lundi 2 février 2009

Cognitive therapy for all!

It seems like in the last year, I've been plagued with people who are supposed to be mentally "healthy" but are total douchebags. Actually, not just in the last year, when I think about it, maybe I've just noticed them more. People who are rude and nasty on purpose, or drama queens, or otherwise a nuisance to have around, but consider themselves to be in the pink of mental health. In fact, they often think of their nuisance behaviour as a sign of superiority. And some of them go a little further and use my being mentally ill and treated for it as an insult. For example, Darcy. Social studies teacher and all, blew a gasket because an opinion contrary to his own was had, and wrote a bunch of insults revolving around the mental health theme. Hmmmm... Well that's cognitively healthy, let alone real professional for a social studies teacher. Likewise Caroline. Got pissed off because an opinion contrary to hers was had, and called me down because I've gone to therapy and she hasn't. Again, not very cognitively healthy. Neither of them have a psychiatric diagnosis. Probably neither of them needs one. They're not mentally ill, they just made the choice to be nasty - and it seems they think that makes them superior to the mentally ill somehow.

Where am I going with this? Well, clearly cognitive therapy, or cognitive-behavioural therapy, is not just for the mentally ill. It's really more of a wellness program for your mind, like yoga. (Replace "yoga" with whatever you choose to do for wellness.) If you're genuinely ill with say, cancer or MS, yoga won't cure you, but it might help manage life with your illness. Likewise if you're genuinely mentally ill with say, bipolar, RAD, FASD, TBI, schizophrenia, or whatever else, CBT will not cure you, but it might help manage life with your illness. But if you're simply not very well or fit, yoga can greatly enhance your wellness, and likewise if you're not very well or fit cognitively without actually suffering from some kind of organic issue, CBT can greatly enhance your wellness.

Having distorted cognitions is a lot like being fat. If you're fat, you got that way through the choices you made. You might have learned those choices from someone else, but they're still choices you made. And you might be blaming it on all sorts of things, like hormones or medication or being "big boned", but the reality is, you got fat because you chose to eat more than you needed. And you might say you "love your body" but that's a misstatement. Maybe you love being fat, but if you loved your body, you wouldn't treat it like that. Being fat is very bad for your body. You might think also that you can't lose weight, because you tried and failed, but the reality is that if you eat less than you need and do so consistently for long enough, you will lose weight. If that hasn't happened, it's because you haven't been doing it. Also, if you're fat, you might meet people who don't want to go out with you, because you're fat. And you might get pissed off because they're so shallow and they should just love you for who you are etc, but no matter what you have to say about it, they will not date you, and that's that. You can either lose weight and try again, or accept the fact they don't want you. Getting mad and arguing that they're wrong is entirely counter-productive.

So, likewise with distorted cognitions. If you have distorted cognitions, you got that way through the choices you made, and even if you learned those choices from someone else, they're still choices YOU made. You might blame your distorted cognitions on all sorts of things like "feeling a lot", but the reality is, you have distorted cognitions, and the feelings that go with distorted cognitions, because you choose to. You might say you love yourself as you are, well, maybe you do. But it's not healthy for your mind to be full of distorted cognitions and unrealistic feelings, and it would be more loving to yourself to get cognitively well. You might think you can't change, because you tried and failed, but you can, because you control your cognitions, your feelings and your actions. Then, you might meet people who don't want to go out with you because of your cognitive and behavioural distortions. And you might get pissed off and argue that they "should" love you as you are, but they made their choices and they have that right. You can change your cognitions and try again, or you can accept the fact that they don't want you, but getting mad about the fact that they don't like your behaviour is entirely counter-productive.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy doesn't cure anything. It's only a method for identifying maladaptive cognitions and behaviours and changing them. Just because you don't have a psychiatric diagnosis, doesn't mean you don't have maladaptive cognitions and behaviours. Just because you're "successful", doesn't mean you don't have maladaptive cognitions and behaviours. Just because you think you're all that and a bag of chips and everyone should love you, doesn't mean you don't have maladaptive cognitions and behaviours. Almost everyone has some amount of maladaptive cognitions and behaviours. CBT allows us to find them and make them go away, like yoga allows us to find areas of tension and make them go away.

Learning and practicing CBT isn't a sign of being an inferior person. Au contraire. It shows that you recognize you're not always right in your thoughts and your actions and you want to become a better person. It's not easy at first, and it's not always easy later on, but neither is yoga. That's the very reason we do it. If we could brush away our distorted cognitions effortlessly, we wouldn't need CBT. The more difficult it seems, probably the more we need it.

CBT is also not about "lying to yourself" as one person who really needs CBT told me. You're lying to yourself now with your distorted cognitions. CBT is about seeing those lies for what they are. It's in fact, all about being honest with yourself.

I could go on and on, but I'm either getting through to you or I'm not. CBT is good for all of us. It doesn't cure the common cold, or anything else, but it improves our cognitive wellness and makes our lives better. I recommend it.

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