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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Avy Joseph et al. Starts Aug 1, 2021


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Howdy everyone, welcome to the inaugural post of the DF Book Club!

The first book on the agenda is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Avy Joseph. I love the opening quote: "People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they hold about them." That is so true, events are only disturbing if we think they are, and we depressed folks tend to skew towards awfulization at the drop of a hat. Josepeh et al. promise to show us how to give our rational brain a chance to chime in on events in our lives before our lizard brain piles on the nihilism,

So, for everyone participating, let's vow to read the text and complete the exercises in the first two chapters by August 7. Then, on August 8, let's all meet up here for a chat. Please leave a post below with your time zone (I'm GMT -7) so we can pick a time that works for everyone. FYI, I plan on posting my exercises and ongoing thoughts here, as well as commenting on anything I find really interesting or perplexing, and I invite everyone following along to do the same.

If you would like to participate but are unable to find, source, or pay for the book, let us know so we can try and help.

Welcome aboard everyone, let's have some fun!

AS, DG, and K5

 

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Thanks for organising AS! I actually managed to finish 2 chapters lol which surprised me. It’s an interesting book, the first 2 chapters left more questions than answers so looking forward to the rest of the book! 

Just wanna quote AS’s first post on CBT cos I find it relevant to point out that to reprogram our mind will take ages / years / decades (if it’s even possible) but it’s something I do wish is possible for me to assist me to get though life. Previous counsellors have tried to do CBT with me but I guess I wasn’t fully committed to it at that time? 

“CBT is a discipline anyone can learn that allows you to reprogram negative thoughts. Ask yourself, how might your life be different if, when you think of taking on a new challenge, your brain's immediate response is one of excitement and positivity? Believe it or not, that how most non-depressed people think. New opportunities create the same sense of nervousness and fear of failure that we experience, but those negative feelings are countered by a strong sense of wonder and adventure.

The catch to this apparent Jedi mind trick is that learning CBT is challenging. You are literally reprogramming your bad thoughts, and that requires you to do things. There are processes for identifying your negative thoughts, then processes for identifying counter-thoughts, and then processes for embedding those counter thoughts. Ugh. So much work.”

Btw, I’m GMT +8. Can everyone who is jumping in finish reading two chapters by Sunday? Cos @ElkSprite just messaged me yesterday on joining in 🙂 

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11 hours ago, Depressedgurl007 said:

Cos @ElkSprite just messaged me yesterday on joining in 🙂 

Woohoo! The more, the merrier.

I've finished the first two chapters too, and what can I say - my mind is sufficiently blown! Both chapters focus on how to identify our negative and destructive thoughts and beliefs, and suffice to say, some of those negative beliefs can be very stealthy.

Joseph points out quite succinctly that we often misattribute an emotional response with a trigger event. For example, "I'm angry because some butthole was driving way too fast on the freeway" isn't exactly true, in fact, you're angry because someone wasn't driving the way you believed they should drive. That same butthole may have blew past dozens of other people, but does that mean that 48 people are as pissed off as you are? No, probably not, according to Joseph, everyone reacts to trigger events based on their beliefs about the event, not on the event itself. 

That leads to what Joseph calls the ABC model of emotional response: A) is the activating event, or trigger; B) is the beliefs we hold around that event; and C) is the emotional consequence of that event. So, in the above example, a = someone speeding past me on the freeway, b = my belief that speeders do not respect my safety and that my safety MUST be respected, and c = my anger because my safety wasn't respected. Easy enough so far, but that leads to a few hard truths that Joseph asks us to accept, most preeminently is the principle of emotional responsibility.  In other words, we have to willing to accept that all of our emotions, REGARDLESS OF WHAT THEY STEM FROM, are our doing. Our spouses may be jerks, our bosses may be awful, our town might be a crap-hole,  and our mom's might be controlling dinguses, but the emotions that each of those activating events cause us to feel are our responsibility. That's a hard thought to wrap your head around, especially if you've been the victim of some bad stuff.

Chapter two speaks to the concepts of awfulization and low frustration thresholds, and again how our beliefs about something can lead to some fairly terrible emotions. One of the things Joseph makes apparent is that failure is never the end of the world (unless you're actually stopping the end of the world), and that there is a difference between uncomfortable and intolerable, and that in fact, almost all negative outcomes, if viewed logically, are tolerable regardless of how uncomfortable they might be. The concept of intolerable is often a construct of our own flawed beliefs, and we get to believing something will be intolerable because we can't imagine anything worse could happen to us. This, of course, is untrue - dealing with your jerk ex. may feel like the absolute worse thing that you could have to do, but the truth is that being eaten alive by a python would probably be worse.

