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Your Stories Don’t Define You, How You Tell Them Will

Jul 2, 2019

"Just be happy! It's a beautiful day!"

Those words spoken by a family member were completely lost on a teenaged Courtney Ackerman facing depression and anxiety. Not only were they lost, they caused some damage to the relationship.

Depression wasn't just an illness for Courtney, it was also a source of curiosity.

Not many people going through something like this make the connection between what they're going through, and an opportunity for learning and growth, especially at the time of the struggle. That's part of what makes Courtney unique, among her other talents and varied interests.

Our conversation spanned decades, from that first experience with depression, to her recent “ah ha” moments in her career.

We spoke a lot about 2 of the 11-15 known cognitive distortions, Over Generalization, and Black & White Thinking. When we over generalize, we decide that one thing that happened is meaningful across our entire experience of life. For instance, Courtney was an A student all through elementary and middle school, and then failed a calculus exam. She decided in that moment that she just wasn’t very smart. That’s over generalizing - seeing her one experience in failing an exam and deciding she wasn’t smart, no matter how much evidence there was to the contrary.

With black & white thinking, which can lead to over generalizing, we cannot see a gray area in something specific, like when we decide a person is either good or evil, based on one incident. It’s an either/or way of thinking that, no matter how much evidence we have that there’s something in between, we cannot acknowledge that middle ground.

Connect with Courtney on LinkedIn, listen to her episode on the outstanding podcast “Getting Unstuck”, read one of her articles on cognitive distortions, and order her books on the Simon & Schuster website.