It's not always about you, monkey.
The Week of Optimism rolls on!  So far, we've tuned-in to our automatic thinking, ignored negative self-talk, and re-framed a bad event as being temporary.  These metacognitive skills are essentials in the toolkit of any optimist and, today, we're going to practice another approach to bad events.  Specifically, we're going to try not to take bad things too personally.

A characteristic of people who are at risk for getting depressed is a tendency to view bad events as stemming from a personal issue.  Your boss is in a gruff mood: I must have done something wrong.  No job offer: I must not be qualified.  Good-looking person turns you down: I'm not attractive to them.  In each of these examples, something less-than-ideal happened and the individual blames himself.  In reality, the causes of each event might have nothing to do with the individual.  Your boss might have had a fight with her spouse.  You may be overqualified.  That person at the bar may be in a relationship.

For today's Daily Mind Game, we're going to bring a bad event to mind and try to place blame externally. Of course, if it is clear that you were at fault, then it's important to take responsibility.  But, for this exercise, let's choose an event that has a truly ambiguous cause and look on the bright side.


Task: Argue automatic thinking that a bad event was caused by a personal issue.

Info: For this task, you can either recall a bad event or listen to your automatic thinking during a fresh annoyance.  Argue any thoughts that creep in that make the bad thing seem personal.  I think one of the best scenarios to apply this to is after a random fight with a significant other.  One might view the cause of the fight as something personal: I may be less compatible with them than I thought.  Or, we could look to external causes: It was late at night and we were both exhausted.  Think of a bad event and try to find external factors that may have contributed.   

Goal: Convince yourself that the causes of a bad event are external.

People who frequently think of bad events as having personal causes are more likely to be pessimistic and more likely to get depressed.  Want to learn more about the thinking-styles that contribute to depression?  Check out Learned Optimism.

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