How to be depressed
Evolution has given human beings an amazing intellectual faculty coupled with an incredible ability to adapt to any environment. These talents allow us to make the best of perilous situations, to turn adversity into triumph and to survive even when all the odds suggest otherwise.
But the magic doesn't stop there. These very same talents can be converted into a weapon against ourselves, allowing us to transform any situation into a reason to feel like crap, to put ourselves down, and to drink deeply from the bitter well of despair.
The trick is to apply negative transformations to all of your experiences, and to apply these negative transformations so often that they become automatic.
This way madness lies...
Let's look at self-destructive thoughts in detail. Here are some particular thought-patterns that have had brilliant results in helping millions of people feel worthless, since time immemorial:
- Everything is pass/fail
- I can read minds!
- I can read the future, and see the whole world!
- Let's apply a label!
- If I feel bad, I am bad
- I should do this, I should do that!
- I'm responsible for everything
- Bad things are worth extra points
- Good things are worth less points
- Good things are actually bad things
These thought patterns are classic cases of "cognitive distortions" and I've based them on the work of two doctors, David D. Burns and Aaron T. Beck. You can read an excellent book by David D. Burns called 'Feeling Good', but it may actually stop you from being depressed. It will probably even have long-term benefits.
Burns and Beck were remarkable doctors who directly helped thousands of people to overcome depression, and through their pioneering work on 'Cognitive Therapy' they saved millions of people from depression. Now on the surface you may think it sounds like Burns and Beck were good people. And you may be a little cheered up to think that such good exists in this world. But no. I intend to teach you about depression. And we're going to start our depressing lessons by applying the most depressing rule of all, rule number 10: Good things are actually bad things.
So let's use this fabulous 'reverse alchemy' to turn Burns and Beck from heroes into villains.
While their work appears to have had a net positive gain for all of humanity, we happen to live in a complicated universe where every act has both good and bad consequences. By curing people of depression without using traditional anti-depressants, the 'good' Doctors must have caused some measurable financial short falls within pharmaceutical companies. This would in turn have caused some employees to either lose their jobs or have their pay reduced. And this must have caused financial hardship for the former employees and their families. It's possible that some of these unemployed workers felt despondent and started to drink more alcohol than they had previously. And this may have caused them to beat their wives, who may have ended up depressed themselves, and even turned to harder drugs, such as heroin, in a futile attempt to cope with their violent home life. In a short time, a heroin dependency may have led to homelessness and a life of prostitution and petty crime.
So before we go patting Doctors Burns and Beck on the back, let's remember that they were fundamentally wife-beating alcoholic junky-pimp criminals who left a trail of misery and despair in their wake!
Thank you rule number 10! This 'reverse alchemy' stuff is really very simple. But rule 10 is the ultimate, and the trickiest cognitive distortion of all. Let's go back and look at some of the simpler techniques for feeling blue.
1. Everything is pass/fail.
While writing this article I think to myself:
But no, that isn't quite a pass/fail statement, so let me revise it a little:
Like all ten distortions, this pass/fail attitude serves only to help you become depressed. It has no positive side-effects whatsoever. So go ahead and incorporate it into your life: I guarantee you will feel sorry!
2. I can read minds.
Yesterday I was talking to a friend on the telephone whom I hadn't spoken to in a while. I don't really know what he's been up to or what he's thinking, but if I intend to be depressed I should have a stab at reading his thoughts. So here goes!
He must be thinking:
It's a good thing that the power of depression allows me to read minds. Because if I was to instead evaluate the conversation at face value, I would probably notice a lot of undepressing thoughts that I was thinking such as:
3. I can read the future and see the whole world.
The mathematical theory of chaos, and the phenomenon of 'sensitive dependence on initial conditions' demonstrate how truly impossible it is to read the future. But don't let hard science or common-sense stand in the way of predictions of catastrophe, doom and horror.
For example, when you have a few moments of despair you must quickly extrapolate them into a lifetime of agony. If you feel down for ten minutes, learn to automatically tell yourself:
If one person does one negative thing to you, translate this into a lifetime of persecution in a cruel world of terror and hatred. For example, if the bus driver seems gruff when he hands you change for your bus ticket, say to yourself:
4. Let's apply a label!
Labels can stop common-sense in its tracks! They're perhaps the most powerful tool in our depression-pack, and oh-so versatile. We can apply them to people around us, and for added sadness we can apply them to ourselves as well!
When I kick my toe against a chair I can label myself a "clumsy fool". Of course, by doing this I am ignoring the millions of time I have failed to kick my toe against a chair. I am selecting that one slip up, giving it special treatment and using it to transform my entire image of my self. It's unfair, but it's good at making me sad.
