We sometimes experience depression when we have external restrictions or too few resources because we tend to think:
“I must be fully able to determine my life path free from external restrictions and with ample resources (Demandingness). If I am unable to determine my life path free of external restrictions and with ample resources, it is unbearable (low discomfort tolerance) and awful (awfulizing).”
We might call this type of depression – “discomfort depression”. In this example we are experiencing discomfort imposed by external restrictions and too few resources and then disturbing ourselves about this discomfort. We depress and anger ourselves over our external restrictions and too few resources.
REBT shows us how to feel appropriate and healthy feelings of sadness, displeasure and annoyance over our frustrating external situation. It is appropriate and helpful for us to feel sad, displeased and annoyed over external restrictions and too few resources as these emotions will motivate us to find creative ways to free ourselves from these restrictions and to obtain the resources we strongly desire. However, with these self-helping negative feelings we do not experience discomfort depression and we are NOT consumed by your feelings. We do not feel hopeless and do not have inertia. We do not experience unhealthy anger over our restrictions. Hopelessness, inertia, and unhealthy anger never assist us in finding creative ways to free ourselves of external restrictions and obtain the resources we strongly desire.
In REBT we question the self-defeating philosophy that leads to discomfort depression in the following way:
· Where is it written I must be fully able to determine my life path free from external restrictions and with ample resources? Answer: Nowhere is this written except between my ears.
· When faced with these restrictions does it help or hinder me to demand that these restrictions not exist? Answer: It clearly hurts me as I experience depression, unhealthy anger and inertia.
· Although I may want to be fully able to determine my life path free from external restrictions and with ample resources does it follow logically that I must have these ideal conditions? Answer: No, it does not logically follow that because I want certain ideal conditions therefore these conditions must exist.
If we carefully and honestly reflect on the above questions and answers the following REBT philosophy will be clear, self-evident, and easier for us to adopt:
“I really wish I were able to determine my life path free from external restrictions and with adequate resources (preferential philosophy) but sadly I cannot and it is not essential that this ideal set of conditions exist. It clearly is uncomfortable for me to have external restrictions but these restrictions and inadequate resources are bearable (high discomfort tolerance). It is bad that these external restrictions exist (realism) and I do not have all the resources I badly want but it is not awful (anti-awfulizing philosophy). It is conceivable that I could have even greater restrictions than I do now experience and enjoy fewer resources than I do now have (realism). Despite having these external restrictions and too few resources I can still have some degree of pleasure and satisfaction in life although probably not quite as much pleasure as I would experience if these external restrictions were not in place (realism). I am significantly more likely to free myself of these external restrictions if I consistently implement this self-helping credo (motivation to problem solve)!”
Is the self-helping credo easy for fallible humans to live by? Hell no, it certainly is not but that does not make it an invalid point of view! We are well advised to do what is difficult and to cling to this self-helping credo so that we can more creatively devise ways to overcome our external restrictions and achieve our personal goals. When you do so it will be our finest hour!