Short Term Thinking

Short Term Thinking

Thinking is in Short Supply #4 by L.Michael Hall PhD

Short Term Thinking – Another Thinking Disability

I’ve been writing about why real thinking is in short supply and the various factors that actually stop thinking. Here’s another. Regarding a central time factor that’s involved in thinking, there are two forms of thinking.
There is short term thinking and there is long-term thinking. The first comes easy and quickly for us. In that sense it is much more “natural” to think short term, yet it is also frequently a disastrous form of thinking, one that can get us into lots of trouble. Children think that way, and a good bit of parenting and teaching involves helping a child or young person to lift up his thinking horizon to look out further into the future and consider consequences of today’s thinking.

In his classic work The Fifth Discipline (1990) Peter Senge focused primarily on systemic thinking. In that work, he described six “learning disabilities” which we can also view as thinking disabilities.

Six Learning or Thinking Disabilities

1) Identification: “I am my position.”

2) Blaming: “The enemy is out there.”

3) Reactivity: Automatic reacting to words and first impressions without stopping to think.

4) Single Cause-Effect: Seeing things as static snapshots rather than a series of events.

5) Short-term thinking: Focused on the immediately and not able to fsee consequences or cycles.\

6) Pretending: Believing what you want to see, therefore optimistically saying, “All is well!” Focus on image and appearance rather than substance.

Short-Term Thinking

In short-term thinking you focus on what’s immediately in your awareness without extending your perception or vision into future time and/or space.
This makes the breadth of your vision limited so that you do not think in terms of consequences, symptoms, repercussions, etc. Today, this also happens to be the way most managers and executives operate. They focus on the short-term profits, opportunities, changes, etc. They measure things by what’s happening in this quarter. It is short-sighted and it does not really give a new process a chance to take root and grow.

One problem with short-term thinking is that it privileges tactical thinking over strategic thinking. Do that and while you may win a battle you may also do so at the expense of losing the war. Short-term thinking feeds impatience, low frustration tolerance, and a sense of demandingness (“I want what I want now!”). Short-term thinking disregards that things take time as they go through stages of development. It assumes that you can make informed decisions about processes without waiting for the process.

Organizations often declare that a program or an approach doesn’t work after one quarter, hardly giving it time to get started. Consequently, business has been plagued by “flavor of the month” programs for years, going from one fad to the next “big thing” under the illusion that the solution will be a quick fix and doesn’t have to deal with systemic factors.

Long Term Thinking

By contrast, long-term thinking requires patience, asking about what an action will lead to and what will result from that result, and so on.
Long-term thinking requires much more mental effort in seeking to understand things that are hidden from view. Some of this is consequential thinking, another higher level executive function, and one that typically doesn’t even emerge until late adolescence. Yet many adults do not use this as part of their thinking capacities. Some of this is about maturity, the willingness and the ability to wait as you take development into account.

If you have ever said, or heard someone say, “I just didn’t think that X would happen!” you have witnessed one of the consequences of short-term thinking and how it stopped you or someone else from thinking, from really thinking something through. Hence Senge described it as a thinking and a learning disability.

So long-term thinking looks for the system within which an event, experience, behavior, or program is within. “What are the systemic factors that play a role here?” With a long-term perceived, you begin to consider the language system, the cultural system, the economic system, the political system, the religious system, the family systems, and on and on. Finally, you look for the communication loops- the feedback and feed-forward loops so that you can consider how long it takes for information and activity to get around the system loops.

Gain more knowledge for critical thinking here

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Transforming Depression

Transforming Depression

transforming depression
~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
When it comes to the complex meta-state called “depression,” given that we create it as noted in the past three posts, we can now ask two very different questions. First, “How does a person create depression?” And second, “How can we transform depression?”

First, Creating the Meta-Muddle of Depression

How does a person get into such the meta-muddle of depression? What kind of structure does this involve? Here is a common formula for creating depression.

