Psychological Self-Help

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38
we give God credit for good happenings but usually not the blame for
bad things)? Do hopeless depressives only feel guilty and ashamed of
sins of omission? Wouldn't sins of commission be impossible for me as
a truly "helpless" person, unless I was possessed by evil external
forces that "made me do it" and with whom I collaborated? Begins to
sound like a 1620 witch hunt, doesn't it? (See later discussion of guilt.) 
Actually, the victim of depression may feel helpless, but his/her
emotions, weakness, and pessimism can have a very powerful effect
on others. Examples: the typical "helpless" person "asks others to do
things for him/her," "never does things on his/her own," "gets others
to make decisions," etc. This is helpless? Hardly, it is dependent,
demanding, and controlling (Peterson, 1993). These "helpless" feelings
also serve as self-excuses for poor performance (for many of us it is
better to be seen as "feeling down" than as a failure). But only persons
prone to depression are willing to be extremely self-critical ("I'm a
loser... helpless... worthless") in order to protect themselves against
criticism and to avoid facing future responsibilities (Rosenfarb & Aron,
1992). 
How do people respond to someone's helplessness? At first, people
try to make the person feel better; they try to meet his/her needs. But
after seeing a lot of "helpless" behavior from one person, people tend
to get angry and/or avoid the subtly (maybe inadvertently) demanding
depressed person who never changes. Clearly, not all "helpless" people
are passive, ineffective, and feeling futile, like Seligman's dogs. Some
are powerful. Seligman's latest views are in Peterson, Maier &
Seligman (1993). 
Yapko (1992) believes that depression not only results from an
"illusion of helplessness" but also from an "illusion of control." For
instance, Baby Boomers were taught they could have it all--education,
great job, wonderful family, nice house and car, fantastic travel, etc.
That wasn't true and Baby Boomers have an unusually high rate of
depression. They didn't meet their expectations. Unrealistic
expectations in both directions, i.e. hoping for too much change or
believing little change is possible, can cause depression. 
Negative views 
Beck's cognitive therapy states that somewhere in childhood the
depressed-to-be person develops a negative view of the self, the
world, and the future: "I'm no good," "the world ain't fair," and "it
won't work out." Each of these negative views gets expanded into
detailed beliefs: "I'm dumb," "I can't talk intelligently," "I'm ugly too"
and on and on. These negative assumptions seem to be held on a very
primitive level; facts don't influence these beliefs, so they never get
questioned or tested against reality. For a brilliant investigation of the
development of self-critical beliefs at an early age, see Carol Dweck's
studies of mastery-oriented thinking. These negative views just lie
dormant even while more rational evaluations of self, world, and future
may also be developed and used as we mature into adults. Then later
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