Cognitive Pearl #029 Tevet 16, 5775 January 7, 15

In honor of the snow falling outside my window, let’s consider the cognitive therapy dimensions of the weather.

“The weather?! What’s weather got to do with cognitive therapy?,” I hear you asking.

Weird as this may sound, there are a few ways that I’ve learned to integrate the weather into cognitive therapy, especially with the depressed and with those whose moods and anxieties run and ruin their lives.

The first way is the metaphor of the weather as representing a force that’s completely out of our control. Short of figuring out how to force the weather to comply with our whims, the weather forces us to react to it, to fit our lives into it. Cognitive therapy poses that while the weather outside rages, as it will, we are in control of our inner world. By taking hold of the internal experience of thought, feeling, interpretation, and association we can become in control of the best part of who we are: our minds. The processes, tools, and skills of cognitive therapy will get us there.


A second way is using the weather as a barometer (pun intended!) of social and environmental connectedness. Over the years1, I’ve learned to observe how my clients’ reactions to eclipsing external events such as the weather, war, terror attacks, presidential visits, car races and all of the craziness of Jerusalem. Their reactions tell me so much about their ability to be part of the social fabric of an organism that looks like a city. It also gives me a view into their ability to slip in out of social roles and emotional states. For example, today’s snow renders so many of us into excited joyous children. That’s unless we’re too stuck in either our agenda or our fear of being someone different. Joyous living requires flexibility, the ability to flow with life even as we hold onto our aspirations and values. 

There are other connections between the snow, the weather, and cognitive therapy. But there’s a storm to watch.

Stay warm everyone!


1There’s a backstory to this: Many, many years ago, I had occasion to visit the back wards of a Connecticut state psychiatric institution. It was a New England icky, hot, humid, summer day. As often happens, a summer squall came in with driving rain, vivid lightening, and a vicious artillery barrage of thunder. It seemed liked the storm was right on top of our heads! Transfixed by the drama, I joined a group of nurses and orderlies who followed the storm through the windows. Sadly, the patients, so out of touch between their psychoses and the effects of the medications were oblivious; disconnected, they remain absorbed in their delusions and inner fog.