I’m not a lover of drama in everyday life but I know someone who is and it’s amazing how different our realities are when confronted by the same event.
She enhances all her experiences by tacking on an adjective. Her favourites are: massive, severe, crisis, serious and major. She’ll even bundle them as in “I am having a severe major crisis.” This could be in reference to not finding a parking space or getting a big bill in the mail. It’s all the same.
The downside for her, aside from people tuning her out, is that her stress is magnified because of how she labelled the event.
When you use dramatic language, your body believes it.
The words you use to explain your reality become your reality.
Dramatic language is common with depression. It takes the form of thought distortions. Recognize any?
All or nothing thinking – You fail at one thing so you declare the whole shebang a failure.
Overgeneralization – You take one situation and assume your future will “never” or “always” be like this.
Magnification or minimization – You exaggerate the impact of your mistakes and imperfections and play down your successes and good points.
Labelling – You label yourself and create a negative self image. Instead of “I screwed up” you opt for “I’m a total loser”.
But wait, act now and you can have all four for no extra effort!
You can bundle them and really drag yourself down into that familiar mine shaft of despair.
“So much for losing weight. Well if I’m going to eat one cookie, why stop there? I may as well eat them all because who cares. I’m never going to lose weight. Now I’ll be so fat I’ll never be able to do anything and then it will be impossible to ever lose weight. I’m such a fat loser.”
This was a common bundle for me. I love to bake cookies. Honestly, I often ate them before they actually were cookies. Sometimes they were just ingredients. But I digress.
So here’s how that bundle would play out. My self image takes a dive. I no longer feel I can achieve anything. So I don’t try. Cue the next bundle – “See I was right. I am a loser. I can’t achieve anything ever…..”
It’s not the event that will make you feel even more depressed; it’s your distorted explanation of the event.
Oh sure, I often knew what I was doing. I thought it was motivating. It wasn’t.
Negativity and fear can spur you to act but not for long.
The only long lasting motivation, especially the kind you need for weight loss is positivity. By that I mean believing in yourself and wanting something better for yourself.
In the beginning I found it hard to dismantle these bundles of thought distortions. So I picked just one distortion and watched for it. I’d catch it, tell myself that this was a thought distortion caused by depression and stop using it. Not as easy as it sounds. It took at least a month or two for it to start to happen automatically. Then I picked another distortion and worked on it. Read this for more detail on my process.
These thought distortions are rare for me now. The enthusiastic cookie consumption however still occurs. Now I blame hormone fluctuations and move on.
Do you have thought distortions? What’s worked for you in trying to manage them?
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.