I read or heard or saw something awhile back that said we should always look at our negative thoughts and ask ourselves, “Is it true?” If I’m thinking that something is just awful and that because of whatever it is, my whole life is ruined, it may help to stop and examine that thought for a moment instead of resigning ourselves to a ruined life. We may want to challenge that thought by asking “Is it true?”
When we are depressed, we become masters of illusion. We can take a small incident and turn it into a major catastrophe. We can take a complement and turn it into a backhanded insult or even a lie. We can take a bump in the road and turn it into a massive mountain. The problem is that we don’t realize what we are doing. The illusions we are creating for ourselves seem to be the absolute truth. And if we are really good illusionists, we can make others believe that our misconceptions are reality as well.
I feel like I’m in two places at once. I can talk about how we make molehills into mountains, and about how we shouldn’t do that type of catastrophizing, and yet, when I look at my problems my mind tells me that they are the exception. I really am going to lose my house and end up on the streets, sleeping beneath bridges and laying on street vents for heat. I’m never going to find a job that I can do without landing myself back in the hospital overstressed and depressed. And if I end up in the hospital again, I’m never going to be able to snap back out of my depression.
So to break those illusions, I need to ask myself, “Is it true?” Well, I really am facing losing my house. That one’s probably true. But does it inevitably lead to homelessness, or might there be alternatives before I end up on the street? There probably are.
Is it true that I will never find a job that I can do and still remain healthy? I don’t know for sure what is going to happen on that front, so no, it’s not true that that is unquestionably what is going to happen. And if I do find a job and the job is stressful, does that automatically mean I’m not going to be able to handle it and will end up hospitalized? No. That’s very negative speculation. But if I do become hospitalized again, is that my death knell? No. I’ve managed to come out of it each time so far, and chances are that if I end up being that bad off again, I will again manage to dig my way out.
The problem with these “illusions” is that there are a lot of “coulds” and “mights” in there. I don’t know what is going to happen. It’s not as cut and dried as some other negative thoughts.
Take the thought “I’m always wrong” for example. That statement can be questioned with logic. Always? You have never once done or said or thought something that was “right?” Surely you have, and so the “always wrong” illusion falls away. Was it true? Absolutely not. But that’s an easy one.
See? I’m making my problems out to be the exception. My issues are unsolvable, and therefore the very worst speculation is certainly the way things are going to turn out for me. I think part of my problem is figuring out what the next step is supposed to be. Is it true that my problems are unsolvable? No, but then where do I find the solutions? It’s the frustration of not knowing that keeps me spinning my wheels, and that keeps the illusion alive.
And so I’m struggling. There might be some positive steps I could take today to help my situation, but I’m not seeing them right now. If I were a magician, maybe I could just make my problems disappear.
But that, too, would be an illusion.