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Stinking Thinking

Dealing with those depressing negative thoughts that keep you so unhappy - a short interview with Dr. Judy Beck.

























(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)

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Male:                I�m losing my apartment, Melvin. And Frank, he wants me to beg my parents and I won�t. And I don�t want to paint anymore. So the life that I was trying for is over. The life that I had is gone and I�m feeling so damn sorry for myself that it�s difficult to breathe. Terrified!    


Dr. Kenner:      What do you do if you have a lot of thoughts just bouncing around in your head, like, �Oh, I don�t know what I�m going to do. I just feel down in the dumps. I�m depressed. I don�t know how to get myself going. There�s just no motor there.� What do you do with those thoughts? Most people just let them simmer and it brings them down even further. They get more and more depressed. With me today, I have the absolute pleasure of introducing Dr. Judy Beck, who is the Director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, and she is the President of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, where there are wonderful resources that any of us can go to and download. We�ll get that in a moment. She�s also the clinical associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, and she�s written books and done many, many workshops nationwide and internationally and her new book is Cognitive Therapy, Basics and Beyond. With a forward in it from the father of cognitive therapy, who is her real-life father, Dr. Aaron Beck. Welcome to the program.


Dr. Beck:         Thank you Ellen.


Dr. Kenner:      Dr. Beck, if I�m feeling depressed like that and these thoughts are just rolling around in my head about how I just feel so bummed out, I can�t get myself going, help me with that � what would you do with all of these negative thoughts that I�m just rolling in?


Dr. Beck:         The first thing that I would do is to find out a specific situation in which you were having these kinds of thoughts and feeling distressed.


Dr. Kenner:      At work and in my marriage.


Dr. Beck:         I might give you the choice, which would you like to talk about first?


Dr. Kenner:      At work.


Dr. Beck:         Did these kinds of thoughts come up this week at work?


Dr. Kenner:      They came up a lot.


Dr. Beck:         Can you remember one particular time you were feeling really depressed at work?


Dr. Kenner:      I just felt very inadequate. I see my co-workers just are cheerful, they answer their phone with a smile on their face and I just say hello. I just don�t feel like I�m doing my job well and so I feel inadequate. I feel very depressed.


Dr. Beck:         Right. Now, it�s very important to realize that a part of depression is negative thinking. Everyone in the world who is depressed has negative, depressed thoughts. The good news is that often times these thoughts are not true or certainly not completely true. What I�d like to do now is to teach you how you can evaluate an automatic thought like this, and find out � is it true? Is it not true? Someplace in between? And then do some problem solving about it. Would that be all right?


Dr. Kenner:      That�d be fine.


Dr. Beck:         Let�s look at this thought, �I�m inadequate.� The first question I would ask you is, what is the evidence that you�re inadequate?


Dr. Kenner:      Sometimes I arrive late to work. It�s only like five or 10 minutes late, but it�s still late, and the person I work with is there right on time. Sometimes I just get frazzled. I work at a restaurant and if I am a little bit late, it throws everybody off. It throws their schedules off. And then sometimes when I try to � I�m the receptionist, I answer the phone there � but I also sometimes pitch in and help the waiters and waitresses and I just feel like I don�t know. Sometimes I�ve delivered the wrong order to somebody. There is evidence that I just feel inadequate at what I�m doing.


Dr. Beck:         So far, it sounds like hearsay evidence. Sometimes it sounds like, not everyday, but sometimes you arrive late. Which many of us do. Sometimes you get frazzled, which almost everybody I know does, and sometimes you make mistakes. Again, a pretty human condition. Can I ask you this, Ellen, is there any evidence on the other side that maybe you�re not inadequate, or certainly not completely inadequate?


Dr. Kenner:      They were very excited to hire me. They think I present myself well, that I�m very welcoming to people, even though I can stumble on the phone occasionally. I think the waiters and waitresses are happy that I pitch in, even if I occasionally blunder.


