Do you have an internal picture in your mind of how your life ‘should’ be?
When you are feeling low, do you ever find yourself judging your experience as ‘not right’ and comparing it to how you feel you ‘should’ be feeling or what ‘should’ be happening?
By this I mean thinking thoughts like;
“Things should be different to this”
“I should be doing this”
“I shouldn’t be feeling this way”
“I should be able to cope”
“ I should be better at managing this”
“I’m on holiday, I should be happy”.
As someone who manages depression, I often have to note and fight against my tendency to make comparisons and judgements about how I feel my experience ‘should’ be. This doesn’t often happen consciously, but takes place in the flow of automatic thoughts that run like a tape through my mind when I’m not really paying attention.
The comparison itself isn’t a very pleasant experience. It is made worse by the fact that thoughts like this can (often without us even really noticing) lead to further negative thoughts and judgements about yourself, the world and the future. This can lead to a downwards spiral into a low mood – one that you can’t work out where it came from or how to get rid of it.
“I feel low this morning”
“This is a really rubbish thing to be feeling”
“I shouldn’t be feeling low, everyone else is happy”
“What’s wrong with me that makes me feel this way?”
“Why can’t I ever just be happy?”
“Nothing is ever going to change”
What if you were able to catch yourself and stop making those initial automatic comparisons? Instead of this downwards spiral making your negative mood more deeply entrenched, what if you could be more accepting towards your initial low mood? Instead of making things much worse by judging, comparing and trying to intellectualise your emotions, you could just try taking a positive action to help yourself feel better – or just wait for the experience to pass. Continue reading