There are a lot of jewels and nuggets in these first two chapters, way too many to recap here, but Joseph really did help me identify some of the more stealthy destructive beliefs I harbor. For instance, is it truly the end of the world if have to eat some crow to restore some of the familial relationships that have degenerated over the last 2 years? My immediate response is "THEY need to come to ME", my belief is that I've been aggrieved and it would be a terrible affront to my dignity to not have my family acknowledge that. But really? Will it be the end of the world? Will it be intolerable? Or is it just that pesky belief that I'm right and they're wrong causing me all this angst?

Other key concepts I'm mulling over:

  1. My internal reality is not reality, although the two are often in agreement.
  2. I should try to eliminate the word 'must' from my life. Must denotes end-of-the-world repercussions when not achieved.
  3. "Have to" and "must" are terribly inflexible and remove the concept of other possibilities.
  4. A healthy belief is rational, realistic, and logical. The moment one of those elements fail, a belief becomes unhealthy.
  5. My reality is valid, as it is my reality, but validity does not equate to being constructive or healthy.
  6. Being wrong is okay. Failure is okay. Mistakes are okay.
  7. I judge myself far more harshly than the rest of the world does.
  8. Parts of me are good, parts of me are bad, and parts of me are neutral. I acknowledge my flaws and will change the flaws that I can.

@Depressedgurl007 - I'm totally with you. Lot's of questions at this point, but healthy questions. Looking forward to 3 & 4! Did you have any 'aha' moments? Did you recognize yourself in any of the examples? Were you able to identify any destructive or unhealthy beliefs?

 

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3 hours ago, Another Statistic said:

@Depressedgurl007 - I'm totally with you. Lot's of questions at this point, but healthy questions. Looking forward to 3 & 4! Did you have any 'aha' moments? Did you recognize yourself in any of the examples? Were you able to identify any destructive or unhealthy beliefs?

I guess I’m still a bit skeptical at this point. It’s mostly saying it is our beliefs that results in our emotional consequences, behaviours, thoughts n symptoms. So if I believe CBT won’t work, it won’t work? It’s saying that when I start feeling low, I need to change my belief and stop being emotionally irresponsible. That means I’ve been emotionally irresponsible most of my life. (I did many things wrong n I have poor behaviour - all destructive beliefs.) Trying to open up my mind and be humble to learning right now lol. 

Chapter 2’s “Bad vs Awful” and “Difficult vs Unbearable” concept identifies the hard truths about life for me. 

I already know life is not unbearable cos I’m still alive, but I still always find myself saying “Why is life so difficult?” It’s like trying to tell us that bad things can happen but it’s no big deal cos it’s not life threatening and we will still be alive tomorrow and ten years later anyway..? We r supposed to be ok with bad things happening in our life..? Then the paragraph goes on to say that the solution is to learn to deal with, and increase our tolerance to difficulties. 

But I like the examples how they illustrate in detail how a simple task to speak in a staff meeting becomes that person facing a pride of lions. The book opens a lot on the tiny processes of how an unhealthy and negative mind works, which is interesting. 

This quote from the book is important to me: 

You may ask, ‘if my worth is not dependent on my behaviour and performance or on anything at all, then what is it dependent on?’ Your worth is not dependent on anything. You are a worthwhile but imperfect human being just because you breathe. 

If you fail, the logical conclusion to make about yourself is that it proves you are not perfect, not that you are a total failure as a person.

I think most probably we can tell ourselves we are worthy, but if we live around toxic people, we need to be resilient enough to overcome their words that we are a failure, and that takes a lot of confidence I think. 

So yap still more questions than answers haha. Still lotsa things to learn 😅

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18 hours ago, Depressedgurl007 said:

So if I believe CBT won’t work, it won’t work?

Yup, I think that is true.

I would counter that with the argument that CBT is about looking further upstream - if you believe CBT won't work, the tenants of CBT would suggest that you examine why you believe that. For example, you might think that all self-help type stuff is a load of crap because you have yet to find something that works. To paraphrase an example from the book, that would be like going to a shoe store with thousands of pair of shoes in inventory, trying on ten randomly, and then concluding that because none of those 10 shoes fit, the store didn't have any shoes that fit you.

Jedi mind tricks!

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I found the first 2 chapters were mostly things I've heard in therapy before. Always nice to have a refresher though, especially since I haven't been to therapy in a year 😬 Plus my last therapist was not CBT-focused, but used sensorimotor psychotherapy.

Some lines that stood out to me:

"...people have a tendency to take the things they want and desire and turn them into demands." I do this a lot, to the point I often have difficulty being able to tell a want vs a need, especially when it relates to family.

I think I have a very low frustration tolerance. I disagree with the author thinking the conclusion from a LFT thought is "you wouldn't survive." My LFT leads to the belief I WILL survive the uncomfortable situation, but in a much worse state. I know I will survive, and that's the worst part.

"Reality shows that it is your performance and behaviour that vary, not your worth." Great line! That is definitely more rational and common sense than whatever's knocking around my head.