Dr. Beck:         I see. So there are some things at work that you do well. You present well and you�re welcoming, which is probably, am I right, the most important part of your job?


Dr. Kenner:      Right. And I�m very good with children.


Dr. Beck:         Do you get a lot of kids at the restaurant?


Dr. Kenner:      Not later evenings, but during early evenings and on weekends, yes, we do.


Dr. Beck:         How important that is. I have to tell you, not everybody is good with kids, especially in a restaurant.


Dr. Kenner:      I just get down on the floor with them sometimes and play and I have a lot of fun.


Dr. Beck:         It sounds to me, from what you�re saying, even if you make mistakes the waiters and waitresses are actually glad for your help, which I imagine they wouldn�t be if you were doing a totally inadequate job.


Dr. Kenner:      You know what happened the other day? Someone got really angry with me because I delivered the wrong meal and not only did the customer get angry, he got angry but the waiter got really angry at me too.


Dr. Beck:         I wonder, is it possible that you�re preoccupied with that incident and you�re not recognizing all of the other things you did well that week, that day?


Dr. Kenner:      That�s absolutely going on, but how can you not? If somebody yelled at you, isn�t that the only thing that comes to the forefront of your mind?


Dr. Beck:         Well, it�s very normal for it to come to the forefront, but another thing you can do for yourself is to say, okay, that�s true, but let me look at the entire picture. What else did I do today? What else did I do this week at work? Do you see how it�s not really realistic to just look at one situation? It�s so important to look at the whole picture.


Dr. Kenner:      You�re saying if I let my mind focus on the things that I just take for granted, they kind of go into the background for me, all the good things? That would help me?


Dr. Beck:         I think it really would help if you recognized all of the good things that you�re doing?


Dr. Kenner:      How would I do that though?


Dr. Beck:         One thing is to be conscious as you go through the day of the things you�re doing okay. My guess is there are dozens and dozens and dozens of those things, so let�s say a customer comes in and you greet them nicely. It�s very important for you to say to yourself, �Okay, I did that well.� Let�s say you help a waiter out and you don�t make a mistake, it�s important for you to say, �Okay, I did that well.� And go through your workday, recognizing all of the things you�re doing, not just the mistakes. 


Dr. Kenner:      And I think that would help me. I�m with Dr. Judy Beck right now and we�ve been illustrating � how would you phrase what we�re doing?


Dr. Beck:         We�ve been evaluating an automatic thought you�ve had, a negative, depressed thought that is making you feel really bad, and when we evaluate it and look to see how accurate it is, we�ve actually found out that it�s not accurate.


Dr. Kenner:      It was way off base. I played the role of a waitress, and basically you helped me see if I collect evidence, that even though my mind is riveted to the negative incident that week, if I collect all of the evidence, I�ll see that I�m very confident and very good at what I do and well-liked. You don�t want to take that one negative in your day and let it pull you down into a depression.


Dr. Beck:         That�s exactly right.


Dr. Kenner:      I want to thank you so much for joining us today. This is Dr. Judy Beck, and can you give some information of how people can get in touch with the Center for Cognitive Therapy?


Dr. Beck:         The best way is to check out our website, which is


Dr. Kenner:      And if they wanted any resources, what would you recommend that they go to?


Dr. Beck:         Another good website is


Dr. Kenner:      Thank you so much for joining us today.


Dr. Beck:         Thank you.

Dr. Kenner:      You can see how important it is to be able to understand yourself, to be able to read your own mind, that if you�re carrying around ideas such as, �I�m no good. I�m a failure. Nobody likes me. I�ll never succeed in life.� All of that negative, stinking thinking, there may be a grain of truth in it, but a grain of truth doesn�t mean you can�t repair that grain and that you can�t look at the parts that are not grains of truth. There are very good things in yourself and grow those parts and strengthen those parts. I�m Dr. Ellen Kenner, check out my website, It�s great being with you this week on The Rational Basis of Happiness.