Day 278, Can I Beat Donothingism by Rooting Out Cognitive Distortions?

Day 278, Can I Beat Donothingism by Rooting Out Cognitive Distortions?

 
Before I dive into cognitive distortions, here is an announcement about my success with blood pressure.
 
My blood pressure readings in Cronometer since April 17, 2019 have been normal, even without medication.  I attribute that to my fairly recent practice of mixing two kinds of V8, regular and low sodium for a balance of sodium and potassium ions.  Using approximately half of each seems to work very well for me.  I also consume an ample amount of other potassium in the diet.  I need more sodium and potassium than most people because of my lithium intake.  Lithium is in the same chemical family as sodium and potassium, and its presence in the body tends to cause the other two to be excreted in larger amounts.
 
My aunt said I would probably have to stop taking lithium eventually as it can cause blood pressure to rise dangerously.  We both have a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure.  She switched to another medicine herself, one which I have taken before and do not like.  Fortunately, it does not look like I will have to stop taking lithium due to high blood pressure.  I have had high blood pressure and have taken medication for it most of the time since 2005.  However, now my blood pressure is normal, and I am no longer taking medication for it.
 

Saturday Afternoon

 
Today, I have been in a wonderful mood.  Reviewing Dr. David Burns’ Feeling Good has given me renewed hope and even energy.  Today, I reviewed the chapter on donothingism.  I have never had this affliction to the point of not being able to get out of bed all day, but I have had periods of time when I could not work on my projects.  My faithfulness in keeping a food diary in Cronometer has sometimes lapsed through periods of depression, and I have had to re-start it.
 
In the past, I have become so paralyzed I could not work on my blog.  I have even had to start it over entirely.  However, I think restarting it improved it.  Throughout my adult life, I have struggled with the paralysis of depression.  Just forcing myself to get going again does not always work because I am so sluggish I feel awful about myself and lapse into depression again!
 

Four Reasons that Are Incorrect

 
Dr. Burns writes about the reason this happens.  First, he gives four theories that are incorrect:
 
  1. We are inherently lazy.
  2. Out of resentment we want to frustrate others with our lack of activity.
  3. We have something to gain from being depressed.
  4. We enjoy being depressed.
 

The Real Reasons

 
Then Dr. Burns gets into the real reasons for donothingism.  Not surprisingly, most of them are based on cognitive distortions.
 
I recall many years ago in 1984 that I dove into a depressive episode, and my boyfriend, a man who had been talking about getting married to me, left me over it.  He said, “You must have something to gain from this!”  I tried to find something that could be to my advantage, but I could not think of anything.  Figuratively, my whole world was falling apart.  At that point, I was still able to hold down my software engineering job, but working became very difficult.  Losing my boyfriend was like the end of the world.  Not only did I lose this boyfriend, I lost a fiancé in 1982, for the same reason:  depression, and that really felt like the end of the world, even though I was about to embark on an exciting career.
 
These minor disasters began to permeate my entire life.  I could get out of these depressions, and if I was fortunate I could manage to dodge a manic episode, but then I would fall back into a depression some time later, often not that long later.
 
Was there any hope of preventing depression for good?  Antidepressants did not work.  SAMe and l-typtophan helped, but they did not fortify me 100%.  It seemed like nothing worked, at least not permanently.  I read Feeling Good, but I must confess, I read it like a novel, like something to enjoy once and get through.  Now I am memorizing as much of it as I can, using Kevin Horsley’s Unlimited Memory techniques, reviewing it over and over.  To aid my associative memory, I associated each of the cognitive distortions to a car part:
 
1.
All-or-nothing thinking
Front fender
2.
Overgeneralization
Front hood
3.
Mental filter
Rear view window
4.
Discounting the positive
Drivers seat
5.
Jumping to conclusions
a.  Mind reading
b.  Fortune telling
Passenger seat
6.
Magnification
Passenger seat mirror
7.
Emotional reasoning
Back seat
8.
Should statements
Trunk
9.
Labeling or mis-labeling
Back bumper
10.
Personalization or blame
Tires
 
Then by visualizing a car, I can recall all the distortions.  I am doing the exercises in Feeling Good and incorporating the ideas with their applications in my life into my blog.  I did not do that the first time through.  The information was good.  I just did not absorb it thoroughly and practice it every day.
 

