that low self-esteem was another crucial ingredient in order to produce
depression (Metalsky, Joiner, Hardin & Abramson, 1993). Please note:
depression might be avoided by reducing your negative thinking
habits, avoiding high stress, or by building your self-esteem.
Of course, your needs and personality will determine how stressful
a particular event will be for you. Segal (1992) found that recovered
dependent depressives were plunged back into depression by a loss or
conflict in interpersonal relationships. But, self-critical depressives
relapsed when they failed at school or work. Only our most dreaded
problems seem to set off depression.
This new hopelessness theory explains depression to a
considerable extent on the basis of pessimistic expectations of the
future. Traditional thinking and other theories (#1, #5, #8, #9, #10
& #13) say depression is caused by obsessing about losses in the
past. Selective perception of the past is also thought to be important,
e.g. self-critical people don't see their successes. Both backward-
looking and forward-looking theories are probably true, sometimes.
Some people regret the past ("Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the
saddest are these, 'it might have been'") and others dread the future
(because they will mess it up or have no control), and some do both.
Maybe the negativism of some depressed people extends to
everything--the past, the future, me, you, the world...
As we will see later, the therapy for helplessness and hopelessness
includes (a) making more good things happen and/or increasing
positive expectations, (b) increasing self-control--like with this book,
(c) increasing tolerance of whatever happens, and (d) increasing one's
optimism. Ideally, the depressed person will develop internal, stable,
and global explanations (attributions) for good events, e.g. "I'm
responsible for what happens, and I can make good things happen
again in lots of areas." Likewise, the shift should be to believing that
external, unstable, and specific factors account for unpleasant life-
events, e.g. one of Seligman's better adjusted dogs in the shock box
might say, "This man is hurting me, he will surely stop soon, people
only shock me in this box... and I will vigorously avoid getting into this
box again. For now, I'll just tough it out."
Exercise: How do you explain things?
It might increase your understanding of your own depressive
moods to think of 8 or 10 situations that could happen to you--both
good and bad. Examples: doing poorly on an exam, getting a good job
or a promotion, having an auto accident, not being able to get a job,
getting a new friend, having a date that doesn't work out, losing a
girl/boyfriend, having a fight with a parent, relative, or child, etc.
Vividly imagine each situation, then, afterwards, write down what
seems like the main reason or cause for what happened. Next, ask
yourself: (a) Is this cause due to me or someone or something else?