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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Are What you Do. You are what you Think. Forget How you Feel

When you are depressed it is so easy to give in to it. Don't ever just give in and give up. Get up and get into something. Be nice to someone. Call a friend. Go to the library and get a biography and read about somebody. Smile anyway. Be cheerful anyway. You may not have immediate control over your feeling.  But you have complete power over what you physically do, and you can choose what you think, and you can  impose nonsense or neutral thinking on top of thinking about your despair. Keep at it and the thinking about your despair gets weaker as you keep bumping it aside and think something else instead of it.

It is easier to control your physical behavior than change your feelings out of horribleness. Physical behavior includes choosing what you think . Thinking "row, row, your boat" may not be great philosophy but it can momentarily stop you from thinking how bad you feel. Every small thing you do other than thinking about how bad you feel lessens how bad you feel. Little by little you can act and think yourself into a better place than despair. You can source this for yourself. Take a deep breath. You are not alone. Even looking out the window can broaden your outlook just a little.

I am doing some booksigning and as I see people walking by I am grateful for them being there. Imagine a world where there was nobody and we really were all alone. We should be grateful for the least of these we see on our path. They help us remember that we are never alone. Sometimes I see someone who could be described as homely, very heavy, or a huge nose, or badly dressed, or angry looking, and I imagine them sitting across from me in some quiet old-fashioned small cafe,  having a cup of tea, and they are telling me about the story of their life--their sufferings, their hopes, their small dreams. Somehow I am more interested in the "different" and "less attractive" people rather than the attractive, well-dressed "all put together" "successful looking" people.

These people have no idea they are at all important to me as they walk by but I often send out my love to them and hope their burdens seem less heavy because I, the stranger at the book table, care about them. In caring about them, I focus less on myself. Self focus is road to despair. I would rather focus on my fellow man and my gratitude that, because of him, I am not ever alone. 

When I'm home again I can be nice to my husband and pat my dog to acknowledge his wagging tail of greeting. It all helps to ground me to the world and take me out of myself. The smallest act of outer direction beats self-focus.  Refocus out there. Don't self-focus. A. B. Curtiss


Anonymous said...

this was amazing and insprational!!
''Take a deep breath. You are not alone''
i just did it , thank you..

Ginger said...

I love this essay and think it's really powerful and important. I especially connect with the "forget how you feel" message, and realize how easy & useless it can be to sink into the quagmire of feelings.

Recently though, I stumbled onto a realization. If I "name" my feelings, their power lessens.

For example, one day last week I was feeling extremely anxious and afraid. I thought to myself, "I am afraid. I am anxious." I then moved on...I did not linger on those feelings, analyze them, or try to explain or rid myself of them.

I actually felt my heart rate come down. I felt calmer & better able to function.

Could it be that the act of naming the feelings accessed the thinking part of my brain (neocortex?) allowing me to in a sense, pull away & get some distance from the feeling?

I've done this a few times now & it worked well each time. It's really fascinating to me.