Are Your Own Thoughts Making You Depressed – Part 2

Are Your Own Thoughts Making You Depressed – Part 2

by Dr Emma Gray - 1st September, 2015

Are Thinking Errors Making you Depressed – Part Two

Part one looked at five common thinking filters used by people with low self esteem and suffering from depression, anxiety and anger problems. This part of the blog will look at a further 5 common thinking filters.

Thoughts making you depressed

  1. Magnification

You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. This is also called the ‘binocular trick.’

  1. Emotional reasoning

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: ‘I feel terrified about going on airplanes. It must be very dangerous to fly.’ Or ‘I feel guilty. I must be a rotten person.’ Or ‘I feel angry. This proves I’m being treated unfairly.’ Or I feel so inferior. This means I’m a second-rate person.’ Or ‘I feel hopeless. I must really be hopeless.’

  1. “Should statements”

You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be – After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, ‘I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes.’ This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. ‘Musts,’ ‘oughts’ and ‘have tos’ are similar offenders.
‘Should statements’ that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration: ‘He shouldn’t be so stubborn and argumentative’

Many people try to motivate themselves with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if they were delinquents who had to be punished before they could be expected to do anything. ‘I shouldn’t eat that doughnut.’ This usually doesn’t work because all these shoulds and musts make you feel rebellious and you get the urge to do just the opposite.

  1. Labelling

Labelling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying ‘I made a mistake.’ you attach a negative label to yourself: ‘I’m a loser.’ You might also label yourself ‘a foal’ or ‘a failure’ or ‘a jerk.’ Labelling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. Human beings exist. but ‘fools,’ ‘losers,’ and ‘jerks’ do not. These labels are useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self- esteem.

You may also label others. When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself: ‘He’s an S.O.B Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s ‘character’ or ‘essence’ instead of with their thinking or behavior. You see them as totally bad. This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves little room for constructive communication.

  1. Personalization

Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulties at school, she told herself, ‘this shows what a bad mother I am,’ instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, if only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.’ Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. Same people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: ‘The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.’ Blame usually doesn’t work very well because other people will resent being a scapegoat and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap. It’s like the game of hot potato – no one wants to get stuck with it.

To recap the first part of this article, click below to navigate.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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