Tuesday, September 25, 2007

TO WRITE: Is That Really Reasonable?
I believe I'm a reasonable person most of the time. OK, reasonably reasonable. But what is "reason"? A student offered this writing topic the other day, and I was intrigued, especially about reason's role in our mental health.

Is reason just what you used to solve geometry problems in high school? I don't think so. I believe reason -- thinking things through -- comes into play at every moment of our lives. And I believe it affects our depression too. The thoughts we use to interpret the world we live in, and the decisions we make on how to act all require reason as well as emotion.

Using reason to battle depression: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is known to relieve depression by helping a person to identify her immediate thoughts about something, to evaluate them, and to change them if they are unrealistic. When I learned about it, for example, I saw that I tend to do "either-or thinking" -- that is, I see things in black and white sometimes. Once I knew this, I could begin to change it, to use reason to replace distorted thinking patterns with more realistic, healthier ones. In my case, I could tell myself, "This event isn't all good or all bad; it has elements of both, so I don't need to be so extremely upset about it." Working this out could leave me feeling less disturbed or depressed.

Play with this. . .
Do you rely on reason or emotion more when you interpret a difficult event you're involved with? How about when you think about your own role in that event? Write continuously for 20 minutes, describing how you logically reasoned your way through, or reacted with a gut feeling, when something occurred that seemed depressing.

Then reflect: Were you satisfied with the balance of reason and emotion you used to react? Is that balance typical for you? Do you want to adjust it at all? Note: If you want to further explore this issue, there are some great workbooks on CBT available at bookstores, or you could ask your health care professional about a referral to a CBT-trained therapist.

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