, even though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.
To try to persuade someone who is depressed that their negative and self-perpetuating view of things could change is usually a waste of time.
In my therapy work, I have often spoken to people with brilliant academic records – they have consistently been top of their class – who, because of one failed exam or interview, will earnestly claim “My life is a total failure”!
Such hasty and inaccurate generalization is just one of the hallmarks of depression. It shows a pattern of thinking which both indicates and perpetuates a depressive view of things (the more you think or say you are a failure, the more you’ll feel like one, particularly if your mood is already low).
There is, what I call the ‘logic of depression’. It completely skews your thinking when you are depressed. If you suffer from depression, you’ll know how utterly it can take you over and leave you feeling powerless to do anything about it.
Depression is a persuasive and pervasive condition that completely dominates your thinking. One of the reasons it is self-perpetuating is that this faulty logic colours our thinking and tells us things – always bad things, never good – that are utterly believable.
This is one of the main reasons that people who suffer this way depression don’t seek help. The Logic of Depression, as I call it, says that nothing will help, and there is no way out. Why would any reasonable person go against that?
We all get depressed occasionally. The ability to fall into a dark place, to withdraw from the world and to isolate ourselves in a private realm of despondency and gloom is a natural human characteristic, and at times a necessary one. But some people get stuck with it, while others don’t.
The distinguishing factor, between people who stay depressed and those who don’t, is what is known as attributional style. How we view the world and explain things to ourselves is a key factor in whether we accept or reject the logic of depression.
To try to persuade someone who is depressed that their negative and self-perpetuating view of things could change is usually a waste of time. It is offensive to have your strongly held beliefs challenged, and denying someone’s reality in this way can seem unsupportive and isolate them further. We tend to be more loyal to our own beliefs than we are to the suggestions of others, however well-intended.
Depression is powerful, and it always has the last word. That’s the logic of depression. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Keep in mind that depression is common and though it can be tough, it is not a life sentence. It responds to appropriate forms of therapy, and many people, including myself, have come through it and now live without it.