(b) Is this cause going to influence just this situation or many others
as well, i.e. how general or how limited is the influence of this factor?
(c) Is this cause a temporary factor or long-lasting? (d) How important
is this situation to me? (e) When bad things happen to me, do I
conclude I am at fault or bad? (f) When something bad happens to
me, do I assume more bad events are on their way? By looking at
your answers over several situations, perhaps you can figure out your
attributional style. Are you a pessimist about the future? Are you a
harsh self-blamer? What do you think your faults are? Do you blame
your behavior ("I didn't study enough"--this is changeable) or your
character ("I'm lazy" or "I'm stupid"--hard to change)? What are your
strengths? How low is your self-esteem? Do you see ways to change?
There are even more good questions you can ask yourself that
should help you realize that your depression can be changed (Johnson
& Miller, 1994):
The Exception Question: When are you the least depressed?
What was the last time you weren't depressed (or down on
yourself)? Do you remember a time when you expected to get
depressed but you were able to avoid it? These kinds of
questions remind you that you have some self-control... that
depression can be changed. They cause you to start exploring
the reasons for these changes--what was different? How can
you reduce the depression again?
The Miracle Question: If the depression (or self-critic)
miraculously went away, how would life be different for you?
What would be the first sign it was gone? How would others say
you are different? What would you be doing instead of being
depressed? Be very specific about how your behavior and
feelings would be changed. What are some of the exciting
possibilities if you were not burdened with depression? This
starts you thinking about your potential in the future as a
The How-Did-You-Do-It Question: Depression is an awful
condition, how have you managed to handle it? How have you
kept things from getting even worse? How do you fight off the
conditions that make you get really depressed or to want to
hurt yourself? Where do you get the strength to be a survivor?
These questions cause you to look for your specific strengths
and for other ways to cope with depression. They also help you
see that depression is not caused by you and is not an
unavoidable part of your being. Depression and self-putdowns
are external problems imposed on you by psychological or
historical factors and circumstances. These misery-causing
external factors can be changed.
However, there are still serious questions about this hopelessness
theory: When and how are negative thinking styles learned in real life?
Again, which comes first the thinking or the feelings? Isn't it illogical to
feel responsible for making good things happen but not responsible for
bad events (although that is the way we frequently think about God--