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The mind's tricks and their contribution to depression

Contemporary psychotherapeutic thinking can be classified into three primary areas of focus: (a) those that believe that healing occurs in the here-and-now, (b) those that believe healing occurs given the (artificial) relationship of the psychotherapy session, and (c) those that believe clients are attuned to the here-and-now within the psychotherapy session. Whether focusing on the here-and-now or relational attunement, the significance of these approaches are vital in our attempts to re-centre the mind and get our clients back into the life they desire or once knew.

Recovering this life, however, is no easy task when depression continues to plague thinking and everyday activity. The mind begins to say things such as: “I am no good”, “I am helpless”, “I cannot do any better”, and “I am continuing on this path because I am afraid to do any different”. These forms of thinking are the mind’s way of keeping us locked into that continuous cycle of self-destruction or stasis.

Here are four ways the mind tricks us when suffering from depression:

  • Value splitting: Value splitting occurs when the mind makes associations between events in life. The associations are then designated a value of “good” and “bad” or some other moral term. After associations are valued, the mind separates these elements between self and others. In depressive states, the mind sometimes internalises the negative associations only to label the self. These self-associations appear to be true of the person but they are far from true. Recognising the negative associations are a step into recovery.

  • Continued thinking about the past: When thinking too deeply about the past, the mind has a way of becoming fixated. As such, the mind continues to ruminate on events of the past such that we are continued to be reminded of these events. However, the interesting part is when the mind exaggerates the story to reinforce its commitment to the past.  

  • The “yes-but” trap: Everyday language is a significant indicator into the mind’s tricks. Many people fall into the “yes-but” trap. This trap is both the mind’s way of exploring options and keeping the person in a frozen state. The “yes-but” trap starts by allowing a choice to be made. However, once the choice is made, the person follows the affirmation with “but…” thus providing reason for the choice to be negated. The trap is extremely effective when discussing aspects of the self. All too often, people say, “I am pretty but…”, “I am smart but…” or “I am nice but…”.  

  • Thinking as-if “elsewhere” or “otherwise” are more desirable: The mind uses techniques to avoid the here-and-now. Another technique involves the desire to be “elsewhere” or “otherwise” engaged. Sometimes the mind thinks “I wish I were…”, “I shouldn’t be here”, “I don’t belong”, and “If only I were…”.

The mind is an interesting thing. The mind can be our greatest friend or our worst enemy. It can protect us from impending danger or force us to worry about that which is not present. These ways of thinking attempt to pull us away from the here-and-now and the subsequent relationships that develop. True recovery is dependent on many factors. However, being aware of the mind’s survival techniques will better equip you with the tools needed to overcome depression.   

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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