Maybe you have been told that you have a "bad attitude" at some point in your life. But what does this expression mean? It could mean anything including that the other person simply disagrees with your point of view. Yet there are instances when our attitude is genuinely harmful to our mental health. In this post I am going to discuss three types of bad attitude which can keep you fully entrenched in a depressive episode. Remember that awareness is the key to change. Sometimes it hurts when others tell us something not so good about ourselves. We have to ask, "Is there any truth to what is being said?" and go from there. Consider the source. If it is a trusted friend, loved one or therapist who tells us that the way we are thinking may be contributing to our depression, it may be time to listen.
Bad Attitude #1: A sense of entitlement
Having a sense of entitlement is all about "should"s and expectations. You feel entitled to experience certain things because you have the attitude that life should go as you wish and expect. It is "the world owes me" kind of mentality which exemplifies the attitude of entitlement. For example, a depression sufferer with a sense of entitlement may expect friends and loved ones to react in a certain way to his or her symptoms of depression. When that reaction doesn't come then a global statement is made of "nobody cares." Then when someone does reach out to this person the reaction may be hostile because they felt that their unsaid expectations were not met in the first place.
The thought process which accompanies a sense of entitlement may go something like this: "They (loved ones, friends, and even acquaintances) don't react to my depression as they should. So they don't care. As a matter of fact, nobody cares."
The anger over people not living up to expectations leads the person with a sense of entitlement to act out in other ways. This attitude is publicly visible on support sites such as this when someone will declare support unworthy before it is even given. The person sets up a no-win scenario where anyone who attempts to provide help is hit with impossible expectations nobody can fulfill.
Immediately upon meeting the person with a sense of entitlement, you are placed in the position of proving your worth. Responsibility is shifted to everyone else, to meet this persons needs.
The need to be "right" can appear stronger than an actual need for help for the person who suffers from a sense of entitlement. There can be a definite theme of trying to prove other's attempts to help as unworthy so that their perception of an uncaring world can be validated. There may then be subsequent attempts to recruit other depression sufferers into their skewed view of the world.
Nobody can read your mind. Sometimes you have to ask for what you want and need. And even then people may not always be able to give you what you want. But this does not mean that the people in your life do not care.
The world, including your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances do not owe you anything because you are depressed. The world doesn't exist to make you happy.
You are responsible for you. You are responsible for your own happiness.
Bad Attitude #2: Playing the victim
I am somewhat cautious of using the term "playing the victim" because many depression sufferers have been true victims in their life. There are many of us, for example, who may have suffered from some sort of abuse as a child or even as an adult. Yet there are situations where we do have some sort of control and choices yet we still maintain our victim status because it may be what we know.
For some people, it can feel more comfortable to be a passive victim in life than someone who does have the power to change their life circumstances. Playing the victim is similar to having a sense of entitlement in that it is another way to avoid responsibility. If we perceive life as things just always happen to us then we don't have to take risks or make choices. We are automatically absolved from guilt and blame. Someone or something is always responsible but not us.
The person who plays the victim thinks, "The world is unfair. I am powerless and cannot make any changes in my life. Why do these bad things keep happening to me?"
Happiness and well being are extremely conditional for the person who plays a victim. And the conditions always seem to be out of the person's control as in "If only my family supported me then I could get over my depression" or "If only my boss and co-workers appreciated me then I could enjoy my job." Maintaining a victim role keeps one forever trapped within depression because there is always a ready excuse for not getting well or enjoying life.
- There are things in life we cannot control, this is true. But there are many things we do have some control over. It is possible to take risks and make decisions for our life.
- Despite the fact that life can be unfair, we are still responsible for our life. The refusal to make a choice is, in fact, a choice. We are responsible for our lack of decision making and cannot blame anyone else for it.
- Bad things will always happen in our life but we can still up the ante for good things to happen as well. We do not have to exist as a leaf in the wind, at the mercy of whatever winds blow our way. We have an amazing ability to adapt and steer our direction of growth.
Bad Attitude #3: Being a naysayer of doom and gloom
Nobody is requiring you to be a perky Pollyanna who always sees the glass as half full. Reality dictates that there are times in life when you have to admit that things are less than hunky dory. But at the other extreme is someone who shoots down every positive suggestion much like attacking a butterfly with a cannon. Sometimes constant negativity can be overkill.
It can be very difficult for someone on the other end of depression who is trying to help. If every idea is met with, "I can't do that" then the discussion is soon over. The friend or family member who is wanting to help may get worn down to believing the negative predictions of their loved one. Feelings of hopelessness can be contagious.
The person who is a naysayer of doom and gloom thinks, "Nobody can help me. Nothing will ever work. Everything in my life is bad and always will be."
It is like they took a paintbrush and colored everything black. In such an all or nothing world there are no gradations of color or light. There is only darkness. Beware the person who holds a lighted candle as it will be quickly snuffed out. Past, present, and future collapse into one time frame where nothing good has happened, is happening, or will happen. The person with this attitude resists any attempts to show proof that their perceptions may be faulty. In fact great energy may be invested in maintaining a hopeless view of life.
- Life is never all doom and gloom nor is it always rainbows and sunshine. There are many nuances of feelings and life experiences which don't fall into all or nothing categories. Life is neither bad nor good. It just is. We color our experiences of past, present, and what we envision the future to be, with our subjective judgment.
- In order to get better it is imperative to let some light in so that you can see opportunities and possibilities. If you keep closing the metaphorical shades, you won't see that there is a lot of beauty out there.
- Viewing the world as a perpetual dark place is easy as you don't have to do anything but defend the darkness. Giving up this attitude means you will have to take action and become responsible for your own happiness and well being. Many people who have emerged from the depths of depression will tell you that it is well worth the effort.
Now we want to hear from you. Do you feel that you or someone you know may have one or more of these attitudes? Do you feel that such attitudes are the result of having depression or do you think that such attitudes precede symptoms of depression? How have you managed to overcome elements of your "bad attitude"? Tell us your story. You know we love to hear from you.