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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trying to Figure Out a Happy Future

Dear A. B.

I have a question about hope. I find that I frequently am trying to figure out how to live as a single person. I am trying to figure out a future alone. I guess I figure that if I can come up with a really
happy future as a single person and work towards that, then I won't be dependent on meeting someone for happiness. Anyway, this puts me into a total tailspin because I can't come up with an answer!

I talked to my sister about this last night and she says this is just depression talking and that I should ignore it. That it’s like a person with a treatable malignancy preparing for death or something...worst
case scenario. She says that I should never give up hope...but also don't look for love.

I guess I have been single for so long and am really working on building myself up as a person and when I meet someone and am disappointed...it just gets me upset and the cycle is hard. I really just want out. And really, what’s the point of hoping and being out there when there is so much disappointment? I think I am trying to escape the whole thing (even though I don't think I can...I think I will hope my whole life).

Do you have any thoughts about this?

Thank you,

Dear T,

In a way your sister is right that trying to organize a happy future for yourself alone is rather self-defeating in that you would like a partner. It's the figuring out a future alone, I think, that is the problem. For instance I would like a future as a successful author, and have my books sell better than they have been selling. But I don't spend any time thinking about the future. I just keep on writing, every day. I concentrate my figuring on how to fix a sentence, or plan the next scene. But I don't spend anytime figuring out how to have a happy future if my books don't sell any better.

If I desired a partner, and was alone, I think I would decide (not think about) that I would, from now on, every day, engage with the world at large to maximize my chances of meeting someone. Every new day is an opportunity for something new happening.

Remember that the brain works by learned association. Trying to figure out how to be happy in the future generally leads the brain to thoughts that the present is not so hot. Thinking about being alone, when you want to be with someone, can't be all that happy a thought. Unhappy thoughts are not productive and generally lead to depression

For you I would suggest figuring out what to do every day that is here, rather than thinking about what to do tomorrow, which never comes. How about deciding to look in the local newspaper, every day, for events at museums or clubs that might interest you and attend one of them.  There might not be something each time that interests you. But every day  brings a new opportunity. Tuesday's paper might be a bust, but Wednesday's paper might have something.  Concentrate on aspects of your regular life that are more interesting than others and pursue those aspects. Seeing an event you want to attend and marking the date on your calendar is the kind of figuring out your future that I would recommend. The other kind of figuring out a future that your sister refers to, I think, is simply subjective self-focusing and subjective self-focusing is always the pathway to depression. The opposite of subjective self-focusing like figuring out a future is focusing on objective activities like making the bed, reading the newspaper, deciding on which movie to see.

Subjective self-focusing  usually leads to passive thinking rather than on- purpose thinking. Passive thinking always leads to negative thinking because the mind is, essentially, a defense mechanism, always looking for problems that “might” occur.

Here’s a quote from my book Brainswitch out of Depression

This evolutionary, negative and paranoid bent of our mind is not all a bad thing. We need a strong psychological defense mechanism. A tough guardian is supposed to be paranoid. You don’t see the secret service men who guard the president of the United States all laid back, joyful, and positive. No. When they are working, they are in a constant state of uneasy vigilance. They are frowning, squinting their eyes looking for trouble, looking for problems, looking for that one-in-a-million something that might go wrong.
To our own mind we are the president that must be protected at all cost. To protect us, our mind is always looking for trouble, chasing down the negative, peering into every dusty, dark neuronal corner. That is its job. And it is always on duty, even when we are asleep, or not paying any attention to what we are thinking.
So what does this have to do with depression? When our mind gets too paranoid and anxious, there is a chemical reaction in the brain to this kind of thinking that can skew the chemical balance which is the precursor of depression.

A. B. Curtiss

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