Depression: A New View for Healing
Buildups, Letdowns and Turnarounds
By: J. Marlando
There is just no doubt about it we human beings trap ourselves in a lot of unnecessary unhappiness primarily because of making wrong (or bad) choices. We are not aloe of course every living creature turns right when he should have turned left at least now and then.
While I do not claim to be an expert in psychology I am fully aware that some depression can be caused by a chemical change in the brain. However, I am convinced that the cause is a chicken and egg question. Does the chemical change come before the depression or does the depression arrive first? It doesn’t matter, I know, if you’re enduring deep despair all you care about is getting rid of the dark shadow over life and letting the bright sunshine in. (Certainly, if your depression has you feeling so far out on a limb that you don’t think you can climb back, please…see a professional. After all, depression can sometimes be deadly.
There are some pretty common reasons many people are depressed. We’ll quickly go over them.
The list begins with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder). People—men and women—can become preoccupied with some imagined body flaw. (When I was a kid, I was raised with an aunt who was convinced that she was ugly. She wasn’t at all but she spent an entire life time NEVER going out to a restaurant, a movie or even a grocery store. For all practical purposes she lived a sad lifetime…in hiding).
BDD can certainly evolve into feelings of having little or no self-worth. When anyone feels “worthless” depression is almost sure to follow. Some people can conjure the feelings of worthlessness because of a tiny scar, being overweight, underweight; nose too long, nose too short; age spots, wrinkles, fat behind, skinny behind and the list goes on.
People who have strongly compulsive habits like drugs and booze but even coffee addition is added to the list. It is believed that a great many folks who drink a lot of coffee daily are trying to “medicate” themselves to avoid depression. Incidentally, I used to drink a lot of alcohol. I was thoroughly convinced it was because I was a “fun loving, go-for-it kind of guy.” Now as I look back on those “happy-hour-days,” I realized that I was not only escaping life but escaping me; I was avoiding my depression…or trying to.
Another common depression maker is serious shyness: The three typical symptoms are (1) hating to eat in public. (2) Being scrutinized by others; being humiliating or embarrassed and (3) public speaking. Certainly these behaviors can become depressive to a lot of people. These “fears” and other symptoms like them were described in the1970 British Journal of Psychiatry and given the clinical name: social phobia.
Certainly my aunt, talked about earlier, had this disorder along with BDD; a heartbreaking story of a life almost exclusively hidden from others based on false beliefs.
Another common mental trap is what has come to be known as PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). This can be a highly depressing dilemma for, say, family members of people killed in tragedies such as 911 or a plane crash. There is also survivor syndrome that often occurs when a person walks away alive leaving others dead or even seriously hurt. Many people who survived the Holocaust suffered with survival syndrome for the rest of their lives.
I’m not going to talk anymore about these specific disorders but I wanted to make sure the reader was aware of them; aware that no matter what is giving them their depression they are a long way from being alone—depression is a human dilemma that affects countless people around the globe and is often what I call the most serious “closet disease” there is. If severe shyness has you on a “downer” talk about it with the significant others in your life or at least that person who you love and loves you if not a psychologist. Remember admitting to your depression is a first step for eventually leaving it by the wayside.
With the above in mind let’s talk about buildups, letdowns and…turnarounds.
The truth is that a whole lot of our individual unhappiness is a result of the dumb choices we’ve made a long our way. I certainly have made some doozies and yes, in a term, I regret the hell out of them! In fact, if I dwell on the wrong choices I’ve made I get depressed. Perhaps you’ve been there and done that too…maybe you’re there right now?
I’ve been so “down in the dumps” that all I wanted to do was escape me which is the worst feeling because no one can run away or hide from themselves—after all, we are stuck in whatever psychological quagmire that we’re in until we can overcome it.
It is not always easy to simply let loose of the reasons or circumstances that creates the “downer” that we’re enduring. Positive thinking is a good ideal but quite often there is a lot of distance between the ability to think positive in what feels like a desperate situation.
For one thing depression has one or more of the following factors: fear, regret, anger, frustration, anxiety, sorrow and loneliness. All the stuff that makes you want to howl at the moon.
Well that begins our trek into freedom from serious despondency. First of all, NEVER NEVER take your depression out on other people! All you’ll do is augment an already unhappy situation. But it is okay to go outside and howl at the moon. In fact, howling can help relieve the tension—just don’t howl for very long or your neighbors will call the guys in the little white jackets.
