Sue came to my office shuffling her feet and looking down at the ground. She was unwashed, her hair was unbrushed, and her clothes were wrinkled as though she had been sleeping in them. Her eyes were wet and red from crying. It came as no surprise to me when Sue told me she came for therapy due to depression. She stated that her depression began when her boyfriend had not bought her a valentine gift.
“What should have happened?” I tried helping her identify her irrational beliefs.
“He should have at least bought me a card.”
“Is that terrible?”
“Yes,” Sue continued, “It’s terrible that he doesn’t care about me.”
“So are you upset about not getting a card?”
“No, I’m upset because he should show more caring for me.”
“…and that’s terrible!”
“Yes,” she confirmed.
“And you can’t stand it.”
“That’s right.”
“It sounds as though the committee in your head keeps repeating these ideas over and over. Have you gotten stuck on the idea that your boyfriend isn’t giving you enough loving and attention? How do you think that might relate to your depression?”
“You’re right. I don’t know how to get it out of my mind. I can’t make him give me the attention that I need.”
“Hmm, lets look closer at this. Is it true that you really NEED your boyfriend to love and care about you?” I challenged Sue to dispute her irrational thinking.
“I do need his love. When he doesn’t give me enough attention, it makes me depressed.”
“What exactly makes you depressed?”
At first Sue continued blaming her boyfriend for making her depressed, but over time she began to realize that her depression originated from her own feelings and demands that he act a certain way. Sue’s path to depression went like this: He should love and care about me, it’s terrible when I don’t get enough attention, I can’t stand it when he doesn’t give me as much attention as I want and I feel unloved. When I feel unloved I get depressed.
Sue needed to change her thinking, and realize that although she desired love and attention from her boyfriend, it wasn’t something she needed. She wouldn’t die if she didn’t have his attention, but could continue leading a healthy life without him. Here is her new path of thinking: STOP, I don’t have to keep letting these same thoughts swirl around in my head and make me miserable, it’s not really terrible and there are many worse things (on a scale of one to a hundred, how would you rate not getting a Valentines card?). I can stand it, I would have preferred getting a card and I would prefer it if my boyfriend gave me more attention, but I can be okay if he doesn’t. I have a choice whether or not I want to be depressed.
As Sue began to realize that she has control over her own feelings, she began feeling better. I suggested to her that if she felt the need to have a “pity party” that she schedule one. She needed a day and time to start and stop her pity party. I suggest ten to fifteen minutes of sitting around crying and saying “poor me, poor me.” Then end it and go on with her life. I also suggest that as soon as she begins feeling depressed, to back track and find her shoulds. She doesn’t need to go down the whole path, but can use thought stopping whenever she chooses to stop the pity party.
This chart works well for helping you manage strong emotions, whether they are depression, anxiety, anger, or fear. Look at this chart, derived from ideas by Albert Ellis, and see if you can fill it in it with one of your own strong emotions that you would like to control better.

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