"When you believe you are a failure, by taking this to a logical conclusion you should be able to prove that from the moment you failed you continued to fail at everything else, including breathing." It's funny how I can read this and be like "duh!" but this irrational belief is very pervasive in me 24/7.

"I often explain this by asking whether, when you look at a new baby, you question the worth of his or her life? Do you think that the loving parents look at their baby and think, ‘he's worthwhile BUT he becomes a total failure if he is rejected by his first girlfriend, and he becomes worthless if someone doesn't like him’?" This reminds me of another analogy, about treating yourself like your best friend or your child. I will go through periods of trying to be gentle with myself but have a difficult time making it stick.

In my previous body-focused therapy, the emphasis was very much on the body - all thoughts and feelings could be traced back to a physical reaction and be treated with a body-focused solution (e.g. stretching, vagus nerve stimulation). So far it seems like CBT is very much mind-focused (e.g. reasoning your way out of a negative thought). It is a stark contrast.

Also, I'm MST -7 here 🙂

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12 hours ago, Kogent5 said:

I think I have a very low frustration tolerance. I disagree with the author thinking the conclusion from a LFT thought is "you wouldn't survive." My LFT leads to the belief I WILL survive the uncomfortable situation, but in a much worse state. I know I will survive, and that's the worst part.

Yes Kogent, I agree. The entire idea of a possible worse outcome was glossed over. Given the overarching theme, I guess we're supposed to examine why we believe an action might lead to a worse outcome and then test that belief. I'm still processing how to differentiate between objective and subjective beliefs - it's turning into this weird rabbit hole where every now and then I start to question reality. Am I stuck in Plato's cave? Is my cave in another cave, and is that cave in yet another cave? Is it turtles all the way down? :confusedread: I gotta go into the basement and dig out my old "Matrix" DVD - perhaps Morpheus will know.

The 'baby' analogy stuck out for me too, but for a slightly different reason. Now that I'm making a conscious effort to apply rigor to my beliefs I was able to pick apart that homily relatively easily. I expect nothing from the baby, ergo the baby can not fail. But, if my 15 year old son goes to woo the next door neighbor's daughter, and presents at her door wearing checks and stripes, with a misaligned button up shirt, spinach in his teeth, and hair that hasn't been washed in a week, and THEN gets rejected, I might have a long conversation with him about how he was a failure at basic human interaction. 😅

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On 8/9/2021 at 10:49 AM, Another Statistic said:

Yes Kogent, I agree. The entire idea of a possible worse outcome was glossed over. Given the overarching theme, I guess we're supposed to examine why we believe an action might lead to a worse outcome and then test that belief. I'm still processing how to differentiate between objective and subjective beliefs - it's turning into this weird rabbit hole where every now and then I start to question reality. Am I stuck in Plato's cave? Is my cave in another cave, and is that cave in yet another cave? Is it turtles all the way down? :confusedread: I gotta go into the basement and dig out my old "Matrix" DVD - perhaps Morpheus will know.

The 'baby' analogy stuck out for me too, but for a slightly different reason. Now that I'm making a conscious effort to apply rigor to my beliefs I was able to pick apart that homily relatively easily. I expect nothing from the baby, ergo the baby can not fail. But, if my 15 year old son goes to woo the next door neighbor's daughter, and presents at her door wearing checks and stripes, with a misaligned button up shirt, spinach in his teeth, and hair that hasn't been washed in a week, and THEN gets rejected, I might have a long conversation with him about how he was a failure at basic human interaction. 😅

I like your teenager analogy way more than the child one lmao! I think this is one of my issues with CBT. It is hard for me not to go "yeah, but..." And I often find the examples kind of hokey and unrealistic. I wish some self-help books would focus on how to negate the negative voice in your head when it is extremely sarcastic.

So far I find the examples very minor problems. I am interested in how to apply CBT to situations like abuse, death, or horrible situations which WERE my fault. I don't care if it's cloudy or I suck at a presentation.

I will say that before starting the book, I had already decided to work on my all-or-nothing catastrophic thinking. So instead of "you're the worst" or "I hate myself," I'll say stuff like "the stuff you're doing is mediocre right now." Still not great, but not as harsh. Can't tell if it's doing anything.

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On 8/7/2021 at 6:41 PM, Depressedgurl007 said:

I guess I’m still a bit skeptical at this point. It’s mostly saying it is our beliefs that results in our emotional consequences, behaviours, thoughts n symptoms. So if I believe CBT won’t work, it won’t work? It’s saying that when I start feeling low, I need to change my belief and stop being emotionally irresponsible. That means I’ve been emotionally irresponsible most of my life. (I did many things wrong n I have poor behaviour - all destructive beliefs.) Trying to open up my mind and be humble to learning right now lol. 

Chapter 2’s “Bad vs Awful” and “Difficult vs Unbearable” concept identifies the hard truths about life for me. 

