tessa's Shortform

by tessa30th May 20211 comment
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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!