Beck (1963, 1964) noted the way depressed patients interpreted their current life experiences. The depressed person tended to distort their experiences; they misinterpreted specific, irrelevant events in terms of personal failure, deprivation, or rejection; they tended to greatly exaggerate or overgeneralize any event that bore any semblance of negative information about themselves; they also tended to obsess over making indiscriminate, negative predictions of the future. It is important to note that the depressed person’s cognitions reflect a systematic bias against oneself. Because of this overemphasis of negative data to the relative exclusion of positive data, the label “cognitive distortion” is most appropriate when describing the thinking of depressed persons.
When an individual suffers from cognitive distortions they develop other idiosyncratic negative thematic content not observed in those of nondepressed persons. This is referred to as the Triad of Depression.
A negative view of self. The depressed individual shows a marked tendency to view himself/herself as deficient, inadequate, unworthy, and to attribute their unpleasant experiences to a physical, mental, or moral defect in himself/herself. Furthermore, they regard themselves as undesirable and worthless because of their presumed defects and tends to reject himself/herself (and to believe others will reject him/her) because of it.
A negative view of the world. His/Her interactions with the environment are interpreted as representing defeat, deprivation, or disparagement. He/She views the world as making exorbitant demands on him/her and presenting obstacles which interfere with the achievement of his/her life goals.
A negative view of the future. The future is seen from a negative perspective and revolves around a series of negative expectations. The depressed person anticipates that his/her current problems and experiences will continue indefinitely and that he/she will increasingly burden significant others in his/her life.
I can name countless students who present in our ministries like this every day. What are we doing, teaching, and modeling that would challenge the negative views of themselves, their world, or their future? The triad exists when there is no hope. Are we telling a story that communicates that there is hope for our personal redemption (through Christ), reconciliation in our relationship (with the Father), and a guiding, sustaining presence when times get dark (by the Spirit)?