I already know life is not unbearable cos I’m still alive, but I still always find myself saying “Why is life so difficult?” It’s like trying to tell us that bad things can happen but it’s no big deal cos it’s not life threatening and we will still be alive tomorrow and ten years later anyway..? We r supposed to be ok with bad things happening in our life..? Then the paragraph goes on to say that the solution is to learn to deal with, and increase our tolerance to difficulties. 

But I like the examples how they illustrate in detail how a simple task to speak in a staff meeting becomes that person facing a pride of lions. The book opens a lot on the tiny processes of how an unhealthy and negative mind works, which is interesting. 

This quote from the book is important to me: 

You may ask, ‘if my worth is not dependent on my behaviour and performance or on anything at all, then what is it dependent on?’ Your worth is not dependent on anything. You are a worthwhile but imperfect human being just because you breathe. 

If you fail, the logical conclusion to make about yourself is that it proves you are not perfect, not that you are a total failure as a person.

I think most probably we can tell ourselves we are worthy, but if we live around toxic people, we need to be resilient enough to overcome their words that we are a failure, and that takes a lot of confidence I think.

This is the difficulty I have with therapy and self-help books. It's a lot of mental energy just to get to the point where you think, "I'm ready to work on myself." And like you said, if it's not only our own minds but also other people saying negative things to us, it can feel so difficult. Often when I read self-help books, I feel like they're targeted at people who are at least a little bit functional, but I'm usually only reading self-help books when I'm extremely depressed and can barely get out of bed.

I read a book last year called The Untethered Soul. It had this line that popped into my thoughts while reading this current book: "The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay."

I would really like to know if you guys try to include some of the things we've been reading into your life and how it's going for you 😀 Or even just if you find the exercises in each chapter helpful.

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On 8/8/2021 at 8:41 AM, Depressedgurl007 said:

This quote from the book is important to me: 

You may ask, ‘if my worth is not dependent on my behaviour and performance or on anything at all, then what is it dependent on?’ Your worth is not dependent on anything. You are a worthwhile but imperfect human being just because you breathe. 

Good luck getting societies of the world to believe this 

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Okay, this week was hard slogging; in fact, although I've read chapters 3 and 4, I've only really processed chapter 3. The level of introspection required was tough to face, and I felt like giving up more than once.

Chapter 3 was all about goal setting, with a focus on setting what the author refers to as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-oriented) goals. The first step was a quick contentment audit related to eight specific areas of your life. Ironically, after finishing the exercise, I determined that my first priority was not my mental health, but was instead my physical health. There were 2 other priorities identified, familial relationships and work/life balance, or what the author refers to as 'leisure'. I had expected my mental health to rate much higher but, when all was said and done, mental health was in the middle of the pack.

Full disclosure: I was a gym rat up until about 15 years ago. My physical decline is a huge story by itself, one that doesn't need recapping here, but, suffice to say, a significant event happened just under three years ago when I broke my back. That. Freaking. Hurt. Since then, I've been afraid to exercise, and my body is paying the price.

How do you take an ephemeral goal like "I need to get into better shape" and turn it into a SMART goal? After diddling around for a couple nights I came up with the following:

1) Try to walk at least a kilometre a day.
2) 10 reps of each of the following every two days: chest press, lat lift, shoulder press, bicep curl, tricep extension, and abdominal crunches.

I felt pretty good about myself. I came up with a plan that's specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented. It also has the advantage of being flexible by specifying minima but not maxima. I'm so smart. So why the hell did I know in my heart of hearts that I couldn't see it through? Shit, I walk 400m a day from the parking lot to my office and back. All I had to do was walk to Starbucks for a latte and I'd hit my goal. I have a very nice plate weight setup in the basement (did I say I used to be a gym rat?), so all the tools I need are literally 20 steps from my arm chair. So why did I feel, and still feel as I type this, that my meagre goals are unattainable?

Joseph told me to analyze the feelings that my goals engendered and then apply them to the ABC paradigm outlined in the previous chapters. To recap, A is the trigger, and B is the over-arching belief that informs C, the consequence. For the sake of brevity, I'll just refer to my goal as 'exercise'. When I think of exercising the following feelings are predominant:

1) Sadness. My current fitness level will make me grieve the man I was.
2) Fear. It freaking hurts to walk too much and it hurts to work those muscles too much.
3) Disappointment. I'm setting myself up to fail.
4) Guilt. I'll be selfishly taking time away from my family.

W.T.F? All I want to do is work out a bit, and my brain comes back with this crap? Really, brain? Really?

So I'm stuck. I really want to move forward with this exercise initiative, but, try as I might, I'm having a hell of a time re-framing my beliefs in a way that allows me to move past them. I've been struggling with this for three days and have done the stuff that Joseph recommends but all I end up achieving is analysis paralysis. I've created lists, so many lists, concerning what I get from keeping my current beliefs vs. what I get from re-framed, more reality based beliefs. I'm trying to channel my inner Vulcan by arguing with my lizard brain using logic, but it's not working.

