I disagree with the thesis of Time's article called "Happiness Isn't Normal," (Feb. 13, 2006), about a new form of psychotherapy that tells people to embrace pain to overcome sadness. Face emotional pain, yes, but know need to embrace it, it can be overcome with a dose of realistic perspective and unconditional love, often through the vehicle of cognitive therapy. Here's my letter to the editor:
Having been depression-free for seven plus years due in large part to cognitive therapy, I am skeptical of Hayes' ACT therapy. Its refusal to challenge distorted thoughts dismisses reality and can only lead to its conclusion that happiness isn't normal. Cognitive therapy is superior, I believe, because it helps the depressed put things in proper perspective and to overcome the tendencies of blowing negative things out of proportion and disqualifying positive things in life. The result is that the positive exceeds the negative and happiness is normal. Perhaps one reason ACT is having some success is because it does mimic cognitive therapy to some degree. When ACT teaches a response to a negative thought to be "I'm thinking I'm a lousy parent," rather than "I'm a lousy parent," it at least diffuses the power of that thought and plants a seed thought: "Since I'm only thinking it, perhaps I'm not one." Cognitive therapy does this more directly and by facing reality, not dismissing it.