Do you strongly trust your intuition? Maybe you call it “your gut” or your “sixth sense”. I trust mine absolutely. Whatever it tells me I take as fact. I see it as the repository of all my experience and knowledge, all summed up so I can make quick decisions. When it’s on, I can bypass reasoning and just feel what to do.
It’s fantastic! Except when I was depressed. I couldn’t tell the difference between my intuition speaking to me and the depression.
All my depressive and distorted thoughts became facts in my mind.
I remember a session with a therapist where she was trying to get me to work on my thought distortions, bless her heart. I was having none of it. She’d point out that I had no way of knowing what someone had intended. I would argue that yes I did know because my intuition tells me what she likely intended.
Intuition is real. You are supposed to trust it.
When I was depressed I was especially fond of the “jumping to conclusions” thought disorder. Usually it took the form of assuming a negative outcome, a bleak future, or a negative intention on the part of someone. This distortion is also known as mind reading and fortune telling.
Alright, alright, I still do this. I still jump to conclusions although they are no longer so negative and I think of it as predicting the likely outcome.
I adopted a couple of strategies when I was depressed to manage this distortion while still listening to my intuition.
First, I agreed that my intuition could be tainted by depression and I couldn’t completely trust it. The clue would be whether my intuition was telling me something very negative about myself.
Second, in cases where my intuition was telling me something negative but I was absolutely sure it was right, I chose to not listen just to protect myself from feeling further depressed.
Recently I wrote a post called Dial Down the Dramatic Thought Distortions where I talked about four common thought distortions. Here’s the rest of the list (from David Burns’ 1989 book – The Feeling Good Handbook.)
Jumping to conclusions
I’m just going to conclude you already understand this one and move on.
You assume your emotions reflect the facts. Example – I would feel anxious about some meeting and believe that having that feeling meant it’s a fact the meeting won’t go well.
You expect that something or someone, including you, should be a certain way. There’s a big and dangerous difference between hope and expectations. This distortion is sometimes related to a belief that life should be fair.
Personalization and Blame
You hold yourself responsible for something that isn’t really in your control. The opposite is blaming others for your problems.
I was more a fan of personalization. I had grand ideas about what was in my control. Turns out not much. Example: Mr. Right came along six years after his appointed time. Apparently, some things you don’t get to appoint.
Discounting the positive
If you notice yourself saying, “yes but that doesn’t count” so that you can maintain your negative beliefs, you might have this distortion.
Focusing on a negative detail so that it’s all you see. Typically, I’d focus on a criticism while ignoring all positive feedback. I was looking for evidence to support my negative self image. Of course I found it.
Do you think your intuition is ‘off’ because of depression? Do you have issues with any of these thought distortions?
About the Author
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.