Book club peeps and lurkers, any advice?

 

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I'll be blunt: I hate SMART goals. SMART is something I remember from past CBT therapy that felt like a lot of paperwork and naval-gazing that ultimately lead to no progress. I was in an extremely sour mood reading chapters 3 & 4. Sometimes when I read CBT stuff it comes across as almost inhuman to me lol...the rational and healthy thinking examples are this level of aloofness that I can't grasp.

A book called Tiny Habits helped me a lot last year with goal-setting by enforcing positive habits in a way I was able to do while being severely depressed. Accomplish VERY small daily consistent habits/goals (e.g. brush ONE tooth) and do celebrations for positive reinforcement. This snowballs into larger goals/habits. I need to get back on this...it would work well together with SMART, I think.

I did decide on a short-term SMART goal: finish and submit my Dad's will preparation by the end of this week. This has been something I've been waffling on the past couple of months for reasons I could fill a book with.

I did like the exercise of finding 10-20 personal reasons in favor of healthy beliefs and against unhealthy beliefs. I also liked the exercise of listing environmental obstacles to goals and what you could do to change them or your beliefs around them. I think I just like writing lists 😅

Some highlights/notes for me (no need to read if you already read the chapters):

Identifying Your Current Sabotaging Beliefs:

  • Demand belief: What am I saying MUST or MUST NOT happen?
  • Catastrophizing belief: If my demand is not met, what are my feelings telling me about how bad that would be?
  • Low frustration tolerance belief: Are my feelings saying an unmet demand makes life difficult or unbearable?
  • Damning beliefs: How do I judge myself or others as a consequence of not having my demand met? Did I fail or am I the failure?

"Negative emotions can feel uncomfortable, you may think it is wrong to feel them or assume that it's an indication that you are not strong enough. However, when you feel healthy nervousness it is absolutely appropriate. When you commit yourself to a goal that you care about, you may feel a healthy negative emotion that will be mixed with a sense of excitement. This healthy but negative emotion is natural. Do not assume that there is something wrong and start worrying about it. If that happens then you may create an unhealthy negative state in response to what was a healthy negative state to begin with."

"...your feelings will change last, when the new belief becomes the new way and the unhealthy belief is the old way and no longer instinctive or automatic."

4 hours ago, Another Statistic said:

I felt pretty good about myself. I came up with a plan that's specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented. It also has the advantage of being flexible by specifying minima but not maxima. I'm so smart. So why the hell did I know in my heart of hearts that I couldn't see it through? Shit, I walk 400m a day from the parking lot to my office and back. All I had to do was walk to Starbucks for a latte and I'd hit my goal. I have a very nice plate weight setup in the basement (did I say I used to be a gym rat?), so all the tools I need are literally 20 steps from my arm chair. So why did I feel, and still feel as I type this, that my meagre goals are unattainable?

So I'm stuck. I really want to move forward with this exercise initiative, but, try as I might, I'm having a hell of a time re-framing my beliefs in a way that allows me to move past them. I've been struggling with this for three days and have done the stuff that Joseph recommends but all I end up achieving is analysis paralysis. I've created lists, so many lists, concerning what I get from keeping my current beliefs vs. what I get from re-framed, more reality based beliefs. I'm trying to channel my inner Vulcan by arguing with my lizard brain using logic, but it's not working.

 

These have been thoughts that run through my mind when doing thought activities like this - I logically understand but do not feel it. No matter how much I run it through my head, I do not feel it.

Sometimes I don't even know if the goals I have are what I really want! I have had so many "important" goals come and by and I just...didn't really care when I failed.

Sorry to keep bringing up the body therapy thing, but in that therapy style the deep lizard brain needs to be dealt with first, before dealing with surface-level thoughts. "Lizard brain" sounds super unscientific but it was all science-backed stuff she explained to me like I was a child lol. This book is actually making me miss therapy a lot more (but my therapist was a bit of an unprofessional nutter herself).

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Okay, I've solved my analysis paralysis. Actually, I didn't solve it, the solution came compliments of the long suffering Mrs. Statistic.

We chatted about my impasse and she pointed out that my fear of pain was the over-arching problem here. She suggested two courses of action, 1) "a leap of faith" or 2) a second opinion. As appealing as option one sounded, I couldn't do it. So option 2 it was.

I had an appointment with a clinic last night that specializes in physical therapy, physical remediation, and kinesiology. They reviewed my injury and observed all the compensatory stuff that my body has done over the last couple of years. Apparently, I'm kind of a mess, but I didn't need to spend that money to know that. What they did say was that they could put together an exercise program that would allow me to work around my injury. Unfortunately the break is in the thoracic spine, so it's kinda central, but they have some ideas. I'm going back next week to meet with one of their physical therapists who will teach me specific techniques that will allow me to exercise without the need for a morphine drip.