1) Reject, refuse, and attack negative feelings. When you feel down or discouraged, the “negative” feeling could be sadness, grief, discouragement, fear, frustration, stress, tiredness, fatigue, etc. These emotions are valuable. They result as “the difference” between your map (expectations) and your experiences. They indicate the map-territory difference. When you reject them, you reject the information they offer you about your expectations and your skills or experiences. To create a good bout of depression, reject, refuse, and fear your negative emotions. Hate them and get angry at them.

A subtle way to reject negative emotions is to pretend that you are not really down and try to “cheer up.” When you try to cheer up yourself or another, you assume is that there’s something wrong or bad about feeling down and depressed. You “should” get rid of it. Your cheering up, as a command, “Don’t feel bad!”, amounts to a demand to not have some feelings (sadness, pessimism) and a demand to have other feelings (cheer, optimism).

Have you ever tried to cheer up someone who was depressed?

Have you ever offered positive words of cheer and hope and optimism as you confidently assured him with your inspiring words? Did you ever try to reason yourself or another out of feeling a feeling? Have you ever felt assured that if you use the common sense logic of telling a depressed person to “snap out of it and start counting blessings? that will work? It didn’t help much, did it? Do you know why it did not? The “cheer” does not work because it ignores the primary feelings, covers them up, and asks you to feel something that violates your current thinking and feeling.

2) Use your attempted solution to create a second level problem.

If you command your sad feelings to go away, if you hate them, or fear them, all of these “attempted solutions” are actually amplifying the depression and creating a second-level problem on top of things. By ordering yourself, “Don’t feel X, feel Y” this supposed solution itself becomes yet another problem. It implies a taboo (prohibition) against your emotions and sets up a double-bind. By trying to not feel one emotion, and trying to order another (feeling cheerful) creates an internal conflict. In the long run, it will increase a sense of inadequacy, powerlessness, helplessness, and badness.

3) Layer on more problems.

You started with a discouragement, you then used cheering up as an attempted solution that prohibited the first emotion. You then brought other emotions against yourself- fear, guilt, anger, etc.
deepening the sense of being helpless, powerless, and inadequate. These meta-problems then outframed the first level problem generating more negative feelings and amplifying the depression. It’s all a vicious spiral that will only pull you down further into a vortex of negativity creating a full-fledge “depression.”

Transforming and Transcending Depression

Ready to change all of that? Now that you know how you have created your experience, you know a little bit about how to un-create it, how to stop creating it, and how to create something much better and more resourceful.

First, Distinguish the Levels of States and Accept States.

All states are not the same. At the primary level sadness signals you that there’s a difference between your map and experience. Given how you have mapped some facet of the world, there’s a sense of loss in your experience.
Sadness appropriately registers the loss as it also motivates you to replace what you have lost. This is actually good and valuable- you need it it makes you human and real.

Primary level “negative” emotions have a positive role and purpose in our lives. At the primary level your thoughts-and-feelings are in relationship to something “out there,” the emotions, while unpleasant and distressful, are valuable. When you turn your “negative” feelings against your own feelings (sad about sad, anger at sadness, fear of sadness, shame of sadness, etc.), those second-order emotions create the semantic damage of depression.

“Depression” is not a primary level emotion, but a meta-state.

So if you fail to distinguish the levels of states, you will probably mis-understand “depression,” thinking it is a primary state and about something out there in the world. It is not. It is a meta-state made up of negative thoughts and feelings about some other thought, belief, expectation, hope, demand, etc. This explains why it’s easy to solve sadness and why the sadness releases emotional pain. The same, however, does is not true for depression.

Second, Positively Accept Sadness and Negative Emotions.

Knowing that all of your emotions on the primary level are good, valuable, and important, use them for self-awareness. Counter-intuitively, you effectively manage your emotions by positively accepting your fear, sadness, anger, guilt, etc. Acknowledge what you are feeling, then decide what to do. If you have brought negative feelings against yourself, accept that, realize the mistake that you are maing, and set about to reverse it.

And counter-intuitively, by accepting the very thing you don’t like and don’t want gives you control over it. Acceptance means acknowledging what is; it does not condon it, want it, or approve it. Give yourself permission to feel sad, to feel down, to feel discouraged. Paradoxically, the more open and receptive you are with your emotions, you’ll do the emotional work and the emotions pass on.

