Thank you for all your wonderful comments that you left on my last post. Words cannot adequately express how touched I was by all the good thoughts that you sent my way.
I am slowly coming out of the hopelessness I have been feeling, and I feel blessed for that.
My down period, I believe, came from a series of circumstances and my responses to them.
And I think it came in part from a change in medication. I think the change is ultimately good, but my body had to adjust to no longer receiving a medication it had been getting for at least two years.
One of the things I’ve done to try to help myself is to learn a little more about hopelessness.
I turned to The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression: A Step by Step Program, 2nd Edition, by William J. Knaus, Ed.D.
He writes that in some instances, hopelessness is the reality. An example he gives is the fact that we all age. “But you don’t have to feel miserable about this reality. Even when one situation is hopeless, you can find other opportunities” (p. 144).
Hopelessness thinking is different from the real hopeless situations: “Hopelessness thinking includes overly generalized beliefs such as these: ‘My future looks dismal’; “Nothing will ever work out’; ‘Whatever I do will be futile’; ‘I will never get better’; ‘This is the way I am. I always feel miserable’” (p. 144).
As Knaus says, “unfortunate events happen, but the fatalistic resignation of hopelessness thinking is optional” (p. 145).
An example he gives is that someone may have lost his or her job, but that doesn’t mean he or she will never work again.
I appreciated being reminded that there are some hopeless situations in life. But how we react to them is so important. Giving in to hopelessness thinking is a choice. It’s a choice that’s difficult to pull out of, but it can be done.
One of the techniques Knaus gives for fighting hopelessness is what he calls the “prove it” technique. You write down your hopeless thoughts, give examples of such thoughts, and then write down alternatives.
I tried this exercise. Here’s one of my outcomes:
Hopeless thought: I’m never going to feel better; I’ll never be happy.
Example of this thought: I’ve felt bad for many years.
Alternative: I’ve felt good, too, and I can’t predict for sure that I’ll always feel bad.
And here’s another outcome:
Hopeless thought: I’ll never be able to do what I want.
Example of this thought: I’m 49 and still not doing what I want.
Alternative: That’s not true. I am doing many things that I want to do and that can grow.
This exercise helped me. Writing down my thoughts gave me something to look at and work with. And writing out my reasons for believing the hopeless thought made me see the problems with it. With the alternatives, I could argue with myself, show myself that the hopeless thought wasn’t true.
It’s more work to sit and write down my thoughts than to wallow in the hopeless thoughts, but it was worth it in my case. I began to feel like I had more control over how I felt and how I responded to things.
I plan to keep trying this exercise when I get caught up in the hopelessness thinking.
So, dear readers, I feel like I am on my way back. Thank you again for your support and caring.
Have you ever worked on negative thinking patterns in a systematic way? If so, what did you do? Does it help you to write out your thoughts?