Although, truth be told, I would NEVER turn down a morphine drip.

What was interesting to me about this outcome is that my brain knew there was something flawed in my thinking but was unable to articulate it. At the end of the day, I only knew what I knew, and I couldn't con myself into thinking otherwise. BUT, when someone else's wisdom and experience helped me re-frame my fear, I was able to move forward.

Damn ... maybe I'm not an island after all.

So, Chapter 3 snag cleared. On to chapters 4, 5 and 6!

On 8/15/2021 at 8:06 PM, Kogent5 said:

Sometimes I don't even know if the goals I have are what I really want! I have had so many "important" goals come and by and I just...didn't really care when I failed.

I know! I'm happy to hear you felt the same way. I was surprised with the goals that I came up with - I didn't really expect the exercise to shake out this way, and came to doubt my answers. I'm still not sure if the goals I identified are real, or simply surface manifestations of deeper needs, but at some time I have to stop the drill down process.

On 8/15/2021 at 8:06 PM, Kogent5 said:

I was in an extremely sour mood reading chapters 3 & 4.

Me too. I thought I was just crabby, but in retrospect I think I experienced the same visceral reaction to the trivialization of my problems. Like, I appreciate the application of logic and perspective, but damn, my problems have to be more than just a distortion in cognition. You're right Kogent, the more I dive into this the tougher it becomes to square Joseph's circle.

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I’ve had quite a bad day for the past two weeks and didn’t have the mood to do much of reading cos I’ve been trying to run away from my feelings of hopelessness by being “busy”. It’s funny how I started this as a goal to read 10 pages a day and I guess it just wasn’t cut out for me but let’s just get on to the book ahahah… 

So first, prioritising my life in order of importance: 

1. Personal

2. Mental

3. Family 

And all three in my life is falling apart. SMART goal? Really? I had soooo many wants and wishes that I thought of and none of them is SMART, so it’s kinda hard to create one. Plus, I’ve kinda thought it’s better for me to live through life without any goals cos once I start on a goal, I have this thought that says I MUST fail that goal cos I kind of already believe I’m a failure even though that’s unhealthy belief. I mean, I feel anxious once I stop believing that cos if I achieve a goal, what if I fail the next goal I make? Oh wait, it’s ok to fail a goal cos CBT says that it only proves we are imperfect human beings. So it’s ok to have the thoughts of “I hate myself” repeating in my head 500x a day cos I’m an imperfect human being and they are just thoughts, it would be great if I can reduce those unhealthy thoughts but its ok if I can’t cos I can cope with it and it’s not unbearable. 

Some quotes from the book I want to take note of: 

“Unrealistic goals, ideas and expectations tend to have the words always, never, or all the time in them. They are irrational. For example…Always wanting to be happy or wanting everyone to like you are two common examples of irrational goals, as is wanting to always have the feeling of being in love, despite 20 years of marriage.”

“You may have an emotion about an emotion too. You may, for example, have an anxiety about your anxiety. This is more commonly known as fear of the fear. You may also have depression about your anxiety, or anger about your anxiety.”

“And what do you think will be at the heart of your emotional state? It will of course be your beliefs, whether healthy or unhealthy.”

“Think of a 100-metre hurdle runner with his eye on the finish line as he runs towards it, jumping over the hurdles that are in his way. If he focused on the hurdle instead of the finish line, he would crash straight into it and fail. It's important that you make your goal the focus of your healthy thoughts on a daily basis. The more often you think of the end result, the more likely you will maintain the momentum to do the necessary work to make it happen.”

Just a thought that those healthy beliefs in the book seems so obvious like of course no one is perfect and of course every one has their own strengths and of course there’s a possibility that difficulties exists and of course it’s not the end of the world and of course I would have to cope with it somehow. 

There was one example the book gave I found weird: She asks herself what her feelings are telling her about her demands when she is saying no to alcohol. She understands that she is demanding that she MUST have the drink right now and that she can't stand not having one like everyone else. In that moment she is also letting go of her significant goal of losing weight. 

I guess this is kinda like reverse thinking for me cos I was expecting the demand is that she MUST lose weight but it’s ok if she doesn’t lose weight. I mean that’s the idea I’ve been getting reading this book so this is confusing, but I guess it depends the must is what physically happened..? 

Sigh..ok I have to stop here cos i need my 7 hours of sleep n my time management seems to be horrible cos my work seems to be forever stressful n never ending. I’m not quite sure how to do the exercises in chapter 4 without having a goal in place. I’m still at the stage where I feel all my goals are unrealistic and unachievable which is definitely not smart. Well I’ll start on chapter 5 next week I guess. 

Oh I don’t think I can post here weekly cos kinda taxing for me so I’ll try to post fortnightly. 

