Most of you would be familiar with Aaron Beck’s Cognitive Triad also known as the Negative Triad. To recap, a depressed person is characterized by negative views about the self, negative views about the world and negative views about the future.
Guilt, shame, worthlessness, not accepting the self are all aspects of negative views about the self, which I conveniently relabel as self-loathing. It can even be conceived that these self concepts are closer to a neurotic belief system.
Similarly, being pessimistic and having a sense of hopelessness, is what can be thought of as having negative views about the future. Learned helplessness, an explanatory model of depression, is more aligned with this aspect.
That leaves us with negative views about the world. Items that measure it include “No one values me” or “People ignore me all the time”; items that talk more about negative views about other people rather than world at large. Also we know that depression is characterized by rumination or repetitive negative brooding over the past. So my humble submission is that its better to break this negative views about the world into two components: one about negative views about other people and the other about negative views about the past/ present.
So, Cynicism or cynical hostility, which is characterized by cynicism, distrust, resentment, and suspicion, would be what is dysfunctional in depression as far as negative views about others is concerned. There is some evidence that high scores on cynical hostility raises the odds of being depressed 5 times the general population.
And that leaves us with the last of factors that affect depression: bitterness or negative views about the past/ present. There is an automatic negative tendency to see past as full of regrets and losses and missed opportunities and this leads to rumination and sustaining of sad mood and depression.
This however means that Beck’s triad is no longer a triad but has become a tetrad. This needs to be empirically verified but I’m sure it will be a useful construct.
Most important, from the perspective of this post is how we can flip these unconscious, negative automatic thoughts and replace them with positive automatic thoughts/ habits so as to immunize and buffer us against depression (and other disorders) . So with some fanfare I introduce SandyG’s Positive Tetard.
Self-esteem, self-efficacy, self worth, self acceptance etc are all positive processes and indicators that one has a positive view of self. Like the other three components of GLEO/Positive tetrad, these all can be developed and are state like/ trait like and not fixed in nature. Bandura for eg. has elaborated extensively on how self efficacy can be developed. Rosenberg similarly has focused on self-esteem. The E of GLEO comes from this component (self Esteem/Self Efficacy). Developing this buffers against self-loathing and is thus a protective factor.
Optimism (generalized expectancy as well as learned optimism) and hope (wills and ways) are positive processes and indicators that one has a positive view of future. Optimism interventions like Best possible future selves exercise leads to increase in optimism and again helps buffer against depression/ other disorders. The O in GLEO come from Optimism. This protective resource can again be built.
Love, compassion, kindness and altruism all come form a place where others are trusted and one has positive views about others. Interventions like loving-kindness mediation or random acts of kindness can increase the social support one feels and thus buffer against depression/ other disorders. The L in GLEO comes from Love. Other people matter and to build social support you have to start by trusting/ loving others.
That leaves us with the G in GLEO. It stands for Gratitude. Thankfulness, feeling blessed and grateful all lead to a positive view or interpretation of what has happened in the past or is continuing to happen in present. Gratitude interventions like counting your blessings or a gratitude visit leads to noticing and appreciating the good that has happened and continues to happen. This acts as a strong antidote to feelings of bitterness and buffers against depression.
Taking a bird’s eye view, sadness driven by ruminating on past events leads to depressive disorders and can be prevented by gratitude interventions. Fear driven by apprehension of future events leads to anxiety disorders and can be buffered against by optimism/ hope interventions. Anger driven by cynical hostility towards others leads to aggression(intermittent explosive disorder)/ conduct disorders and can be protected against by cultivating kindness/ compassion etc. Finally, disgust (with self ) that may be driven by self-loathing may lead to neuroses / impulsive and compulsive disorders (OCD, personality disorders etc) and can be prevented by developing self esteem, self compassion etc. I know this is slightly conjectural, but I have good reasons to extend this tetrad beyond depression.
Finally, how this new concept of GLEO/SandyG’s Tetrad compare to existing constructs like HERO/PsyCap and the ‘light triad‘ ?
HERO/PsyCap I believe is limited by its focus on work domain. It gets the Hope/Optimism and Self-Efficacy part right but stops short. Self-concept should include more things like self esteem and adding gratitude and love to the model makes it many fold strong and in a sense equivalent to my model as Luthans is explicit that PsyCap is state like and can be developed. However, I see of GLEO as more processes than as either trait like or state like.
‘Light Triad’ on the other hand is posited as opposed to the ‘dark triad’ and is more or less a personality trait construct. Perhaps, Cynicism is a milder and passive form of the dark triad and Love/compassion/altruism is the milder form of the light triad. I think of it in these terms, but I may be mistaken.
I am excited to unveil this model; does this resonate with you? Should we all cultivate GLEO as a path to glee and happiness?