The renown psychotherapist Carl Jung once said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious.”
This is important to consider if you are struggling with depression—and in particular associated cognitive distortions.
Oftentimes it’s more tempting to try to run away from the negative mindset of depression. Yet, Jung realized that in order to overcome depression, you actually need to embrace it.
This includes understanding mental distortions and how they influence not just your depression but also your life.
Understanding Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive distortions are the biases that affect how we perceive the world. The reason that these perceptions are distorted, or warped, is because they don’t really reflect reality.
Of course, when you are depressed that often doesn’t matter to you. In fact, cognitive distortions reinforce your beliefs and reality, and thus, your depression.
For example, let’s say that you have had difficulty finding and maintaining a relationship. Your warped thinking may tell you, “Nobody loves me.” And that distortion is reinforced by your lack of dating success.
Note, though, that this is very much different from thinking, “I just haven’t met the right person yet,” which is a sensible belief.
Identifying Cognitive Distortions Is Vital
Cognitive distortions act like an echo chamber, amplifying your already existing depression. Therefore, it’s very important to identify those distorted thought patterns. But how?
It may sound like a radical concept, but the answer may be as simple as embracing your depression.
Of course, that concept may sound frightening, as depression can lead you to very dark places. However, to overcome your depression, you need to be able to truly understand it. This is best accomplished through careful reflection.
Some question you may want to consider include:
- When do you remember first feeling this way?
- How has depression affected your life?
- What are some of your cognitive distortions?
It can be helpful to write down these answers—perhaps simply thoughts and ideas for the moment—as they come to you. That way you have something to refer back on later and examine in more depth.
Replacing the Cognitive Distortions
Once you have identified the cognitive distortions that warp your reality, you can work to replace them with different perspectives.
For example, let’s say one of your warped beliefs is that you will never be successful in life and you are powerless to do anything about it. If you recognize that it’s actually a distortion of reality, then the question becomes, “What can I do to be successful?”
When examining that question, you may realize that there is a lot more you can do to accomplish your goals than you realized. This could include:
- Continuing your education by taking classes or getting your degree
- Seeking out work opportunities (internships, entry-level positions) in your field of interest
- Consulting with a career coach if you are mid-career looking to make a change
- Staying on top of trends in your industry
When you flip the narrative on your cognitive distortions it allows you to do things that you thought weren’t possible because of your depression.
You Don’t Have to Do This Alone
Admittedly, reflecting and seeking to understand your depression won’t be easy. There’s a reason why depression can be so debilitating.
However, you don’t have to confront your thoughts alone. Working with a therapist who understands the connection between cognitive distortions and depression will be very helpful.
After all, when in the midst of depression, it’s hard to separate mental distortions from reality. Having an outside perspective is incredibly helpful during this process. A therapist can help you with identifying your distorted perceptions. They will also be able to put things into context for you and assist you with forming a more precise picture of how depression affects you.
As you can see, the problem with depression is that it really impacts your ability to understand what is real and what isn’t. Thus, you create these warped beliefs about your life and the world. In turn, these distortions reinforce your already existing depression, making things worse.
But through therapy, you can overcome and understand why you experience these unrealistic thinking patterns. Participating in therapy will also help you with, as Carl Jung said, “making the darkness conscious.”
I would be delighted to bring that kind of light of understanding into your life. Please contact me today.