I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member

Remember that one? Apparently the actual quote is:

But it’s one of  those bits of humor that has a bitter seed of truth. And as it turns out, in the world of cognitive therapy, there’s a name for it: discounting. In this season of holiday shopping, we’re all eagerly looking for a discount– WAS $100– NOW ONLY $29.99! That’s a good thing, right? whole separate topic.

Discounting, the bad kind, is more fully  described as discounting the positive. So if I have a great talent for playing the oboe, for example, I then say, “Well, playing the oboe is easy– anyone could do it. I’m nothing special.” If someone give me a compliment for playing beautifully I say, “But I messed up in third measure of the third line.” This kind of thing is the classic “lose-lose” situation. Not only do I put myself down, but I also put down the person who gave the compliment, implying that their judgment is not sound. The classic advice about accepting compliments hasn’t changed. What you say is “thank you.” If you want to have the inner monologue about how you screwed up and the other person didn’t notice, make sure it stays inner. then instead of lose-lose you’re only invalidating yourself, not your admirer.

But of course it’s possible to put yourself down without involving others. “I am such a lousy housekeeper. I wanted to do five loads of wash today and I only got three done.” In that example, the person is ignoring that they accomplished sixty percent of the goal. Would eighty or a hundred percent of the goal be better? Of course, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t get the other three loads done– and that included fresh underwear and work clothes for the week to come. The towels that didn’t get done were a low priority. But the person who is discounting the positive isn’t looking at it that way.

The good news for anyone trying to use cognitive techniques to feel better is that you can take the exact same facts and look at them from the more supportive point of view, as in the laundry example. “Hey, I didn’t get as much done as I wanted, but I did get three loads, and I got the stuff that I need for tomorrow and the next day. that buys me some time to get the rest done.” Same three loads of wash, but one way I’m a dud, the other way I’m someone who’s coping successfully. Which one do you want to be?

“Any club that would take me for a member must have some good people in it.” Not as funny, but it feels a lot better to say. The main starting points to this kind of change are: 1) pay attention when you talk to yourself; 2) recognize that whatever you said can be restated– it’s rarely the absolute truth and sometimes completely false.  You can make the changes you want. Good luck!

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About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in behavioral health, change, choices, cognitive therapy, happiness, mental health, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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