Should Statements

 
Now I realize that the process of rooting out cognitive distortions has to be relentless.  It is as consuming as keeping dandelions out of a yard with a weed picker.  In my previous blog entry, I focused on should statements.  Giving yourself should statements is deadly for your motivation.  Giving them to others is deadly for the relationship.
 
Last night, I talked to a former fiancé who said he liked everything about me, except when I insisted that he should do something or be a certain way.  I did not apologize for doing that, i.e. I did not say I should have been different.  However, I acknowledged what I had done.
 
This past year, I have had to root out should statements from my marriage.  Early in our relationship, I would actually make up lists, describing what my boyfriend had to do to change.  He never made those changes.  I just learned to accept him the way he was.  I started to see my husband’s good qualities more deeply, which I likely would never have done had I continued to only be focused on his flaws.
 
So how do you motivate yourself if you cannot say, “I should do this;  I should do that?”  That is what I am only starting to figure out, so forgive me if I slip a should into my text here or there.  I think it is important to focus on our values and let them motivate us.  If our value is on the relationship itself, then perhaps an annoying behavior here or there can be overlooked.  It all depends on what is important to us.  I spent so much of my life looking for the perfect mate that I probably passed up a number of good-enough mates.  Speaking of perfect, let me talk about that.
 

Perfectionism

 
All-or-nothing thinking is one of the cognitive distortions mentioned by Dr. Burns.  It is also called black-and-white thinking.  I must admit I have often thought in terms of right or wrong, i.e. should or should not.  My mentor advised me to think of things in terms of whether they work or not.  Perfectionism is a form of all-or-nothing thinking, and it is one of the causes of donothingism.  Since you cannot do something perfectly, you settle for the only other alternative you give yourself:  nothing.  So you do nothing.
 
I think perfectionism is what stalled me with my ebook, Joyful Vibrance:  Transform Your Body Image, Energy, and Mood!.  Since it was so overwhelming to finish it perfectly, I did not finish it at all.  I was going to build an index for it, which is not even needed for the Kindle version, and I got overwhelmed with the amount of repetitive work involved.  This ebook is close to being done though, so I hope you will read it as is, while it is available for free.
 
Overwhelming Yourself
 
Speaking of overwhelming, overwhelming yourself is another cause of donothingism.  Before I started keeping my little black book, which I call Aspirations for Joyful Vibrance, I tried to keep my to-do list in my head.  Part of the list was on the computer, but at the time, I used a single monitor, and switching from application to application was cumbersome.  I became overwhelmed and did not feel motivated to work on my to-do list.
 
I did not do many of the things necessary for me and my husband, especially if they involved driving anywhere, which is a task I really get stalled on.  I started getting depressed because I was not progressing on my list.  I still have difficulty completing certain items because working with my husband on a to-do list can be a challenge.  He likes to say, “not now.”  When I ask him when to ask again, he cannot give me an answer.  However, keeping the to-do items in my little black book reminds me again and again to take up the challenge of getting things done, especially the critical things.  I can do things one at a time, and now I am not depressed over my lack of progress.
 
Overwhelm is related to all-or-nothing thinking as well, because when I am overwhelmed, I am probably obsessing over that huge list of things I have put off.
 

Hopelessness

 
The first cause of donothingism that Dr. Burns mentioned was hopelessness.  When I get very depressed, I get hopeless.  I have to keep telling myself that things can get better.
 
This is generally when all progress on my projects ceases.  In February 2018, I was working feverishly on multiple projects, when my mother told me to stop or I would get depressed.  I stopped.  And then I got really depressed.  I was never able to resume all the projects.  I doubt that working on the projects would have caused depression, except that I got overwhelmed.  Being on the verge of overwhelm, I stopped, and then all hell broke loose.  I was depressed for months.  Part of the problem was that I believed my mother.  I talked about the dangers of always doing that in an earlier post.
 
I had not gotten suicidal for years, but this time I was suicidal.  I did not make any attempts on my life, but I wanted to do it day after day.  I started to doubt that I had a worthwhile future because my projects were all about my hopes for the future, and I could no longer work on them (or so it appeared).  During this time, I read Joel Osteen’s book Blessed in the Darkness, which explains how I could come out of a dark valley and be twice blessed.  I started to believe it.
 
So how can hopelessness be turned around?  This was a time when my reliable JV Life Tracker, which had gotten me out of countless depressions by getting me moving again, failed to make a difference.  Usually, it works like a charm, but this depression was deeper than that.
 