In this regard, how many times have you said or have heard someone say, “I just feel like screaming.” Well scream just don’t scream at someone else. Simply become the kettle letting off steam In fact, I’m in favor of a good scream or cry now and then.
Crying like screaming can be a great antidote for some emotion relief but the problem is that neither chases away the problems for very long. All the crying and screaming in the world won’t change an unhappy situation into a happy one or despair into delight.
People who tell a depressed person to simply snap out of their depression do not realize the depth of desolation that a person can feel but it is here that we begin our trek toward wellness.
There is another side of the bleakness coin that we are talking about, however. Remember what we said at the top of this article about not knowing which arrives first, the depression or the chemical change. Well, Dr. Paul Pearsall tells us this: “Crying, complaining, passivity, and chronic depression all damage our health, but they also ‘feel good’ in the sense that we can get used to depression, suffering in a degree of comfort with the predictability of an emotional state that allows us to escape into a brain-induced ‘downer., We avoid making the changes that could result in feeling better, accepting the down brain chemicals that offer their unique brand of emotional anesthesia, the other side of our stress addiction. Where there is stress addiction, there is always depression waiting, and when there is depression, stress addition has been there and threatens the person who considers leaving his or her depressed state.”
Most simply we can become accustomed to being down as we can being up or, if you will, happy and positive.
People who are almost always on a downer resist believing that their constant depressive moods are habits (AKA addictions) more than anything else. Indeed, they prefer blaming people and situations outside themselves. If it weren’t for so-in-so I wouldn’t be in this rut…if so-in-so would have done this instead of that I’d be happy or be better off today…if the credit card people hadn’t sent me all those letters I wouldn’t be in this much debt and so forth. It can actually “feel good” to blame others for whatever dilemma we are in. I actually once heard a woman say in an angry, hateful tone, “If my husband hadn’t died and left me in this mess, I’d be just fine today.”
It is first of all vital to grasp that we are all victors or victims of our own choices. If for example you are sitting with a person you love today and who makes you happy or are with a person you can’t stand and who makes you unhappy, you are exactly where you have chosen to be in either circumstance.
People who walk in a constant gloom and doom/ mad and sad mood are most typically “me” people, people who dwell in the centers of their world and expect attentiveness from everyone else and/or live more in the past than the present and the recall of all those who have disappointed or harmed him or her in some way.
Most depressed people that I have personally dealt with do not like to think about their depression like this because, like a boomerang it all comes back into their own hands. After all, no one—absolutely no one—is responsible for anyone else’s happiness. Happiness is a personal matter in all circumstances and environments.
The typical response to these observations and suggestions is for the depressed person to protest saying, “Don’t you think I’d change my life and take away my unhappiness, if I could?”
I believe that most depressed people would indeed change their despondency into joy if they could so we’ll suggest how to do exactly that in the following section.
The Roots of Depression
First, let’s go over a couple of vital points we’ve covered up to this juncture. A great many people endure what has been named “social phobia.” Recall, there are people who do not like to eat in public or severe cases like my aunt who virtually never left the house or yard in an entire lifetime. These are symptoms of extremely shyness and unless the individual who suffers the condition is absolutely aware of his or her malady and is highly motivated to overcome it, a professional is needed. A “good” psychologist or psychiatrist can delve into the depth of the psyche and help you find the truth of why you are so seriously shy. And, in regard to all of this, remember that it is the truth that sets us all free.
The other challenge that is mentioned in the above is that many people who “suffer” from deeper depression may well be addicted to the brain chemicals that depressive/angry/unhappy thoughts create for them. I doubt if anyone would ever admit to being “most content when they are unhappy” but there are people who unconsciously believe this because their sour moods actually produce a safety or comfort zone (feeling) for them although they probably do not realize it.
So keep in mind that depression is more than mood or melancholy. Indeed, it can be detrimental to one’s physical health as well, even reducing the strength of the immune system. And, even with all this aside, depression with all its factors does not make for a great life anyway.
The question arises then, can you self-cure? Probably!
