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Credible Alternatives for (EA-flavoured) Depressive Beliefs

One idea in cognitive behavioural therapy is that it's easier to let go of beliefs that are doing damage to you if you have credible alternative beliefs. I found a list of some such alternatives in my notes from when I was doing CBT a few years ago, and was inspired by the recent 80,000 hours podcast on mental health to share them. Coming up with alternative beliefs was a really useful exercise for me and I would recommend it to others!


Damaging Belief: It’s a shame that I’ve had such a fortunate life. Someone else would do better with what I’ve got.

Credible Alternative: I can’t give my good luck to anyone else. The best I can do is be grateful for it.


Damaging Belief: I’m a drain on the world by default. Only by doing as much good as possible can I justify existing.

Credible Alternative: All lives are valuable. My life is valuable. I work to do good because I care, not because I’m obligated.


Damaging Belief: I’m a frivolous (and therefore bad) person because I make time for enjoying things.

Credible Alternative: I can trust myself to try my best. I’m better able to do that if I leave time for joy.


Damaging Belief: Noticing what can be done and failing to do it is worse than remaining unaware.

Credible Alternative: There isn’t enough of me to work on everything that I’d like to, and that’s okay.


Damaging Belief: Saying I can’t do something because of limited willpower or effort is just an excuse.

Credible Alternative: Acknowledging my limitations is not giving up. It lets me wisely direct the time and resources I have.


Note: I am not necessarily saying that the beliefs I labelled as "damaging" above would be damaging for everyone. They were certainly bad for my mental health, though!

While making several of review crossposts for the Decade Review I found myself unhappy about the possibility that someone might think I had authored one of the posts I was cross-linking. Here are the things I ended up doing:

  1. Make each post a link post (this one seems... non-optional).
  2. In the title of the post, add the author / blog / organization's name before the post title, separated by an en-dash.
    • Why before the title? This ensures that the credit appears even if the title is long and gets cut off.
    • Why an en-dash? Some of the posts I was linking already included colons in the title. "Evidence Action – We’re Shutting Down No Lean Season, Our Seasonal Migration Program: Here’s Why" seemed easier to parse than "Evidence Action: We’re Shutting Down No Lean Season, Our Seasonal Migration Program: Here’s Why".
    • Other approaches I've seen: using colons, including the author's name at the end of the post in brackets, e.g. Purchase fuzzies and utilons separately (Eliezer Yudkowsky), using "on" instead of an en-dash, e.g. Kelsey Piper on "The Life You Can Save", which seems correct when excerpting rather than cross-posting.
  3. Add an italicized header (ETA: I think a footer works better) to the crosspost indicating that it's a crosspost and, where appropriate, adding a link to the author's EA Forum account.