I think the ultimate solution for this period of hopelessness was deciding that it was all right after all to re-marry, even though the Bible speaks out against it.  I had the limiting belief that there were no men that were right for me.  That was true as long as I believed it.
 
I had believed that I had to always take care of myself financially, so I was working feverishly on projects that could help me in a future time when I feared I would not have enough money.  Fortunately, there was help available for me.  I had two boyfriends.  One was a bit unsure about getting married to me after everything we had been through.  The other boyfriend was moving to Colorado.  He decided he wanted me to come too, and he changed his mind about marriage.  Here we are happily married in Colorado today.  I feel that I am twice blessed, just as Joel Osteen promised.
 

Helplessness

 
Dr. Burns mentions helplessness as a cause of donothingism.  As we shun more and more activities due to our recurrent depressions, we lose the capability we would gain from doing more.  Eventually, it becomes pathological.  We think our helplessness is completely outside of our control, and it is not.  However, gaining capability again is a process we have to work through.  My ebook explains how to gain mastery through training the conscious and sub-conscious minds.  Because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, through action and visualization, we can gain mastery of old skills and even pick up new ones.
 
One skill I have never picked up is changing a tire.  I have watched it get done, but I have never done it, even though I have needed it a few times.  Providence has always blessed me with a “knight in shining armor,” who changed the tire for me.  My former fiancé offered to train me on getting it done.  I did not ever set a time with him to do it, even though he offered a number of times.  I suppose my fear of doing it is fear of injuring or even killing myself.  My mother mentioned that someone she knew killed himself changing a tire.  Whether I will overcome that fear, I do not know.  Thank goodness there is AAA for now.
 
However, there are many other activities besides changing a tire.  Dr. Burns said that doing almost any activity has the power to break your depression.  So do not start with changing tires if that is not your thing; do something you can derive meaning, pleasure, and satisfaction from, even if you do not believe you will.
 

Fear

 
Three big fears cause donothingism:  fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of disapproval or criticism.
 
I mentioned fear of failure with changing a tire.  Fear of failure can paralyze us in many endeavors.  For most things, the consequence of failure is not death, thank goodness.  Fear of failure is usually the result of fortune telling.  We predict the future and may even feel our prediction is accurate based on emotional reasoning.  However, if we fail at most things, we can simply try again.  One of the most useful descriptions that helped me deal with the fear of failure is the Success Mechanism, described the Maxwell Maltz.  The basic steps are described below.
 
Success Mechanism Steps
 
Step One. Have a goal.  It needs to be thought of as something that already exists.
 
Step Two.  Think in terms of end results.  The means to get there may not be apparent, and that is okay.
 
Step Three. Do not be afraid of making mistakes or temporary failure.  The important thing is to get a goal in mind and act.  Respond to negative feedback by correcting mistakes.
 
Step Four.  Continue learning skills by trial and error, correcting mistakes immediately by visualizing a correct response.  Forget past errors, and remember correct responses.
 
Step Five.  Learn to trust the success mechanism.  Do not force it, but let it work.  The success mechanism works as you place a demand on it by your actions.
 
This simple formula describes how anyone can achieve anything, even if you do not have a Ph.D.  Failure is only temporary.  You learn from failure and go on.
 
Fear of Success
 
Fear of success can also be paralyzing.  I have feared being successful as a health coach because it may stress my schedule, possibly require travel, which is hard for me, etc.  With fear of success, I am fortune telling–thinking of a future in my mind, which is not likely to occur.  Why do I not let the future happen as it will and believe I will be able to handle it?  In one way or another I have handled everything so far, with help of course, but that is life.
 
Fear of Criticism and Disapproval
 
Fear of criticism and disapproval I have yet to master.  However, as long as I do not beat myself up with should statements or accept negative labels people put on me, that will really help.  I think my deepest fear of criticism is the fear that I cannot respond to what other people would like me to do.  I could be burdened with should statements.  Now I realize I only have to follow someone else’s suggestions if I want to.
 
Most of my fear of criticism and disapproval comes from trying to mind read what people in my readership are going to think.  Mind reading is a cognitive distortion, which can cause depression.  My mentor has reminded me again and again, “Stop worrying about what other people think!”
 

