Unreasonable thinking and faulty conclusions
Depressed people are prone to think in several ways that may
produce sadness and pessimism. If things have gone badly in the past
(depressed people are past-oriented), there may be a tendency to
conclude that the future will be awful too. Actually, depressed people
usually don't think much about the future. The future is depressing
precisely because it has little meaning or no purpose for them... or is
threatening. The erroneous belief that things will not get better may
lead to suicidal thoughts. This hopeless vision of the future is based on
a general global perception that their problems are huge, innumerable,
and insolvable. A depressed person may have only a vague notion of
wanting "to be happy," "to put my life back together," "to find love and
happiness," etc. Of course, without the problems being definable,
objective, specific, manageable, and circumscribed, depressed people
don't have specific plans, i.e. doable, clear-cut, self-help steps in mind
for attaining realistic goals. Without plans for changing, they have no
hope and no motivation. They feel like victims, not masters of the
situation. That is unreasonable. They can change.
Depressed people seem to reason poorly in several other ways.
Examples: they are concrete thinkers and have difficulty generalizing
(e.g. after being taught to be assertive with his/her boss, he/she
doesn't think of being assertive with his/her spouse). They see nothing
illogical about giving credit to luck, other people, God, fate, etc. for the
good things and blaming themselves for the bad things in their lives.
While depressed people focus on the bad happenings in their lives,
some of them tend to deny the "bad" emotional parts of themselves,
such as anger, violent, and selfish urges, etc. Others see only the bad.
And, their "solutions" for their problems are often unrealistic, such as a
person with two children and an unhappy marriage who wants to have
another child "to improve the marriage" or a floundering overly critical
student decides to drop out and live with his/her father although they
have never related well. We can't cope well without thinking straight;
this includes having a purpose and a plan for living (see chapters 2 &
There is still more wrong with the depressed person's thinking
processes. Therapists and scientists studying the brain have contended
that a part of our mental make up compels us humans to explain
everything (see attribution theory in chapter 4). Some of us, hating
uncertainty, need an immediate, simple, "it's for sure" explanation;
others of us need lots of data, time to weigh different opinions, and
careful thought about the issue before we arrive at an explanation.
This reflects the difference between simple "black-and-white thinking"
(dichotomous thinking) and complex "tolerance of ambiguity."
Depressed people grab hold of immediate, clear-cut but pessimistic
explanations; that is their "explanatory style," namely, "it's my fault"
(happy folks blame the situation or someone else), "my weakness
messes up everything" and "it will never change, so why try?" Wow,
what a prescription for depression! Reality is: you aren't entirely to
blame, the supposed fault won't mess up everything, and the