May 30 2012

Grad School (part 2)

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Cognitive Psychology basically asserts that if we can control the little nagging negative nabobs of our mind, and focus on the good, we’ll be okay. There’s no real delving into root causes. Indeed, one of the main problems I have with it, is that it seems to treat symptoms, rather than illnesses. I think there’s some useful bits to it, that would work well in conjunction with other therapies, but I don’t think there’s enough to it to stand on its own.

Here’s some interesting bits:

The basic idea behind Cognitive Psychology works like this.

A) Activating Experience (let’s say, your s.o. breaks up with you) leads to

B) Irrational / Illogical Belief About Event Or Interpretation Of The Experience (“I really must be a worthless person”) leads to

C) Resulting Negative Psychological Consequences (depression, hostility, etc.)

The trick is to catch things at Step B, and realize that the interpretation is out of sync with reality, and to adjust it accordingly.

Step B manifests in what’s known as “Distorted Thinking”. There are 10 basic types of this.

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories
  2. Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat (ex. me selling my car, then getting upset over the campus move)
  3. Mental Filter: You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives
  4. Discounting The Positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don’t count
  5. Jumping To Conclusions: You conclude hings are bad without any definite evidence.
    • Mind-reading: You assume that people are reacting negatively to you.
    • Fortune-telling: You predict that things will turn out badly.
  6. Magnification or Minimization: You blow things way out of proportion or you shrink their importance
  7. Emotional Reasoning: You reason from how you feel: “I feel like an idiot, so I must be one.”
  8. “Should” Statements: You criticize yourself or other people with “shoulds,” “shouldn’ts,” “musts,” “oughts,” and “have-tos.”
  9. Labeling: Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you tell yourself, “I’m a jerk” or “a loser”
  10. Blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that you contributed to a problem.

I think these are important patterns to recognize in ourselves. I know I’m guilty of several of them, and I know at least one other person who uses a lot of these, though I wish they wouldn’t. Where I have a problem with the Cognitive Crew, is that they don’t seem to offer any real solutions other than “think happy positive thoughts instead.” And I’m sorry, that just doesn’t always cut it. Sure, after a while, it can break a bad habit, but its still not treating why that habit exists, or how it got started in the first place. And to me, that leaves too much room open for things to reappear.

As you may have guessed, Cognitive Psychology is pretty much the basis of the entire self-help section in any book store. I think the sheer volume of these books is a testament to why it needs to be coupled with something else, and can’t work on its own.

Thus endeth tonight’s lesson.

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