Third, Undo the De-Pressing.

Therefore instead of pushing down your energies, hope, dreams, values, etc., lift them up. Positively reframe your meanings, set high level intentions to re-ignite your inspiration, get off your butt and get 30 minutes of exercise every day, make a contribution of your time, money, and energy to others. Want to know how to do that?

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Depression as pressing down


This Thing Called Depression”

~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
Sometimes a word is highly informative and tells the story of all experience. This happens to be the case with “depression”. People who suffer depression not only go through a disappointment, loss, frustration, etc., they also “de-press” their life’s energies. They press-down their emotions, their hopes, expectations, inspiration, physical energies, determination, persistence, sexual desires, etc.

In fact, this pressing-down lies at the heart of the depression. That is, depression is revealed by the pressing-down, so that if and when a person stops pressing-down, the depression lifts.

Because depression is not a primary state, it is not an emotion like sadness, frustration, anger, fear, etc. Instead it is a meta-state, a state-about-a-state. It may be fear of sadness, rejection of sadness, anger at sadness, anger turned against self, surprise and shock at a disappointment, etc. And because it is not a primary emotion, it does not provide information about the relationship between one’s map and experience in the territory. Instead, because it arises as a person turns his negative emotions against oneself, it is the result of misusing one’s emotions.

The proper use of emotions begins by accepting that they measure the difference between what we mapped and what we experience. As such, every emotion is useful and provides valuable information. Perhaps the map was off, perhaps our skill in the experience was deficient. Either way, we can change our emotion by changing either what we’re thinking or what we’re doing or some combination of the two.

By way of contrast, we misuse our emotions and abuse ourselves when we take our negative emotions and turn them against ourselves. Whereas a negative emotion tells you that something is wrong with either your mental map or the way you are coping with things in the outside world, that negative emotion gives you the energy to take action to change the map or the experience.

However, when you turn the emotion against yourself, the emotion’s energy has nowhere else to go but against your mind and body. It’s what I originally called a “dragon” state- an unresourceful state. This is the source of all sorts of psycho-somatic illnesses.

The mental mapping typically goes to the expectations that we have mapped.

Given that, we can ask, “What were you expecting?” Take any situation of loss, disappointment, frustration, anger, etc. and ask, “What expectations did you have as you went into that situation?” Then, when you get the answer, ask a follow-up question, “What is the quality of your expectations?” “Was it realistic, probable, impossible, improbable, demanding, etc.?”

A person’s expectations refer to what a person has projected into the future. The expectations may be coded as representations, beliefs, understandings, and so on. These are then projected into the future as what we anticipate. They become expectations when we look forward to seeing them happen … and if the thoughts behind the expectations are “shoulds” or “musts” then high demands are driving them.

“I must succeed.” “Things should always be fair.” “I should reach my goals quickly and with little effort.” “I should be approved and respected by everybody.”

Now if you want a good case of disappointment, here’s the formula: set unrealistic or high expectations beyond what’s realistic about what will happen. Imagine this beautiful future as vividly as you can- in full color, close, with the most enhancing sounds or music, then step in that movie.

Then say, “This is what I expect, what I want, and what I demand will happen or it will be the end of the world for me.”

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DEPRESSION: It’s about the thinking

~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
Given that a lot of things are called “depression,” which are not clinically depression, how can you tell? A good way to begin is to use the work of Dr. David D. Burns and his classic, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (1980). What Burns did in that book was to make exceptionally practical the theoretic work of Dr. Aaron T. Beck one of the founders of the cognitive psychotherapy. His thesis was simple:
“When you are depressed, you are thinking in an illogical, negative manner and you inadvertently act in a self-defeating way. Yet you can train yourself to straighten your twisted thought patterns.” (Burn, p. 3)

He also utilized the Beck Depression Inventory (page 20-21), a list of 21 items to help with a basic diagnosis. For decades this Cognitive Psychology approach has been the most successful approach regarding depression and anxiety. Immediately following the inventory is chapter 3, You Feel the Way You Think, and a list of 10 Cognitive Distortions. That’s because the more cognitive distortions one uses in thinking to understand oneself, others, and the world, the more misery you create for yourself, and the more likely you are to create depression.

