Dear University-assigned Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Person,
Thank you for meeting me today for 24 minutes. I was 26 minutes late, which you said was normal for your clients. Your spirit is hung on a wiry frame with artificially straightened teeth and you talked about yourself more than 50% of the 24 minutes. It took you 90 seconds to do the math to decide how many minutes of your time I would get, given that I was 26 minutes tardy.
When you told me that my use of the word ‘should’ was a signal of a lack of positivity, I imagined seeing you sinking in a tank of thick salt water. Even though you should float, you sunk, and it could be for any of the reasons listed above. It took you just under 2 minutes to find the paper in your dirty folder you were looking for, and that was about 17 minutes into our session. The paper had been photocopied at least 239 times, giving it the look of something printed by very old and tired ghosts. You almost had to photocopy the 240th version, until you found an extra one crumpled up in the back of the book.
Once you located it, you handed me a crumpled up sheet of paper and directed me to #9 on FORM B.2. Categories of Distorted Automatic Thoughts: A guide for Patients, which said
- Shoulds: You interpret events in terms of how things should be, rather than simply focusing on what is. “I should do well. If I don’t, then I’m a failure.”
You offered me FORM B.2 ten minutes after I said that my sadness came from living in a difficult period in history, when I didn’t know what I should be doing given the dire circumstances all around me.
You thought out loud, nervously, that if I policed my language I might feel better. It was an honest offering, though completely inadequate and poorly delivered.
I don’t have a problem with language, I have a problem with how we see ourselves as useless non-members of our society whose powers are limited to using or not using plastic bags. It seems like a problem within the framework of CBT, that I identify as a member of my society. No amount of positive thinking will make my success a gift in the face of mass extinction, and specific to our town, Indigenous genocide.
- Inability to disconfirm: You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. For example when you have the thought “I’m unlovable,” you reject as irrelevant any evidence that people like you. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted. “That’s not the real issue. There are deeper problems. There are other factors.”
I am not only a member of my society, I am also its product.
I am a person who has trouble waking up in the morning because I feel sad and overwhelmed. Partially, it is because I don’t know what I should do in the apocalypse. I am looking at ways of managing the depression so I can continue to exist without upsetting my partner, friends or cats with loud crying and screaming in the night. However, I believe that my depression, like everyone’s, is not something to be suppressed, ignored or overcome. In fact, I think it should be celebrated and room should be made for it. Though it is hard to believe, the only reason to overcome the depression is economic, though the economic system is irrational and has committed irreparable damage to every person it touches. The will to suppress or overcome depression was developed by the market, to keep people willing and able to work so much that they could never question the powerful forces controlling their working conditions or lives. Too much time in bed with depression means too many people thinking about ways not to work. You can never know how many people are in bed right now, plotting against the powerful, or how they will rewrite history. Your job exists to make sure that we won’t do that, that we can still want to go to work and that we can believe that it is a worthy purpose. You were hired by the university to be a cheerleader for University workers to continue to work despite the cranking, growing feelings of friction on the soft animals of our bodies.
You called yourself an environmentalist for using fabric bags and glass jars from home when you shop at the bulk zone. You asked me if there was something similar that I could do, which would offer me a feeling of self satisfaction, a small dose of dopamine. Your attempt to comfort me gave me a suicidal idea mixed with a homicidal idea. Some mornings before you go to work, you might want to meditate on the idea that “too much work” is said to be a major contributor to global warming and the climate emergency?
What if depression is actually communication from the unconscious (or something below that), announcing that we must stop what we are doing and adapt. Or what if for some, it is the off gassing of change that is already in process. My body and mind are receiving the message, that I need to change what I am doing, to seek out what I should be doing, in the apocalypse. It is hard and I don’t feel well. It is grinding me down into a different shape. I may never be happy. But if no one wonders what they should be doing at this time, wouldn’t that be terrifying? I like to think that my depression and anxiety are a part of a cosmic toolkit that every person is given, but I don’t think that the transformation I am experiencing is a rare condition, nor is it necessarily a disease to be fixed. When one person is depressed it is a mutable issue to be treated. When most people are depressed, it is an epigenetic upsurgence.
PS I am grateful that you told me that I should write in a gratitude journal for all the things that I have, many of which are denied to other people in our society. I should be grateful that the powerful decided that I deserved to continue to live and reproduce their horrible power structures, while the surplus populations are kept from accessing life at all. I’m glad that you told me to do that because I thought in some way that it was only a rumour that CBT practitioners could actually say that.