I say probably because so many people do not fully realize that, at bottom line, they are in control and that each of us are the only ones that can change our experiences. No one “gave” us the depressed state. The depressed state is a reaction with the exception of a physical problem which is probably what a good psychiatrist would consider first. After all, Scientific American Mind reports that “one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at any given time.” They suggest that “80 percent of people with major depression… can benefit substantially from a combination of medication and counseling.”
Well, no one wants to become dependent on pills just so they can feel content during their days if they can help it so here are some thoughts of how to open up the lid to your own depression and free yourself from its negative symptoms.
First of all you must grasp that your depression is, at one level of consciousness or another, a self-condemnation or, in other words, self-composed. No matter how terrible your grief, what the causes for you anger are, how deep others have hurt you or how disappointed people have made you; you are at the helm of your own feelings and behaviors. As a quick aside this reminds me of something Kierkegaard wrote during the 1800s. He said:
“Despair is never ultimately over the external object but
Always over ourselves. A girl loses her sweetheart and she despairs.
It is not over the lost sweetheart but over herself without the
sweetheart. And so it is with all cases of loss whether it be
money, power, or social rank. The unbearable loss is not
really in itself unbearable. What we cannot bear is being
stripped of the external object: we stand denuded and see
the intolerable abyss of ourselves.”
I first read this many, many years ago and it gave me such motivation to leave my own doom-and-gloom moods at the wayside that I could not resist sharing Kierkegaard’s wisdom with the reader of this narrative.
While it is true that the roots of depression may have been seeded by some terrible or unhappy incident but you are, if you will, the one that watered and nurtured those seeds to germinate and develop your state of negativity and despondency. Grasping this is perhaps the most important step in making positive changes in your mind and therefore in your life. In my personal opinion you will never be able to cure yourself as long as you are blaming things outside yourself for your unhappiness.
Okay, with the above said, what are the steps to lifting yourself out of your depressed state and giving yourself some peace of mind and happiness? We will attempt to answer this question next.
Curing the Cause
I believe that it is a mistake to, if you will, look into the mirror and think—wow, I’ve got to get rid of my downers, I just have to beat my constant depression.
Your depression is a symptom and so what you want to cure is the cause.
First of all, you need to honestly think about whom or what are you angry about. (For some people this takes counseling to figure out). Even if you just feel angry at the world there is a reason for that anger somewhere in your psyche. Your parents, an old boy or girlfriend; poverty, whatever!
Whatever it is, you will never recover from your unhappiness until you forgive whatever or whoever has given you the pain. And more, you must forgive yourself first—after all you can only forgive the world and others to the extent that you forgive you.
Thus, step one is to work on forgiving you for everything and anything you have done that you wish you hadn’t or could change. Know that EVERYONE has these regrets. No one gets through life without hurting a few others along their way or making poor decisions. No one!
So work on forgiving you…unconditionally and then start forgiving all those who have harmed you in some way or given you pain. We have ALL been broken hearted, betrayed, lied to and mistreated at least a couple of times in our lives and yes, even by people we care deeply about. Remember others all make their mistakes too.
Also remember that if you have a tendency to say, I could never forgive this or that, you are wrong. There is nothing you cannot forgive. In deed as a quick aside, I helped a holocaust survivor write his life story. (You can order it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble: The Art of Survival by Charles Pierce and J. Marlando. It is a book that should uplift your spirits because Charles was a prisoner of the Nazis for six, horrifying years and yet managed to live his life in love and…forgiveness).
After you have forgiven yourself and others, you will actually feel a weight leave your mind; your world will become a little brighter. Forgiveness like *love is physiological and you will probably do your immune system a lot of good at the same time.
After you have absolutely and unconditionally forgiven, your next step is to permit yourself to love…unconditionally.
There is a trick or secret to loving unconditionally which I have written about many times and something I practice almost daily myself.
Take a walk around the block or through a local park or down town. Start your day out by saying to yourself in the mirror, “You are lovable and loving.” Say it a few times and then leave your house or apartment and go out into the world. While you are walking say silently to yourself “I love you” to everything and everyone you see or greet. Yes, this includes the trees, grass, birds, and stray pooches… everything! Say it even if at first you don’t mean it at all…soon enough you will! Don’t just do this once but try and do it every single day. I can almost promise you, you’re depression will soon enough drift away.
Do NOT judge what I am saying or what you’re doing…just do it! Give it a couple of weeks and see what happens.