What are these cognitive distortions that are so destructive and that create the dysfunctional state of depression?

The following distortions are all expressions of uncritical thinking:

All-or-Nothing thinking, over-generalization, negative mental filter, disqualifying the positive (discounting), jumping to conclusions (mind-reading), magnification and minimization (distortion), emotional reasoning, using “should” statements (demanding), labeling (confusing map and territory), and personalizing.

Once you have looked at the signs of depression, you can then use the NLP Communication Model and ask a lot of probing questions. Begin with modeling questions in order to explore the experience itself, what it entails, what the person is referring to, and how he is creating his experience.

How do you know to call what you’re feeling depression?

How do you create this state? What is your internal strategy?

What’s playing on the theater of your mind- what images, sounds, sensations?

What are the qualities of the cinematic features of this movie?

What is the triggering event to which you are responding?

When did the depression start? When is it worse? When is it better?

What is it like on the inside to be or feel “depressed?”

What are you pushing down in your experience of depression?

“Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking, illogical pessimistic attitudes play the central role in the development and continuation of all your symptoms. Intense negative thinking always accompanies a depressive episode. …

The first major key to understanding your moods:

Your emotions result entirely from the way you look at things. It is an obvious neurological fact that before you can experience any event, you must process it with your mind and give it meaning. (Burns, 1980, p. 29).

When you are depressed, you possess the remarkable ability to believe, and to get the people around you to believe, things which have no basis in reality. The Cognitive Distortions.” (p. 31-41).

These questions help us to understand many of the variables within the experience and how any given person creates and maintains a depressed state.
Yet there’s more to it.
Using the Meta-States Model, we ask additional questions-meta-questions- that allow us to explore the matrix of frames as meta-states that construct and hold the depression in place.

What meanings are you giving to the triggering event that leads you to not only feel appropriately sad, but to push down your energies?

Do you like feeling depressed?

What are some of the positive values and benefits that you get from this experience?

What does it mean to you that you’re experiencing depression?

How do you feel or think about this state?

What are the thinking patterns that drive or amplify or support this state?

What do you believe about X to which you are responding with depression?

In the first case, NLP enables us to recognize that the depressive person is running a depressive movie and passively experiencing the movie as it drones on and on. In the second, Meta-States enables us to recognize the difference between sadness and depression. Sadness is a primary state emotion, a feeling of sadness, which when appropriate due to some loss, is healing and appropriate. But sadness about our sadness might create the more complex state of depression. Yet there are other configurations.

Anger at self for being imperfect might create depression. Freud said depression was “anger turned inward.”

Intolerance of disappointment might be another structure for feeling depressed.

Rejection of self for failing at a business, relationship, or whatever.

Now for the good news. Sadness is normal, if discouragement is normal, if other so-called “negative” emotions are normal, they are just human emotions. And if appropriate to the context and to one’s mental model, then they help us deal with reality, make adjustments, and get back on track.
Depression, however, is not normal. It is a misuse of your powers- especially your cognitive and emotional powers and it solves nothing. And there’s good news about that. After all, if you created that experience, you can uncreate it. You can identify what you are doing to create it and learn a better way. You can meta-state things in a much more productive

Acceptance of being fallible and making mistakes.

Curiously learning about the mistakes and correcting them.

Forgiving yourself and releasing the past so you can resiliently move forward.

Do you want to talk to a specialist where you can see how you are using the word depression? Connect with us now
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This Thing Called “DEPRESSION”

~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
We are now heading into the Christmas season and all of the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Years. For many this is the season to be jolly, however for others, ’tis the season to be depressed. At least this has been one of the regular characteristics of the holiday seasons for many years in the US. Given that and given the large percentage of the population here and around the world that suffer from “depression,” I thought this might be a good time to talk about this thing that we call “depression.”

Depression Is Not All The Same

A first distinction is that all depression is not the same. There are actually many different experiences which are called “depression.” In fact, the term is over-used and all too often is used in far too trivial contexts. So let’s begin here.

