The gospel reading on Holy Wednesday is about Judas’ betrayal and subsequent despair and suicide. The Bible and homilies of clergy past and present are grace-and-Spirit-filled, and thus, of great help to one’s growth and development.
But let me share this from the point of view of psychotherapy or psychology. According to Whiston, S. C (2005), depression has a direct connection to suicide (and because of that, it is important for counselors to begin assessing for depression early on in the counseling process). Let me contend then, that if left unattended, depression will eventually result to suicide ideation and to the act of suicide itself.
According to McNamara (1992), symptoms of depressions usually include a dysphoric mood, often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, guilt, and resentment. Beck, A. T (1979) proposed that depression or depressed feelings are caused by depressogenic assumptions. Depressogenic assumptions, according to Beck, A. T. (1979) are common cognitive errors which cause depressed feelings. This depressogenic assumption or notion overlaps with Albert Ellis’ (REBT) Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy’s core concept of irrational beliefs, which according to Ellis, A. (1962, 1973; 1991) lead to unhappiness and neurosis, Prochaska, J. O. & Norcross, J. C. (2003).
The following are five (5) common depressogenic assumptions listed by Aaron T. Beck in his book Cognitive Therapy of Depression (1979) as quoted by Prochaska, J.O. & Norcross, J. C. (2003).
- Overgeneralizing — If it’s true in one situation, it applies to any situation that is even remotely similar.
- Selective abstraction — The only events that matter are the failures which are the sole measure of myself.
- Excessive responsibility — I am responsible for all bad things, rotten events, and life failures.
- Self-references — I am at the center of everyone’s attention, particularly when I fail at something.
- Dichotomous thinking — Everything is either one extreme or another (black or white, good or bad).
Now, we go back to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Perhaps, Judas, even before his notorious betrayal of Jesus, already had maladaptive cognitions, dysfunctional attitudes or depressogenic assumptions, Beck, A. T. (1979) or irrational beliefs, Ellis, A (1973; 1991).
Perhaps Judas, had and can’t let go of these depressogenic assumptions/irrational beliefs (common to the thinking of that time) that power is the end-all and be-all of things. Perhaps he was so attached to the thinking that it is the powerful who would always prevail. With that thinking, he thought that Jesus won’t be touched (by his betrayal) and that nothing can hurt Jesus much less kill Him because He was (is) so powerful and that He won’t allow something bad to happen to a powerful Son of God as He was (is). In short, Judas failed to grasp what Jesus repeatedly told them, that His Kingdom is not of power, of lording it over others, but that of humility and love manifested by service and suffering . Judas then held on to his cognitive errors or maladaptive cognition. Consequently, because he can’t let go of his depressogenic assumption or irrational belief, he despaired which led then to his suicide.
Perhaps it was simply a case of depressogenic assumptions/irrational beliefs of not having faith, hope and love in Jesus and in His words in the first place. Perhaps it was a case of maladaptive attitudes or dysfunctional cognitive processes. Perhaps it was not. What is clear is that today, Holy Wednesday, I have to ask myself which irrational beliefs/depressogenic assumptions I hold on to regardless of the many graces and blessings God has given me. I hope and pray then, that God in His great mercy and love will prevail over me and heal me of any cognitive distortions and errors which I may have stubbornly held on to, thus, causing me to have maladaptive attitudes.
+Lord, in Your great love, answer me. (Ps 69:17) +
April 12, 2017
Editor’s note: The author is a clinical psychology student.