Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good News

Here are a few "good news" websites:


There is so much bad news in the world today...

Yet, of course, the bad news is accurate: many people are doing many horrible things; whole nations are behaving badly; the whole planet is at risk for irreversible deterioration... It is important and healthy for us to be aware of the truth, even if the truth is difficult to hear.

This reminds me of the way depression can work, particularly chronic depression: the negative, cynical, painful, or pessimistic thoughts associated with depression may represent accurate truths about one's life or about the world.

It can feel frustrating, irritating, and shallow to simply ignore the negative thoughts or negative truths, and focus strictly on "happy thoughts." It can feel like mental manipulation to try to convert a negative observation into a positive one.

I believe that part of the solution is not necessarily to try to negate negative thinking. This would be like refusing to learn about the realities of global hunger, environmental pollution, or about a child being bullied in your neighbourhood, and just simply carrying on with a smile as though everything was fine. This is just denial--things have to be done about hunger, pollution, and bullies.

But I do believe that part of the solution is to be informed about positive news that is going on in the world...this requires very deliberate effort.

Human nature, and the human brain, tends to focus on things that are going wrong. This is a vital safety mechanism...it has kept us safe from predators and other environmental dangers over millions of years of evolution. This tendency shows up in news reporting--headlines are all about disasters, not about moments of sublime beauty or courage or hope. Disaster reporting sells more papers, it grabs our attention more strongly--that's the way our brains are made.

In order to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle we must actively inform ourselves of things that are going right, alongside whatever information comes to us about things that are going wrong. We must do this on a global scale, a local community scale, and on a personal scale (within our own thoughts or minds).

Many anxious negative thoughts represent strong over-estimations of risk (e.g. a fearful airline passenger may feel that the likelihood of crashing is 90%, when in fact the likelihood is 0.0001%); in cases like this an objective "cognitive therapy style" analysis and challenging of thoughts can be therapeutic and reassuring.

Cognitive therapy need not discount negative thoughts. An acknowledgment of a very negative reality may be an honest and frank therapeutic step.

But I think cognitive therapy for depression must allow space for seeking out things that are positive.

I invite you to check out some of the websites above, and seek out more (or better) sources of good news (let me know if you find some). I also invite you to pay attention to examples of "good news" in your community, in your daily life, and in your thinking.

1 comment:

GK said...

I believe that therapy can help a person to generate interest in the future again.

In depressive states, hope, joy, and interest in future are often absent. But new hope, new joy, and new interest are possibilities. It is often not possible to see or desire these possibilities while still in a depressive state.

In couples counseling the goal need not be to preserve the existing relationship -- it may be to help the couple separate peacefully and to help each person grieve, adapt, and build new relationships. In many cases persons in couples therapy have not been able to see any sort of future without each other, and therefore have stayed in an unpleasant status quo.

I guess there's a sort of leap of faith involved to commit to a therapy process, and such leaps can only be gently invited. I understand that there can be many good reasons not to take such a leap. But I think it is important to know that the invitation always remains.