Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lifting Oneself Up By One's Bootstraps

Continuing my theme from last time...

While the Catch-22 of Depression can feel as impossible as lifting oneself by one's bootstraps (absolutely impossible, according to the laws of physics), the real state of being is actually not so bad. The link I pointed out last time is really helpful, as is this website too.

The key is this concept: "for all the energy you put in to your depression recovery, you’ll get back much more in return" (from the second website linked above).

So if, with what little energy you have, you put that energy into action that is known to be helpful, you'll get back a little more energy than you put in, so that now you have even more to put into further healthy action, etc. The key is to be patient but persistent.

The actual effect made me think that the depressing power of depression actually operates according to an inverse-square law, like gravity. Initially it is very hard to escape. But if you hold steady in those initial efforts until you get far enough away, it gets easier. A lot easier. The force-field weakens significantly with distance. But you have to hold steady in your initial efforts. If you let yourself fall all the way back, you have to start over again, and it will be hard all over again.

The known ways to help alleviate depression are simple principles of a healthy life: sleep, good nutrition, exercise, building supportive relationships, minimize stress and develop healthy responses to the stress you cannot avoid, break bad habits of negative thinking, replacing the negative thinking with realistic-positive thinking, seek fulfilling experiences and let yourself enjoy them when you can, and increase awareness of your emotional states and their triggers.

Even if applying these principles does not address all of the causes of your depression, they can help you gain strength and energy to make whatever other changes you may need to make in your life. And, regarding those changes, a similar method of operation applies: take what steps you can. Start small. Making some progress will give you back positive energy that will help you take additional, perhaps harder, steps.

There are likely to be set-backs. There are two kinds of set-backs: (1) plummeting mood, and (2) falling back and losing ground. Often #1 leads to #2. So if you catch #1 in time and can talk yourself into just stopping in your tracks but not retreating, riding out the mood, you may prevent #2.

Becoming worried, anxious, fearful, doubting, sad, angry, etc. are normal in the midst of change. Don't let those moods scare you! Don't read cosmic significance in them. Don't make new decisions in the midst of these states of being. Just listen to them and see how long they last. Move into them; even perhaps precipitate their acceleration (by, e.g., letting yourself cry). While it is not fun to experience these emotions, they in themselves will not harm you. In fact, letting yourself experience them fully gives you strength. And they never last forever. They burn themselves out. Only after you are calm again are you allowed to reassess your plan of action (preferably with the help of trusted friends or guides).

But if #2 happens and you later regret it, all is not lost. Try again. Your awareness of your regret will help give you strength not to give in next time.

The difficulty of making major life changes is a topic I am going to address in an upcoming series of postings I will call, "Difficult Discernment."

1 comment:

  1. I think most people WANT major life changes, but are AFRIAD of the unknown. In depression, they know what it's like and can have a "better the devil you know" type of attitue. But without change, one can never really feel alive, learn or accumlate good knowledge. But yet, time and again, we see people refusing - I use this word on purpose - refusing to be happy. It's uncomfortable. Unlock that: and you unlock everything.

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