What Does Depression Mean?

First of all, the term “depression” does not refer merely to feeling sad, disappointed, or discouraged. It is far more than any one of those experiences, although it frequently (perhaps primarily arises from one of these states). The clinical term depression refers to a very abnormal state and one that is no longer just a mental state, but one involving one’s body, emotions, neuro-chemistry, etc. And depression, unlike the healthy and useful emotions of feeling sad, disappointed, or discouraged, is an unhealthy and dangerous state.

Let’s Start With Sadness

In the primary state of sadness, you register a sense of grief due to a recognition of loss. In fact, the emotions of grief and sadness help us deal with our sense of loss. So, if you have experienced a real loss-you have lost a loved one, a treasured position, a relationship, a project, your health, etc., then the grief enables you to come to terms with things and re-focus your energies. An actual loss means that something valuable and important is no longer present or available. So your mental and emotional investments (your ego-investments) in it are gone. How you defined yourself or even identified yourself in terms of that person, object, or position is also gone. And you feel the less for it. You may be asking yourself, “Who am I now?”


The grief and sadness enables you to register the loss and then to focus and reinvest your energies into something else. The emotional intensity of the sadness generally relates to how important the loss was to you. It gets your attention so you can release it, alter your ideas about it, change your expectations, and put your energies into something as a replacement.

How Dow Does Depression Differ?

Depression differs from loss in that you are now de-pressing yourself, your energies, your hopes, your dreams, your wants, etc. and as you push these things down you reduce your appetite, exercise, sleep, sexual desires, desires to work, to contribute. In a word, you are avoiding the challenge of staying in the vitality of life. Depression is not merely being sad, it is more. Often it is a way to cope with sadness. It could be being sad about being sad, a meta-sadness that is now turning your energies against yourself. It could be shaming or guilt-ing yourself for some aspect of the loss. It could be that you are “turning your anger inward” against your self- that was Sigmund Freud’s analysis of depression. Or it could be a dozen other meta-state configurations.

A Meta-Reponse?

There are actually many ways to generate a depression meta-state wherein you press down (“de-press”) your energies, hopes, passions, resilience, and resources. In this all “depression” is not the same. There are many configuration- all of which is a misuse of your meta-responses to yourself.

The Matrix Of Personality

Using the Matrix Model as a way to model personality, you can see how “depression” can show up in each of the dimensions of the Matrix. A person could feel down and discouraged in so many ways. The matrix model is
developmental psychology.

In the Meaning Dimension where you make and experience positive meanings, you may be creating boredom, futility, emptiness, meaninglessness.

In the Intention dimension that concerns your intentions, motivations, and agendas for living, you may be experiencing the loss of hope, direction and purpose.

In the Self dimension, you may be experiencing you value as a person as conditional, inadequate, flawed, and worthless.

In the Power dimension that involves your powers, skills, competencies, and resources, you may be experiencing your powers as weak, limited, controlled, and determined.

In the Others dimension, you may be experiencing feeling unloved, rejected, unwanted, even despised relationally.

In the Time dimension, you may be experiencing yourself as stuck in the past, fated by past events, impulsive in the moment, etc.

In the World dimension, you may be experiencing a loss of an important role, status, or position.

The Common Cold

Depression has been called “the common cold” of mental and emotional disorders. When a person truly becomes depressed, he depresses his energies, activities, hopes, sense of meaning, etc. No wonder depression is also one of the most dreaded states. As a very unpleasant state, it then feds many other self-destructive behaviors.

Down Feelings

In many of these cases, the problem is really not “depression.” People are using that term far too loosely. Instead of depression, many are suffering from discouragement, lack of motivation, a wide range of fears, anxiety, fatigue, burnout, and so on. They confuse their “down” feelings with depression. Many times the real problem is that they don’t have a big and exciting challenge in their lives. There’s not sufficient meaning and meaningfulness. It could also be that they are playing life too safe, too small, and/or too perfect. Or they could be expecting absolute success with no problems and they could be wanting it now without any effort.

Do you want to talk to a specialist where you can see how you are using the word depression? Connect with us now
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