Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 33 of 179 
Next page End Contents 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38  

instance, an empathic, tolerant, caring person would not be rejecting,
except under the most trying circumstances. Perhaps males are
rejected more for seeking support because they are supposed to be
self-reliant and "suffer in silence." Perhaps depressed women are
rejected for other reasons. In any case, there is clear evidence that a
depressed friend is depressing. 
Ferster (1981) says the depressed person is so overwhelmed by
their loss and anger that they can't respond effectively to the
environment (to others) to get what they want. Rather surprisingly for
an operant behaviorist, he implies this insensitivity to how-to-get-
what-we-want may come from early feeding experiences where the
infant responds more to the internal urge to eat (making demands--
which get reinforced) than to interacting and playing with the feeder.
Like the fussy, demanding baby, the depressed person becomes
fixated on complaints, criticism, demands, and loud cries of distress
(all punishing or aversive to any listener). Instead of seeking positive
reinforcement, they have learned to only punish and complain; they
hurt too much to do otherwise (like the hungry infant). By being so
glum and critical (and insensitive) they only drive others (sources of
fun) away. By therapy or self-education they must learn other ways of
Lewinsohn's approach to therapy is to first pinpoint the punishing
events present in the sad person's environment (usually marital
problems, work hassles, or criticism) and the pleasant events absent
(including friends, love, sex, fun activities, satisfying solitude, and
feeling competent). Then by careful, daily rating and plotting of one's
behavior and the resulting feelings, the therapist shows the depressed
person that the environment (and how they handle it) truly does
determine their depression. Treatment consists of teaching the patient
how to decrease the frequency and hurtfulness of unpleasant events
and increase the frequency and appreciation of pleasant events. This is
done by using many techniques, like those in chapters 11, 12, and 13,
but mostly behavior change or social and cognitive skills to increase
positive reinforcement. The University of Oregon started a class in
"Coping with Depression" (Lewinsohn & Arconad, 1981). 
You might notice that this is the same basic notion as most
dynamic psychiatrists operate under, namely, that most emotional
problems originate in our interpersonal relationships. Surely it would
work in the opposite direction too: if I became very sad, impatient,
demanding of attention, lethargic, and grouchy, I'd surely develop
interpersonal problems. So which comes first, sadness or poor social
skills? Have life events been painful or just no fun? 
Recent research confirms the importance of positive
We therapists and writers focus on reducing unpleasant negative
emotions--anxiety, fears, depression, anger, dependency and so forth.
We do this partly because patients frequently have gotten into a sink
Previous page Top Next page

« Back