Sooooo I was reading this book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy about cognitive behavioural therapy (still reading it actually, I take a million years to read some non-fiction!) and today I asked Siri to play a random podcast episode, and she chose a This American Life episode called Ten Sessions, which is about a woman undergoing cognitive processing therapy. A very interesting episode. (TW: SA)
From Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit:
“We inhabit, in ordinary daylight, a future that was unimaginably dark a few decades ago, when people found the end of the world easier to envision than the impending changes in everyday roles, thoughts, practices that not even the wildest science fiction anticipated. Perhaps we should not have adjusted to it so easily. It would be better if we were astonished every day.”
Over halfway through the year! I am plodding along. Plid plod. I get two mornings a week to write morning pages and get into (what I call) “sharing mode.” Most of the time, though, I feel like keeping to myself and my thoughts aren’t as clear, because I’m not journalling. Fog-head.
Everything is OK. Winter holidays are coming up and I’m looking forward to that, even though it will be hard work with two active and strong-willed children!
This year, the kids stopped having afternoon naps, and so those beautiful afternoon breaks have gone. I have two half-days off (Monday and Saturday) and nights after 9PM. You’d think that would equal as much Me-Time as having an office job (the equivalent of nights and the weekend!) but to be honest, having an office job was:
a) easier because it was mostly Me-Time (there weren’t any kids asking me non-stop questions and giving me non-stop requests);
b) harder because it was more boring and I didn’t get to build a fort or visit an amazing adventure playground or toast marshmallows on a fire pit at my sister’s house or watch “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” on a weekday.
It’s always changing! Next year my eldest (4) goes to primary school. I hope it’s okay. A few kids have been mean to him this year. I thought teasing/bullying would happen in primary school, but I didn’t expect it in preschool. He’s confused by it all. “But I’m really nice,” he says, wanting me to explain the whole phenomenon. I don’t know what to say. The only thing I could think to say was, “If someone said that to me, I think I would go far away from them, and be my own friend, or play with someone else who is nice.”
I remember my mum used to say, “Just ignore them – they have the problem, not you. Maybe they feel insecure, or they want to feel power, or they have problems at home, and they’re taking it out on you.” But “just ignore them” was frustrating advice. I didn’t want to ignore them, I wanted to feel empowered. I wanted them to stop.
I think I’ll ask my kid to tell me when he feels uncomfortable. If it happens again, I think I’ll ask the teachers to talk to the parents of the other children. Nothing’s going to change if the other families don’t have conversations. Maybe I need to research this whole topic properly.
In other news, I’ve started a casual art group – an evening meetup where peeps can come & work on their art/craft projects in a social setting. The first meetup is tonight. I’ve no idea how it will go! We’ll see. I’d also like to get to a Greens meetup and meet some local Greens people. Maybe in spring.
From Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit:
“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty there is room to act. … It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.”
This reminds me of a quote by Mr Rogers that I love:
“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
And, also from Hope in the Dark:
“Most of us would say, if asked, that we live in a capitalist society, but vast amounts of how we live our everyday lives – our interactions with and commitments to family lives, friendships, avocations, membership in social, spiritual, and political organisations – are in essence noncapitalist or even anticapitalist, full of things we do for free, out of love, and on principle.
“In a way, capitalism is an ongoing disaster anticapitalism alleviates, like a mother cleaning up after her child’s messes (or, to extend the analogy, sometimes disciplining that child to clean up after itself, through legislation or protest, or preventing some of the messes in the first place … ). Activists often speak as though the solutions we need have not yet been launched or invented, as though we are starting from scratch, when often the real goal is to amplify the power and reach of existing alternatives. What we dream of is already present in the world.”
I upped my reading goal at the start of the year (from 12 books to 24 books). There’s a shelf on my bookshelf of “books that I should read but haven’t read yet” and after ignoring that shelf for way too long, I set up a recurring reminder – “read the books you’ve already got!”
So after I finished a book that dad gave me for Christmas, I went over to my “books I should read” shelf and picked out one that seemed interesting: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. I vaguely recalled that my sister brought it over one day, so I asked her about it before reading it. She said that one part of it had been recommended to her, and she’d read that part and then handed it to me (and of course she’d told me at the time – which specific part to read!) but she couldn’t remember the important part anymore. I just started reading it from the top.
Turns out, it’s one of the earliest best-selling books on cognitive therapy, which I also vaguely recall learning about in psychology at uni.
The book begins by introducing some cognitive therapy concepts:
– mild depression isn’t caused by imbalances of brain chemicals, it’s caused by a negative/distorted thought that can change how you feel, which can then can spiral into further negative/distorted thoughts and feelings
– the thoughts cause the negative feelings, not the other way around, so if you can address and change the thoughts, then you change the feelings
– mild depression can be treated by cognitive therapy as effectively (or more effectively) than depression medication
The book then gives the reader a quiz to figure out what kind of depression they might have – normal fluctuation of moods, mild depression, or deep depression. (I got “normal fluctuation.”)
The book then gives an overview of ten main “cognitive distortions.” For some of the distortions, I was like: “Oh sure, I do that.” Like the Overgeneralisation distortion – I’ll think, “I always find it hard making friends these days!” – which then is paired with the Mental Filter distortion (focusing on a negative detail) – “this person’s body language completely shut me out of the conversation they were having with another person, and we were the only three people in the room!” – which can lead to: “I am an unlikable person.”
Butttttttt, the distortion I found super interesting? Should Statements.
Lemme just copy that bit here (p47):
Should Statements. You try to motivate yourself by saying, “I should do this” or “I must do that.” These statements cause you to feel pressured and resentful. Paradoxically, you end up feeling apathetic and unmotivated. Albert Ellis calls this “musturbation.” I call it the “shouldy” approach to life.
When you direct should statements toward others, you will usually feel frustrated. When an emergency caused me to be five minutes late for the first therapy session, the new patient thought, “He shouldn’t be so self-centered and thoughtless. He ought to be prompt.” This thought caused her to feel sour and resentful.
Should statements generate a lot of unnecessary emotional turmoil in your daily life. When the reality of your own behaviour falls short of your standards, your shoulds and shouldn’ts create self-loathing, shame, and guilt. When the all-too-human performance of other people falls short of your expectations, as will inevitably happen from time to time, you’ll feel bitter and self-righteous. You’ll either have to change your expectations to approximate reality or always feel let down by human behaviour. If you recognise this bad should habit in yourself, I have outlined many effective “should and shouldn’t” removal methods in later chapters on guilt and anger.
I find this interesting because I feel like I am battling “should statements” all the time. (Even at the start of this post – “books that I should read but haven’t read yet”.) And I’ve reflected over the past couple of years that – especially in regards to my career – I’ve been sensing that the “should statements” are more damaging than helpful, and I’ve been trying to reduce them.
So Ima keep reading this book and I’ll see what help it can give me.