There are three distinct ways those who are at risk for or who have experienced depressive episodes tend to interpret events in order to make sense of them. All three ways help promote a depressive episode.
They tend to see the negative in most everything. For example, if a friend doesn’t return the a phone call or e-mail message, the person with depression will likely think that friend is mad rather than think perhaps that friend didn’t get the message.
They tend to ruminate over mistakes, and then decide there is something wrong with them personally. Why did I act stupidly? —Because I am stupid. Why couldn’t I have done better? —Because I am incapable. Why did I mess up so much? —Because I am defective. Why am I defective? —Because I was raised in a dysfunctional family.
They tend to see life in patterns. The thoughts in their heads run along the lines of: Why do I always act this [bad] way? Why can’t I ever stand up for myself? Nine times out of ten those affected by depression forget the times they acted well or did stand up for themselves.
In addition to these three there is the fact that all of us, depressed and not, interpret every event that occurs in our lives based on how we feel at the moment we do the interpreting. When we feel good now, last year’s vacation was fun. When we feel bad now, last year’s vacation could have been better. Knowing this, be careful about trying to find causes for your present feelings and behaviors in the past.
Let’s keep these things in mind when we feel down in the dumps whether with regard to achievements, relationships, prayer, or our expectations about ourselves. Is the truth really as I am feeling or thinking? Or is it something different? Or a little bit of both? One way to find out is to ask, “What are three other ways to interpret this?”