In Philadelphia there lives a gentle, gracious, grey-haired man, by now in his late-90s, whom Elaine and I have had the pleasure of meeting several times
and who is one of the most lovely people we have ever known.
Many people have reason to be thankful to him, because his work has transformed many lives, rescuing people from depression and other debilitating psychological states.
His name is Aaron T. Beck and he is the founder of one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy yet devised: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
He discovered it through his work at the depression research clinic he founded in the University of Pennsylvania.
He began to detect a pattern among his patients.
It had to do with the way they interpreted events.
They did so in negative ways that were damaging to their self-respect, and fatalistic.
It was as if they had thought themselves into a condition that one of Beck’s most brilliant disciples, Martin Seligman, was later to call “learned helplessness.”
Essentially they kept telling themselves, “I am a failure.
Nothing I try ever succeeds.
I am useless.
Things will never change.”