When someone cuts me off in traffic, I can label them an "utter prick". Never mind that I know nothing else about them. That they probably don't spend all of their waking lives cutting people off in traffic. If I succeed in labelling them a prick, then I've proven my ability to apply pass/fail principles to the things around me, and you just wait and see how easy it will be for me to feel frustrated and upset with life itself!
My desk is messy -- therefore I'm a messy person. There's a speck of dirt on the floor. Therefore the house is a pigsty and I'm crap at housework.
5. If I feel bad, I am bad!
This is also known as emotional reasoning and relies on the sort of logical flaw that Lewis Carrol packed into 'Alice in Wonderland'. A classic emotional statement is "I feel guilty therefore I am guilty." Keep following that line of thought and you'll invent something to feel guilty about.
6. I "should" do this, I "should" do that!
Not feeling exhausted and despondent? You really should!
Turn up the pressure! Aim too high! You'll soon be surrounded by a sticky fog of inadequacy.
Consider using this popular phrase, as a powerful depressant:
Here's a great 'should' statement that could make even the most successful people feel like they've achieved nothing:
These unfair comparisons are a never ending source of sad. Try combining a lot of them together. For example:
You can use this string of improbable desires to build into one truly impossible desire! Get Down!
7. I'm responsible for everything
Imagine that two friends of yours just got a divorce. In case it never occurred to you, let me tell you now: that's actually your fault.
Okay, common sense might tell you that they are adults, in control of their own lives. At best you've got no more than a very tiny ability to influence them at all. But according to rule number 7, you are responsible for everything. Everything bad, anyway. You forced them apart. You let them down. If you had only been there a little more often, if you'd only said the right thing at the right time, then they'd have made it through. It's your fault! And yours alone!
8. Bad things are worth extra points
Imagine you are playing a game of football against a fairly strong team. You're playing hard, and fairly well matched, but there is one little difference. Every time they score against you, you don't give them just one point. You give them ten points. Or a hundred points. Or a thousand points. Try defeating that team, loser!
And so it is, if you want your bad thoughts to defeat you.
Every bad thing that happens can be multiplied by a factor of at least one thousand.
It's possible effects on your life are very high indeed. The universe has some innate way of knowing which incidents are bad, and can guarantee that they will occur again and again and again. In fact, it's only the bad things that are real. If you want to, you can dwell on the negative events. Replay them in your mind over and over.
9. Good things are worth less points
Good things must be attenuated down until they are almost non-existent.
Okay, someone said something nice about you. Quickly respond with 'it was nothing really', or 'never mind, that's okay'. Tell yourself 'they're just saying that.' Don't give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Crush the positive. Cherish the negative.
10. Good things are actually bad things
And yes, the strongest alchemy of all is the ability to turn the positive right around and make it negative. It's a simple trick and anyone can master it. Your friend won a million dollars? That's bad, because now they won't need you anymore. And you feel jealous about it, which proves you are a bad person. What's good is bad and what's bad is bad.
Maybe you've already got some naturally ability at the above things without me telling you how. If so, I am impressed! But don't get too smug, fathead.
When you've succeeded at becoming depressed, don't think that your work is done. If you stop thinking distorted negative thoughts, your depression could lift quite suddenly. If you seek help, you could be surprised to find that modern therapy has startling capabilities of reducing and overcoming depression.
Remember to keep telling yourself: "I am that one rare individual who is beyond help." This statement, though obviously ludicrous when written down or said out loud, can be very easy to believe if you just let it rattle around inside your brain for long enough.
Regular exercise, such as a little walk in the morning, can help clear your mind of negative thoughts. So stay inside and mope by all means. Don't even get out of bed.
But if you encourage negative distortions, if you let them continue and if you do nothing to stop them, these negative thoughts will almost definitely succeed in ruling your every action. Such is the self-fulfilling power of negativity.
By applying the principles outlined above, you can look forward to a long life of sadness and despair. Best of luck!
secretGeek recommends:Feeling Good, by Dr David Burns
Are you wondering: why is this article so damn sarcastic?
Well, I trust the audience of this blog are able to understand when I'm being ironic. You've astounded me in the past by generally being able to see what is done for humorous effect and what is serious.
But in case you've missed the point of this article, let me point it out clearly now: Depression is Not Fun. You don't want to be depressed. There's nothing amusing about it. The feeling of overcoming it, however, is damn sweet. If you tend to feel blue at times, please take some little steps to help yourself. I guarantee you that it's worth it. That you are worth it. If you can't see that right now, that's cool. You will understand when you're feeling better.
My book "Choose Your First Product" is available now.
It gives you 4 easy steps to find and validate a humble product idea.