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Thursday, October 21, 2010

More on Moods and Feelings and Their Control Over Us

The last couple of posts I have been talking about my latest experience in changing my mood from a downer to a real up mood. I wondered if it might be helpful to include this snippet from my book Depression is a Choice, which I am now trying to reformat for Kindle but not quite through yet. 
It occurred to me that, unless you have at least the intellectual idea that you are separate from your feelings and not a prisoner of them, as people believe who believe that depression is a brain disease, changing your mood as an act of will might seem preposterous. 
I ran across this early experience of my thinking where I was just starting to get the idea that I could actually separate myself from my feelings. In the past I always “was happy” or “was depressed.” I didn’t separate out myself from my feelings and look at them as simply a part of me. They so enveloped me that I thought I was my feelings. Certainly I didn’t think I could change my feelings as an act of will. Here’s an example of my first work on separating  myself from my depression.
“At first I thought of the difference between depression and “feeling good” in terms of being“conscious” or “unconscious,” because Freud’s model of the mind was what I was trained in. The minute I realized I was depressed, I would remind myself that I had “gone unconscious,” and that any “conscious activity” on my part would get me out of it. I remember having an “insight” once that went something like this, “Oh, I get it now. Depression, being a defense mechanism, means it is “unconscious,” and any “conscious” thinking or behavior takes precedence over any unconscious thinking. I refined these concepts later but perhaps seeing depression as “going unconscious” was a necessary step. Ultimately I saw that I had to differentiate myself from my enmeshment with my whole mind, not simply from my depression.
I began to understand that if I was depressed I was never in present reality. I would test this out. When I got depressed I would ask myself questions about exactly what was wrong “right now.” My fears were always either regret or anguish about the past, about what I had lost; or anxiety about the future, and what I was not going to have. Any time I started to question myself seriously about my situation I could always see that in this exact instant I was really “not so bad.”
One of the mind tricks I created to help me to a more objective view of my moods was that when I was depressed I would visualize “saving some of it in my hand” to take into the next high, to “remember” how I was when I was down. This was not terribly difficult. And when I was really high I would “save some of it in my hand” to take into depression to “remember” how it was when I was high. This was much harder.
          Since depression by its very nature is “hopeless,” it necessarily seems “endless.” Thus, it is hard to remember “being high” in the midst of a down, with the implication that another high will also come. But I insisted on doing the exercise and slowly, little by little, I got to the point where I could hold onto the idea of both extremes as being temporary moods.
Switching from the idea of one mood to the reality of the other, back and forth, back and forth, regardless of which mood I was “stuck” in, I learned to feel my strongest feelings without losing my sense of objective reality that I was not my feelings, I was simply having them. I learned to raise my awareness and observe myself carefully when I was deep in depression, but not to the point of experiencing myself, until one day my depression was separated out, and I was alone, looking at it."


Fickle Cattle said...

I super believe this you have no idea. I actually wrote a post about it. :-)


Ginger said...

I am trying to put into practice your ideas and concentrate on being cheerful and pleasant in the midst of unpleasant feelings. Trying to stay aware of what I have to be grateful for and re-route my mind into a more positive mode. At the very same time, still find myself feeling sad about how some things have turned out, and disappointed about limited solutions.

Guess I have crossed over from real mourning to the stage of being fixated in the negative neuronal pathways I've created.

I guess this may also demonstrate the idea you are talking about here; that while I may be making an effort, I am still not fully engaged in the present moment. While I am feeling "anguish about the past" and "anxiety about the future" I am still missing the mark.

I can remember being up in the midst of being down though! That can actually be a problem...you know, the curse of the "good old days." My life used to be so much simpler. My other house was so much easier to live in. The other place was so much more interesting.

Of course I was happy as a clam there...I remember it well! The gloomy days in the other place are a dim and distant memory, yet I truly "know" they happened!

Guess the problem lies in being whisked away to the past, be it better or worse, rather than being engaged with reality, with what is, with the present!

You are talking about very powerful concepts again. Indeed, if we stop to ask about present/future/past, I can see how that beautifully and fairly easily tips us off that we are going "unconscious."

Whenever we go there, we are not only inviting depression but missing out on living the very currency of our lives...the moments of time as they unfold. If we are always trapped in the past or the future, do we get to the end of our time here having not really lived at all?