Edited by Depressedgurl007
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On 8/13/2021 at 9:08 AM, Kogent5 said:

I would really like to know if you guys try to include some of the things we've been reading into your life and how it's going for you 😀 Or even just if you find the exercises in each chapter helpful.

I do try to include some of the things I’ve been reading into my life. My intention is mostly to take some tools to use it with all the other tools I already have and as a reminder for me too, cos I tend to forget what I read so I need to be reminded a lot. I don’t think one book has all the tools required to live our life the way we want to. And most would probably be unhelpful which we have to forget about n try other tools. I’d like to think any little tool can help, like you working on your catastrophic thinking and words. 

Some can be helpful but maybe not in the way I thought it will. E.g. like how the unhealthy beliefs are processed in our heads, that’s interesting to me cos I do use it for my daily goals like even bathing I realise I have unhealthy believes; in trying to eat fruits daily I now see what goes on in my mind and how to counter them, on days I can feel myself falling into despair, I catch myself just before I fall off into that pit using those techniques. And some exercises I find not helpful I still do them but my sarcastic brain will start, so I try to have a conversation with my brain or with others to get a second opinion like AS did.

But you’re right when I’m extremely depressed these might not work for me. That’s a totally different set of tools required and I hope to find books that give those tools. 

On 8/13/2021 at 9:08 AM, Kogent5 said:

"The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay."

That’s a nice line and it’s very true.. I guess it’s related to acceptance. That’s a book I’d like to read, cos one sentence can’t explain how to feel okay with everything 🙂 

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21 hours ago, Depressedgurl007 said:

And all three in my life is falling apart. SMART goal? Really? I had soooo many wants and wishes that I thought of and none of them is SMART, so it’s kinda hard to create one. Plus, I’ve kinda thought it’s better for me to live through life without any goals cos once I start on a goal, I have this thought that says I MUST fail that goal cos I kind of already believe I’m a failure even though that’s unhealthy belief. I mean, I feel anxious once I stop believing that cos if I achieve a goal, what if I fail the next goal I make? Oh wait, it’s ok to fail a goal cos CBT says that it only proves we are imperfect human beings. So it’s ok to have the thoughts of “I hate myself” repeating in my head 500x a day cos I’m an imperfect human being and they are just thoughts, it would be great if I can reduce those unhealthy thoughts but its ok if I can’t cos I can cope with it and it’s not unbearable.

Yeah, I assume my goals, no matter how hard I try, will ultimately fail. It's a lot of pressure! Not even just "I failed at my goal" - it turns into "I am a failure." Who can perform well when they put that kind of pressure on themselves? This book mostly seems to be saying to stop talking in extremes in our thoughts and beliefs.

21 hours ago, Depressedgurl007 said:

There was one example the book gave I found weird: She asks herself what her feelings are telling her about her demands when she is saying no to alcohol. She understands that she is demanding that she MUST have the drink right now and that she can't stand not having one like everyone else. In that moment she is also letting go of her significant goal of losing weight. 

I guess this is kinda like reverse thinking for me cos I was expecting the demand is that she MUST lose weight but it’s ok if she doesn’t lose weight. I mean that’s the idea I’ve been getting reading this book so this is confusing, but I guess it depends the must is what physically happened..?

Oh I don’t think I can post here weekly cos kinda taxing for me so I’ll try to post fortnightly. 

That's interesting, I'd not thought of if that way! I think that just goes to show how differently everyone's mind works. Both "I MUST stop drinking" and "I MUST lose weight" seem like good goals on the surface, but because of MUST they become unhealthy mind traps.

Also, I think since we are a depression book club, it makes sense we don't always meet the expectations that are put out. If you guys wanna take a break I'm totally okay with that! It just means more time to implement some of the exercises and activities into my life (and see if they actually do anything) 😀

2 hours ago, Depressedgurl007 said:

That’s a nice line and it’s very true.. I guess it’s related to acceptance. That’s a book I’d like to read, cos one sentence can’t explain how to feel okay with everything 🙂 

Maybe cuz depression makes me lazy or I've just grown lazy, but I always want the easy answer. I read a book and I want my life problems solved. It never happens 😅

On 8/17/2021 at 4:25 PM, Another Statistic said:

I had an appointment with a clinic last night that specializes in physical therapy, physical remediation, and kinesiology. They reviewed my injury and observed all the compensatory stuff that my body has done over the last couple of years. Apparently, I'm kind of a mess, but I didn't need to spend that money to know that. What they did say was that they could put together an exercise program that would allow me to work around my injury. Unfortunately the break is in the thoracic spine, so it's kinda central, but they have some ideas. I'm going back next week to meet with one of their physical therapists who will teach me specific techniques that will allow me to exercise without the need for a morphine drip.

