Identify Your Program
Write down a current difficulty in your life, something you feel triggers your depression or blocks you from being happy or doing what you want. Answering the following questions will help you identify your program around this issue:
1. What are some of the self-defeating actions associated with the difficulty?
2. What are some of the beliefs behind these actions?
3. Which significant adult(s) in your early childhood believed or seemed to believe these things about you, themselves, or someone else?
4. Which significant adult(s) engaged in similar self-defeating actions?
5. What childhood actions or behavioral patterns are similar to the self-defeating behaviors around your current difficulty?
6. Which significant adult(s) are you acting or thinking like now? Whose role are you playing?
7. Who are the people involved in the current difficulty (e.g., wife, child, friend, boss, interviewer, client, and so forth)? And which significant adult(s) do these people stand in for (remind you of )?
8. How can you summarize your program around this issue?
Recognize How Habitual Patterns Show Up Day to Day
It’s helpful to know how your inner saboteur works in general, but to arrest it and stop the harm it does, you need to pinpoint its daily activities. This may not be easy at first.
Remember what we said about the program being the distorting prism through which you view everything that happens in your life? Most of our reactions to people and events are quite automatic. And so are the choices we make, even when we think we know what we’re doing. To make an informed decision you have to first know what your programmed response would be.
So, for example, it’s one thing for Peter to realize he avoids looking for jobs that would suit him because his program wants him to be unhappy in his work and ultimately fail (just like Dad). That’s a great first step. Now he has to notice when and how, for example, he procrastinates looking for a job he might want.
In the Uplift Program it was suggested that Peter keep a Daily Program Log of his actions and beliefs concerning issues that troubled him. In Peter’s log (spread over several days) he wrote:
Saturday: Bought newspaper to scan the help-wanted column to see if there would be a job in computer sciences that would suit me. Read the news first, then the science section (program reaction: avoiding looking at the classifieds to see what jobs are going). Decided I’d be more up for making calls after lunch (program reaction: delaying). Never actually got around to the classifieds.
Wednesday: Went for job interview. Went in believing I was too old for them to be interested in me even though they had asked me to come (program belief: nothing good will happen). Spoke at length about things not relevant to the position (program reaction: sabotage real prospect of getting a job I’d like, need to show off intellectual ability like George).
Friday evening: Met a woman at the swimming club. She seemed to like me. However, I didn’t feel she was intelligent enough for me (program belief: 1. relationships are doomed; 2. she failed the “uncle” test by not being an intellectual). I didn’t ask for her phone number.
As you may remember, Peter originally thought he understood everything about his problems. He was astounded by the extent of the parallels between his childhood and his current life that came up when he first did the exercise Identify Your Program. But it was what emerged from his Daily Program Log that really bowled him over. “That damn program is so insidious!” he exclaimed. “It just sneaks in everywhere. No wonder I’ve felt defeated. But now that I know what to look for, I won’t be so easily bushwhacked.”
The Daily Program Log is also very useful in helping to avoid addictive behaviors, because it helps spot the feelings, thoughts, and triggers that often precede them.
The good news in all of these entries is that Peter had become aware enough of his dysfunctional patterns to be able to spot program-driven actions and beliefs and start to change them.
We suggest you begin a Daily Program Log of your own. At this stage the entries may, like the ones in Peter’s, be mostly negative. That’s OK. Catching the negatives is a marvelous first step.
(extracted from) Creating Optimism: A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression, Based on the popular Uplift program, written by Bob Murray Ph. D., and Alicia Fortinberry, published by Mcgraw-Hill