It's happened once again. Someone has told me about how certain techniques were supposed to be good for them and they just seemed to do the opposite.
I think I've held out on talking about this stuff because I'm not an expert, and because there really does seem to be research that tells an opposite story. But instead of waiting until I've read all the science, let me tell you about my experience, because that's pretty real to me.
Long ago, some therapists taught me some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques (CBT). I read a book about it even longer ago. What stuck with me as the gist of it, was that as a way of improving mood/outlook/etc, I could analyze my own thoughts and thought patterns, and see where they were bringing me down unnecessarily. I could learn to see, for example, where I was making guesses about the future that may not be true (and so unnecessarily worrying.) I could see where I was thinking about something as all-or-nothing or black-and-white. I could see where my assumptions about what other people thought about me were mind-reading attempts where that wasn't really possible.
And by applying these techniques to take apart my negative and sad-inducing thinking, I could make the power of this thinking diminish, and so I could feel better.
Except that I think faster than that.
I reason really fast. And my reasoning may be pretty decent.
My feelings go by at light speed. I may forget that felt bad a minute ago while I'm trying to take apart the cause. That's just confusing.
Or I might find the "reason," like "mind-reading" or "fortune-telling," but in the meantime have reasoned further so that I've either convinced myself that I'm right and the technique is wrong, or I might have just moved on to thinking about something else, all without realizing it, so that the deconstruction just skims some surface I don't even notice is there.
Or more generally, I may feel like I'm battling a vast flame with a thimble of water. Now realize, the flame may not be made up of all NEGATIVE thoughts; there are just so many of them that honing in on one line of thought just doesn't do much for me.
I'd really like to know about the research. And I will add, that in my own experience, things like effective ADHD medication (NOT mood medication) can slow down the thinking enough that techniques like those from CBT may begin to be relevant. Once I was on meds I could say to myself "oh hey! look at that! I'm feeling kinda bummed out!" and then maybe decide to do something about it. This doesn't work for everyone- but it does seem like that basic stage, the thought slow-down, needs to be in place first, not after. And I just wish that the people trying to help me in the past, and who are trying to help you now, could crawl inside your head and see what they're dealing with. Because if you're standing in front of those rock-and-roll speaker stacks with Guns 'n Roses blaring, a piccolo just isn't going to sound so loud.
You? CBT? Other techniques? Have they worked? Failed you? Let us know in the comments.