In this log I'm asking you
to describe not only your mood changes and the external and internal
events accompanying them, but also how you think a "normal" person
might feel under such circumstances. You may know someone you think
of as well adjusted, someone who seems to experience a full range
of emotion, whom you might want to use as a hypothetical model.
Imagine how that person would feel in the external situation you
are in, given the thoughts, memories, and fantasies that you are
having. Then try to rate the extent to which your mood change is
in synch with "normal" feelings.
what, where, other
Instructions: when you detect
a shift in mood, write down the change (e.g., from neutral to sad),
the external circumstances (what you were doing, where, with whom),
and the internal circumstances (what you were thinking about, daydreaming,
or remembering). Then based on those external and internal circumstances,
describe how you think a "normal" person might feel (e.g., sad,
angry, happy, proud). Then rate how much your mood agrees with "normal"
feelings (1= no agreement, 10 = complete agreement). This is an
important and powerful tool. If you use it correctly and regularly,
you can begin to get around your own defensive system. This may
not feel good. You may find yourself worrying more, feeling perhaps
a bit more edgy. You are going to become more aware of things that
upset you. This awareness is what depressives try to avoid.
Just remember that this avoidance
sacrifices your true self and makes you depressed. You may see your
defenses at work in how you use the Mood Journal. You may forget
to use it (repressing a conflict between your wish to get better
and your fear of change). You may get mad at it for suggesting things
you don't want to hear (projecting your anger at yourself onto an
external object). You may think it is boring and a waste of time
(isolating your affect and intellectualizing your feelings). Try
very hard to stick with it nonetheless.
Review the Mood Journal every
day, ideally at the same time of day, when you have a few minutes
and can give it your attention. See what patterns you begin to notice.
Follow this intellectual exercise with a relaxation routine (see
chapter 8). The time spent in relaxation will give your unconscious
mind the opportunity to digest what your review of the Mood Journal
has told the thinking part of your brain. We are talking here about
changing lifelong habits of thinking and feeling; you need to get
all the different parts of yourself working together on this task.
Trying to change yourself in
this way is hard work. It helps if you can laugh at yourself. I'm
the kind of person who buys self-help books about getting organized,
then misplaces them. I've lost the same book on "accounting for
nonprofit managers" so often that I finally bought three copies.
There is a perverse gremlin within us that resists change, especially
the kind of change that someone else says is good for us. My strategy
has now become to appreciate the gremlin's tricks on me, then try
to outwit the little beast. So if you find yourself losing this
book, or if you find that life always interferes with completing
the Mood Journal, just assume that your gremlin is at work. Laugh
ruefully at the games he's playing with you, then see what you can
do to be smarter than he is.
After a few weeks' practice
with the Mood Journal, you should begin to see the connections between
your mood changes, external events, and internal processes. Once
you can see that mood changes are caused by what's happening to
you, you can stop pretending that they come "out of the blue." What
I think you'll also find is that your moods are more closely connected
to "normal" feelings than you think they are. The depressed person
often feels there is no reason for feeling depressed, and thus feels
crazy or out of control. But if we take the trouble to investigate,
to get underneath our own defenses, we usually find that there are
perfectly good reasons for feeling the way we do. Understanding
that is the first step toward doing something about it.