Yay! I'm glad your wife could help and it sounds like the wheels are starting to turn towards a healthier you 😀 Slow and steady with bumps in between 👍

On 8/17/2021 at 4:25 PM, Another Statistic said:

I know! I'm happy to hear you felt the same way. I was surprised with the goals that I came up with - I didn't really expect the exercise to shake out this way, and came to doubt my answers. I'm still not sure if the goals I identified are real, or simply surface manifestations of deeper needs, but at some time I have to stop the drill down process.

Me too. I thought I was just crabby, but in retrospect I think I experienced the same visceral reaction to the trivialization of my problems. Like, I appreciate the application of logic and perspective, but damn, my problems have to be more than just a distortion in cognition. You're right Kogent, the more I dive into this the tougher it becomes to square Joseph's circle.

I find this with many self-help books - the "it's all in your head" mindset can be really hard to get into and mentally damaging tbh...I am finding that the book is answering more of my skepticism as I go along, though.

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I actually quite liked working through Chapter 5 and I'm going to practice visualization from Chapter 6 through the week. I think seeing SMART just triggered me for some reason lol (thankfully they didn't really mention it in 5 & 6). I am going to practice the bridging technique for this week. I tend to work better with slow desensitization rather than flooding so it appeals to me. I was not interested in the audio portion of chapter 6 since I hate my voice lol.

In the past week I've identified more goals that I would like to work on, about things that I have been running away from. It is nice to have something specific to work at rather than this nebulous anxiety that fills my head. I did end up meeting my goal of preparing my Dad's will for him. I honestly don't know if that was because of the book or because I posted it here and didn't wanna embarrass myself haha...but it also worked for the book I had been lazily reading for several months before posting about it.

Some notes & quotes I liked:

  • "It is important to remember that your helpful self-talk has to be supported by your healthy belief. If you just work on your self-talk but ignore your healthy belief, the helpful self-talk becomes more difficult to believe."
  • "It is about...learning to deal with life when the glass is in fact half empty without damaging yourself, so you can eventually see it as being half full again."
  • "A healthy belief cannot be strengthened without first imagining yourself dealing with the negative scenario in a healthy way and without damning yourself."
  • The desensitization visualization technique is basically setting aside some time to imagine yourself in a worst-case scenario with max emotional discomfort, during which you recite your healthy beliefs forcefully and energetically until you start to feel positive emotional changes.
  • If the situation is bad enough, you might stop the visualization because the unhealthy belief/feeling is so strong. The book suggests the "bridging technique." The bridging technique is basically visualization of a positive memory, imagining those positive feelings growing stronger, emptying your mind, and then doing the desensitization visualization again. The positive feelings mix with the negative feelings and make it more manageable.
  • "Remember to work on the negative event first before you start working towards positive thinking."
  • "Once you shift from "I can" to "I am", it's time to stop the self-talk expressions based on your potential. You are now beyond that point. Now your thoughts need to generate and trigger the natural feeling of discomfort and excitement of commitment. As you know, in order to drive faster, you shift a gear. This is your shift in gear, cognitively speaking."
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On 8/30/2021 at 5:26 PM, Another Statistic said:

OMG, I'm sorry - life has been interesting lately.

I'm still here and plan to update soon. Thanks Kogent for keeping the ball bouncing 🙂

Cyber beer is on me!

Yeah, me too, but replace "interesting" with "chaotic" 😬 Honestly, the book is kinda last priority right now. Let's take a breather and catch up when we can, I'm gonna read the next 2 chapters and post at the end of this week, you guys post when you can, no rush 👍

I have been making use of the SMART goals (although not really the CBT thinking exercises associated with them). I've also really liked using the bridging technique when I've remembered to use it. It's easy to do if you can find at least one very happy memory (which can be the most difficult part). Very odd to be feeling absolutely miserable and a sudden flooding of happiness throughout your body.

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Had a lot of difficulty staying focused while reading this week and didn't find chapter 7 very useful. I can't remember a lot of the stuff from earlier chapters...I should go through my notes. I might try re-reading this chapter again.

Didn't bother to do the first imagery exercise for chapter 7. Twenty-seven steps, are you kidding me? No. Should've come with audio instructions. I had difficulty with the second exercise which asks you to recall a time you felt calm and confident, and that has not been for a very long time, not since childhood...it's hard to remember how I felt. So the visualization was difficult. I really need to start a list of good memories I have because majority of mine are tainted somehow.

Notes:

  • Meta emotion: feeling about another feeling. Plays a significant role in resiliency. E.g. you have unhealthy beliefs about discomfort, so you do whatever you can to not be uncomfortable.
  • Healthy meta emotion: I want to feel comfortable starting something new, but I can tolerate feeling uncomfortable. It isn't a catastrophe.
  • If you seek comfort in all things, you won't do much and then even that begins to trigger discomfort.
  • Cognitive emotive triggers are about provoking a positive feeling when you encounter a setback. If you mix a bowl of hot water and a bowl of cold water, you have warm water.
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