It’s time for this week’s weblog tour question, and it was also my turn to provide the topic.
Topic: Tell us about one book that changed your life.
As usual, when all is said and done (well, when I’m done, that is) give your own answer in the comment box!
For my own answer, I really should say something like “My own book, of course! Go buy a copy and see why.” But even I’m not that crass.
Right now, I’m going to talk about The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and BuildLifelong Resilience by Martin Seligman.
(And here you thought I was going to talk about the book that introduced me to angels! You’ll get that some other time.)
I picked up the book in 1999 when a local bookstore was going out of business. It looked interesting. Kiddo#1 was two years old and already having problems. I’d struggled with depression on and off since I was sixteen, and if possible I wanted to prevent it in my own child. The book’s premise, that you could “inoculate” your child against depression, intrigued me.
I read the whole book, doing the exercises along the way, but it became clear very quickly that Kiddo#1 was way too young for me to implement the program. I set it aside for when he became older, and I continued living my life.
In 2000, my unborn baby was diagnosed with anencephaly, a fatal birth defect. We carried to term. I was fully prepared to have a repeat of the postpartum depression I had after Kiddo#1, but after Emily died…no depression. It was weird, but I attributed it to the fact that depression is feeling sad when there’s no reason to feel sad, and here I had a huge reason to be sad. Also I was being gentler on myself. And finally, 400 people were praying for us. That had to account for something!
The reprieve continued. Saddening things happened, and stressful things, but never with the same effect.
Time passed, and in 2004 I figured Kiddo#1 was old enough to start the exercises with him, so I re-read the book. And when I did, I realized, I had implemented all his tactics in my own thought base. I had changed my own self-talk and the way I framed the adversities that happened to me. Believe it or not, his program designed for children had worked on me!
I can’t give that book the overview it deserves here, but Seligman’s theory is that we listen critically to everyone except ourselves. If we can change our explanatory style to something more positive, we can eliminate depression. Depression stems from helplessness and hopelessness. Depressed people tend to assume the bad things that happen to them happened because THEY were bad, or THEY are inherently flawed. Whereas if you can frame the bad things that happen to you as “I just have to try harder next time” or “That was dumb luck,” you’re a leg up. Plus, depressed people tend to explain away the good things that happen to them as freak accidents, whereas nondepressed individuals say, “That happened because I’m smart!” (or clever or friendly, and so on.)
I had stopped catastrophizing my problems. I’d stopped blaming the bad things in my life on elements about myself that were permanent, unchangeable, and prone to spreading out through every other part of my life. When Emily died, it wasn’t “I’m a crappy mom who doesn’t deserve children,” but rather, “This is the worst thing I’m ever going to endure, but it’s not entirely my fault.”
I really should write to Dr. Seligman and tell him this. I actually met someone who’d studied with him once, and that gave me a vicarious baconized thrill.
It’s a wonderful book, and I urge everyone to check it out.
Other stops on the weblog tour:
http://wryexchange.com/ Wry Exchange
http://fatgirlartist.blogspot.com/ Amy Rose
http://www.drunkenhousewife.com/ The Drunken Housewife
http://hijinksshenanigans.blogspot.com/ Hijinks’s Shenanigans
http://divine-misse.livejournal.com Shotochick (only readable by those that have a livejournal account)