I will explain what occurs when you follow the forgiveness and love instruction.
First, however, I want to give you some answers to questions that some readers may be asking. I used to teach all this many years ago at a workshop I held and I recall some of the responses from a few skeptical attendees. I’m going to repeat the most common of those questions here and give you the answers I gave back then.
Reader: There are some things that I just can’t forgive.
JM: Forgiveness is a choice; a decision! If you can’t forgive, you simply don’t want to.
Reader: I’d feel silly walking around saying I love you to everything.
JM: First of all, you are saying it silently to yourself—no one hears you! It is merely your ego-self that is used to thinking that love must be selective and conditional and that you are above loving anything that is not in your center.
Reader: How could I love people that I don’t even know?
JM: The greatest secret to this is to grasp that we are all the same and our differences are only apparent. When you see the poor wretch begging on the street, the woman in the limousine, the man working in the field, you are seeing you only in different circumstances. Once you grasp this the lyrics of that old song seems to prove true: Everyone is beautiful in their own way.
Reader: So how do you actually forgive people who have really done you in?
JM: You choose to love them and when those old ragged upsets come into your brain like hate, anger, regret and so forth you command them to leave. You can actually tell them to go away! If you do this every time they enter your mind’s eye, they will soon enough go away once and for all. Returning to Dr. Paul Pearsall for a moment, he tells us that we cannot only tell our brains what to think but how to think.
Reader: Wait a minute, isn’t it our brains that are in charge of us so to speak?
JM: Your brain only thinks that it is you.
Reader: I don’t know if I could actually forgive and love anyone that has hurt me deeply or taken advantage of me. I don’t think that I’m that kind of person—sorry!
JM: I will repeat Doctors H.R. Lewis and H.S. Streitfeld here. In my work shop I used to read the words below aloud. It is very much of value to hear and think about:
“You are almost certainly better than you think you
are. More than you permit yourself. You can be happier,
stronger, braver. You can be more loving and giving;
warmer, more open and honest; more responsible and
responsive. You can perceive worlds richer and fuller than
you now experience. You have it in you to be more creative,
more zestful, more joyous. All these prospects are within
you. They are your potential.”
With the above said, let’s talk about what happens when you actually begin to love and forgive. Your brain actually begins to believe you and begins producing positive endorphins that that give you up feelings as opposed to down feelings. Indeed, when your brain is producing healthy psychochemicals, your world turns happier and brighter; kinder and more loving. Indeed, your brain does what you—the “I” of you—tell it. If your message is, the world sucks and people are lousy, your brain will supply you with the chemicals that produce and so support your negativity. If you tell it that you are loving the world and all that’s in it, your brain will produce the chemicals and so support your positive views.
It is your consciousness that alters and changes the world and not the other way around. As some else once stated—it is not the world that acts on us…it is we who act upon the wor ld.
Depression can be devastating for those who live amidst its tangled wing—there are those who can overcome it by themselves and those who need the support of a therapist. While I fully realize that pills are often necessitated for the severe cases, I also know that all the best pills can do is treat the symptoms and not the cause. Unless we have something wrong with our physical brains it is all but certain that depression is based on a false belief or reality. For example, I would guess that something or many things happened in the past to seed the depression in the present. I believe that one needs to find the cause, forgive it, and cast it aside like sour milk.
Certainly there are things that occur in the present that make us angry, sad, scared, lonely and simply unhappy but the accompanying depression typically fades away and never lingers for very long. For those who suffer clinical depression however, depression can live with them daily…even for a lifetime. I am convinced that love and forgiveness naturally creates a mental path to freedom from the trappings of the depressed mind. Yet, there are those who are too addicted to their depression to overcome it on their own volition and so, as I keep saying, more than self-therapy can be needed.
If you know someone who is suffering from depression…give them love, not criticism. If you are suffering from depression…give yourself love, not criticism. In the meantime, walk your path in love and forgiveness no matter who you are, it can only make things better.
*Love is physiological was first said by Dr. Bernie Siegel.
References and further reading:
Hooper, Judith and Teresi, Dick *The Three-Pound Universe*G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Juan, Stephen* The Amazing Brain*Andrew McMeel Publishing
Pearsall, Paul*Super Joy*Bantam Books
Howard R. Lewis and Harold S. Streitfeld* Growth Games*Bantam Books
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