Undervaluing the Rewards

 
Another reason for donothingism as explained by David Burns is undervaluing the rewards.  They are based on the cognitive distortion of discounting the positive.  A practice that helps me with this is listing the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards in my Progress Category as explained in my ebook, Joyful Vibrance:  Transform Your Body Image, Energy, and Mood!.  During the time I am working on an item, I often update my list of intrinsic rewards.  My lists sometimes get very long.  I add additional rewards, reword items that may no longer have meaning to me, or delete things that do not matter.
 
Now that I am de-emphasizing goals, it is still important to attach values to my action items, like this:
 
Goal:
Morning Routine
 
 
“It can sound counter-intuitive but developing a daily routine can help us to feel more in control of everything, and help us to make room for all that is importantRoutine can aid our mental health. It can help us to cope with change, to form healthy habits, and to reduce our stress levels.”
Points:
7
Filter:
none
Start Date:
Monday, June 10, 2019
End Date:
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Trigger Event:
Getting Up
Intrinsic Rewards:
Consistency
Clarity
Influence
Joy
Necessity
Productive creativity
Timeliness
Energetic vibrancy
Wisdom
Extrinsic Rewards:
Blueberries
Progress Notes:
 
 
 
 
Accomplished:
 
 
When we are severely depressed, even a huge list of intrinsic rewards fails to motivate us.  It could be that we are not consulting our list often enough.  Or perhaps, either we do not believe we will get them, or we do not think we are deserving of the rewards even if we have earned them.  We may be so apathetic we do not care.  To solve this problem, we need to go back to the solutions for hopelessness.
 

Jumping to Conclusions

 
Jumping to conclusions about taking action may cause donothingism.  We may conclude that we are going to drop out if we go to university.  For years I had a recurring dream that I went back to college to study differential equations, a course I did not take in college, even though I minored in mathematics.  Over and over, I dreamed of going back to college and then not finishing my course.
 
Later in 2000, I did return to college, to study chemistry.  I wanted to get a doctorate in biochemistry.  During my first course, I had an attack of light-headedness in the chem lab, and the lab instructor said it would only get worse.  I dropped out.  Perhaps I had a low frustration tolerance, which I will explain later.  I remembered my “bad” dream and made it come true.
 
I believed my dream foretold my future, though in this case it was a chemistry course rather than a math class.  Fortune telling is a cognitive distortion.  Whether I had the stamina to finish my course in college is probably something I can doubt.  However, the important thing is to not allow jumping to conclusions to sway me from my “good” dreams again.
 

Self-Labeling

 
Dr. Burns says that since we are growing, changing beings, attaching any specific label on us is just a cognitive distortion.  However, many of us accept labels given to us by other people.  One label I have used occasionally, though very sparingly, is mentally ill.  I may have been diagnosed, but that does not mean that I have ever been constantly mentally ill.
 
Other people may think they are stupid, but that is a cognitive distortion because intelligence is a defining characteristic of being human. Homo sapiens means wise man.  Some people have more experience in one or more areas of human endeavor than others.  However, that is to be expected.  We are intelligent in different ways.  Individual uniqueness is also a defining characteristic of being human.  I like to use the label pricelessly unique to acknowledge our inherent value.
 
One label we may give ourselves when we feel the affliction of donothingism is lazy. The problem is not that we are inherently lazy; I know for a fact that I am anything but.  However, giving ourselves the label of lazy can exacerbate our temporary condition of donothingism.  Therefore, cut the cognitive distortions and admit that those negative labels are all false.
 

Low Frustration Tolerance

 
Low frustration tolerance can be caused by should statements.  “It should be easy.”  “Life should not be so hard.”
 
There are obstacles in life.  One very good book on how to surmount obstacles and even turn them into opportunities is Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way.  Ryan says, “On the battlefield or in the boardroom, across oceans and many centuries, members of every group, gender, class, cause, and business have had to confront obstacles and struggle to overcome them–learning to turn those obstacles upside down.”
 
In other words, it never was easy.  Some people seem to think life was less complicated in the past and therefore easier.  It never was.  Life today is not easy either.
 
In Utah I went to counseling with a group that emphasized radical acceptance.  The idea of radical acceptance is that by recognizing that life is hard, it actually becomes a little easier.  We give up the distorted view that it should be easy, work harder to overcome obstacles, and find that many of them can be overcome.  It seems like there are always new ones though.  My most recent obstacles are the problems with my back, neck, and bones.  I am going to do what I can about them, but there are no guarantees.  For now the pain is great, but mercifully I can still write.  Some obstacles temporarily keep us from doing anything, but we can overcome them.
 
