“All models are wrong, but some are useful.”
-George E P Box, “Science and statistics”
I love this quote. I spend a lot of time thinking about models for thinking about things. They’re all wrong, but I think they’re useful. Here’s one that relates to depression and cognitive behavioral therapy:
You’re surrounded by voices. Voices in your head, voices of other people talking to you, voices of other people talking around you, media, books, movies, TV, what-have-you. What the voices say effects you. It effects you in an immediate way (e.g. it sucks when someone says “You suck!”), and in a longer-term way. Voices effect you in a longer-term way because they are habit-forming. Spend a lot of time around someone who worries a lot, and you’re more likely to worry a lot. Spend a lot of time around someone who has a consistently positive attitude about things and you’re more likely to manage one yourself. Spend a lot of time in a system that tells you your value is defined by your GPA, and you may start to think your value is defined by your GPA. Spend a lot of time worrying yourself, and you’ll get better and better and better at it. Every time you worry about something, you’re practicing that worry, reinforcing that habit.
In a sense, there are two things you can do about depression: You can try and change your situation, and you can try and change how you react to your situation. You can try and change the external voices, or the internal ones. Both can be useful, at times both can be vital. If you spend too long on one and it doesn’t work, it makes sense to look at the other long and hard. Sometimes your outlook sucks. Sometimes, as the quote goes, you should make sure you’re not just surrounded by assholes. Sometimes both. Sometimes you need CBT, you need to practice redirecting your thoughts from negative habits to positive. Sometimes you need to get away from people or places that by their nature direct your thoughts to the negative.
Horses are not spherical, but spherical horses can be useful.