I had an interesting client this morning. An older woman who came to see me because she feels that she has no motivation to go out. She has lost interest in life. In fact she is afraid to go out. She is afraid of seeing old friends and feels that nobody likes her.
Over the last year she has had to go to funeral after funeral as all the people of her generation and her mother's generation are dying. She got so tired of going to funerals that she just didn't want to go to any more. So she made excuses to not go. And now she is afraid to face the people who did go to the funerals. She thinks that they will all think badly of her. They might not say anything to her face, but she just knows that they think that she is putting herself above them. They will think that she is arrogant and won’t want to be with her.
I spent a long time talking with her, about her feelings, about her beliefs of what other people think of her. She is really driving herself to stay home because she's afraid that if she goes out she could meet one of her friends, one of her friends who went to the funerals. Her fear is that that friend will reject her because she didn't go to the funeral.
I tried to explore around this irrational belief and finally realized that she is actually suffering from black and white thinking. She has a form of depression. She has allowed her thoughts to run away with her. Her black and white thinking is dictating to her that people will either accept her totally reject her totally. And because she has guilt about not going to the funerals, it can only be that they would reject her.
Finding the caused of her funeral depression
I therefore spent the rest of the session exploring how she can change her thinking. We discussed rational emotive therapy, challenging her thinking, and other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy.
I think she has now come to appreciate that what she believes about her friends is just not true. The reality is that her friends understand perfectly why she didn't go to the funerals and they do not think less of her because of that. I think it is also likely that the reason she didn’t go the funerals in the first place had nothing to do with being tired of them. It was actually the onset of her funeral depression.
The job now is to get her to accept that and to change how she thinks. Then she can begin to live life again and get back to a healthy relationship with her friends.