If our depression causes us to get frustrated easily, the first thing to realize is that we are supposed to experience frustration.  Then it is a little easier.
 

Coercion and Guilt

 
In my place in Utah, we planted a patch of strawberries on a ledge around the walk-out.  The walk-out was a carved out area that allowed the eastern sunlight to reach my basement windows.  I kept the ledge for a number of years.  In 2008, my parents returned home from a mission, and my mother frequently reminded me to weed the strawberries in the walk-out.  Every time she said I should get that done, I would just rebel and not do it.  By August the patch was a mess, and I was depressed from the guilt.  I hired it done for my parents’ fiftieth anniversary wedding reception.  Afterwards, I decided to hire it done all the time.  I just could not take the frequent coercion from my mother.
 
Coercion and guilt are two other reasons for donothingism.  They are exacerbated by should statements.  In my case, my solution was an expensive one, but I was much happier.
 
JV Life Tracker
 
First master the cognitive distortions.  Then you can see that most of the reasons for donothingism are based on one or more cognitive distortions.  My ebook Joyful Vibrance:  Transform Your Body Image, Energy, and Mood!, is available here.  Many of its ideas focus on motivation.
 
One tool that has been especially helpful to me is an Android app I conceived and programmed myself called JV Life Tracker.  It has the advantage and disadvantage of keeping all its data on your device.  Do not be alarmed though.  I have never filled up my device with its data, and I have used the app for years.  It has gotten me out of countless depressions.  It has kept me out of serious depression for months at a time.
 
The key?  Action.  One of the surest ways to break a depression is simply to get moving.  Inaction causes more paralysis.  If I find myself depressed, it is usually because I have quit using the app.  Getting started again may require some encouragement from others, so train your support team to mention it when you need it.  Using it is simple.  Listing activities you wish to include in your life and checking which ones you did or worked on is very powerful.  You can also include your list of top values and check whether your day supported those values or not.  You can even give yourself 0-10 (or more) points for each value, if you want to do that.  I have done that in the past.
 
Whenever you want, you can run analysis reports to determine how well you are doing.  Those reports are for information only, not a judgement of your worth.  To protect your sense of self-worth, do not base it on your performance.  You can track so many activities it will not matter to you if you miss some of them, so the app does not come with a should statement.
 
The idea is not perfection.  The idea is to get and keep you moving, preventing donothingism and repairing it if it occurs.  I am currently tracking 132 things, with all activities having a single point each.  Multiple points per activity are an option.
 

Sunday Evening

 

Prayer

 
 
 
Evening Prayer
 
Dear Lord,
 
What a beautiful Sunday this has been!  The clouds have kept our place cool.
 
Thank You for Your longsuffering towards me.  Though my back aches, my mood is okay.  I am able to be productively creative–one of my top values.  Help me to overcome the malady of donothingism. Through rooting out cognitive distortions, such as should statements and emotional reasoning, I can beat that and depression as well.
 
Lord, my husband is not well again today.  Lately, he has been drinking more, and now his stomach is upset.  Help him to know what he needs to help himself.  I will no longer tell him what he should do.
 
Help me to know what I can do for myself.  I believe there is hope.  Last night at midnight, I was afraid, in pain, and could not sleep.  However, I took a sleeping pill.  That got me through the remainder of the night.  Thank You for the rest that gave me.  
Before retiring last night, I finished the Google keynote 2019.  I am excited about the future of AI (artificial intelligence).  I thought of studying AI myself.  However back in the early 80’s, it was not very advanced.
 
I especially like the Google policy of inclusiveness.  A video clip showed an illiterate woman who was able to translate and read things using Google Lens.  She was so happy about it.
 
Google is accepting audio files from speakers who have difficulty speaking, so they can train its voice recognition software and permit it to recognize all speakers better.  Already, captioning software is available on mobile devices for videos that do not normally have captions.  This will help the hard-of-hearing as well as persons who wish to watch videos in silence.  The applications they described are too numerous to include here.
 
Lord, I want to keep my eye on the positive future and forget my fears.  Let this blog be a part of it.
 
Amen.
 
If you would like to join me in this journey from the beginning, please start with Day One.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
KaeLyn Morrill
 

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