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Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Took a Shower, It's a Start


My name is Kathy. After viewing your website I got out of bed and took a shower. Its a start, thank you, Kathy

Dear Kathy,

If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer them. A. B. Curtiss

My Cyclical Depression

Dear A. B. Curtiss

I have just today stumbled upon your website and intend to order your book today. I have suffered from depression continually for the last 10 years and my inability to find a cure has had a devastating impact on my professional career. I am a 47 year old male and have a set pattern to my depression. I will go for 6/8 weeks enjoying good moods, then I feel the depression coming on in the same way every time. I initially try to fight the first signs which last about 4/5 days then the major bad feelings take hold and this immediately renders me to bed for 4/5 days which have a major impact on me mentally and physically. Eventually I will surface and then take the next 6/8 weeks putting my life back together again and then the whole things starts over. My depressive periods never last very long but come about so frequently that I am getting nowhere with my life.

Any thoughts would be gratefully appreciated. R. D.

Dear R. D.

I understand, as I struggled with much the same thing for about 30 years. I am one of those people who went into the field to help myself. If I only knew then what I know now about how my brain works! I still get hit with depression often, but I am now out of it in five or ten minutes instead of 5 or 6 weeks or even 5 or 6 days. There's a lot of info on my website, www.depressionisachoice.com My first book, “Depression is a Choice” is the philosophy of depression, how to see depression as a psychological and even philosophical life style of the mind which can be changed. My second book, “Brainswitch out of Depression” gives more mind exercises and a more complete run-down and “how-to” of how your brain gets into depression and how you can get out of it the same way you went in. I'll be glad to answer any specific questions you might have as you get along with the new information. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

Thank you very much for your quick and helpful response. Since my first Email, I have ordered your book “Brainswitch out of Depression” and look forward to receiving it within the next few days. I have spent the last few hours on your website reading the various letters and responses and have read some things that seem to touch at the core of my depression experiences. I have been on various medications over the last 10 years, and often wandered if these medications were helping produce my cyclical depression but I now realize, after reading your articles and letters, my depression starts the same way as other peoples’ but it has been my reaction that allows it to take hold and go through an all too similar process.

I seem to be coping and returning to my normal jovial self when pow! the feeling changes and I panic, and then the journey begins. Because these feelings come over me on an all to frequent basis, the cycle never seems to stop and I have let this destroy almost every aspect of my life. I have the support of a wonderful courageous mother, who works hard to understand why her young son is living this never improving life, and I have the love of a wonderful girlfriend who only now and again sees the glimpses of the person I used to be. Each depressive episode I now realize is being fed by my all to familiar reactions to the first feelings of depression that’s why they start and finish the same way. Thank you for explaining why my depression is cyclical.

I now see that there is hope, where before stumbling upon your website, I had none. Today is Day 1 of my recovery from another episode, this is the hardest day because I had worked hard getting myself back after the last episode, and now I find myself back at the start again. Over the next few weeks the weather here in Scotland will change dramatically, and I intend to use these weeks to change my thinking dramatically as well. I have always understood, academically, the power of my thoughts and have read many books but somehow this has got lost in my experiences, and I have allowed the darkness to cloud my efforts at recovery. Thank you once again for your help and I look forward to this being the start of a new adventure. The warmest regards, R.D.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Your Book Pulled Me Out of a Depression

Dear A. B. Curtiss,

I recently found an interview with you online and loved the things you said with regard to depression. I know you suggest that the most effective way to heal the causes of depression are some types of regressive therapies. I live in Clearwater, FL and am ready to take the step to healing past mental traumas as I am a new mother and have a great desire to offer my 8 month old daughter information on how to best live with a human mind, if you will. Which types of therapies have you found to be the most effective for healing past traumas? Could you suggest a practitioner in or near Clearwater, FL?

I want to tell you that simply reading the interview with you online helped to pull me out of a depression. I was amazed that by redirecting my thoughts to "green frog" I could end the spiral. I purchased your book, DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE, and am reading it slowly but surely. Would you suggest I finish the book before proceeding into therapies? I am just so excited to get started!!

Thanks you for your work. You are brave and tenacious. If you would have just given into medication, you would never have found these truths!

With great admiration, K. M.

Dear K. M.

You can certainly do therapy before you finish the book if you like and also read my book BRAINSWITCH OUT OF DEPRESSION which synthesizes a lot of the information in DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE. The second book will teach you in more detail about how your brain works, how you get from one thought to another. The main way you heal from past traumas is to confront your repressed fear (see Chapter ten in DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE). Then, when you have established a practical ongoing way to deal with your fear, your past traumas will lessen in their emotional impact.

Because of the neuroplasticity of the brain, the ability of the brain to rewire itself according to new behavior and new thinking, old traumas fade in their importance to the brain as you make new patterns according to your new life experiences. The brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought, and although the old traumas will always remain in your memory banks, they will more and more take a back seat to your regular life , take on the role of simple historical facts which don't impact present emotional balance.

You don't really heal old traumas. What happens in that you come to have a different relation to them. They kind of turn into the personal mythological background from which you have sprung. Generally speaking, your present situation determines how you see your past traumas. If you are successful in your present life, your old background seems more okay since it is part of the person you have become and you are stronger and have more depth because of your past suffering. Most wise people agree that it is better to have suffered and survived than never to have suffered at all.

In a way, old traumas is like veterans suffering with post traumatic stress. Psychiatrists often help them by having veterans face the old scenes in the new framework of emotional support until the emotional impact lessens. It's like curing phobias. They also use biofeedback so people can see from their own brain scans how they can actually learn to alter their own brains with new thinking. The scientologists do this in their "clearing" process but it's really just biofeedback. Now the biofeedback includes new technology in neuroimagining of the brain so you can actually see how, by choosing your thoughts, you can power certain sections of your brain at will. My methods work without having to avail yourself of the machines to check your progess. I'll be glad to answer any questions you have.

A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

Thanks for your quick response!
This is the interview I read.


I am looking forward to learning about brainswitch and the other activities. Thanks for your willingness to help. I will definitely be in touch.

Best, K.M.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Crying and Screaming at my Husband

Hi A.B.

Had a horrible, rough night. Have been doing better for the last 2 weeks, then boom. Picked a huge fight with my husband last night, no one got any food or sleep. He had to go to work exhausted. I Feel so guilty.

I’m frustrated about not being able to get a job since the move. I can't even find a volunteer job! Is my whole life supposed to be about choosing paint colors, making my house look good? I have decorated myself dizzy & applied for about a job a week since last March. Haven't been called for a single interview. I want to make a contribution but can't find a way. I feel I'm trying so hard to make my life work. When my husband retires in 13 years, will I be able to contribute financially? Said all this to husband while screaming and crying, and he wasn't sympathetic. That just upset me more.

What can I say, do, when husband comes home tonight (assuming he does)? I feel I did damage to our relationship. He looked so depleted this morning. What would you do? G. O.

Dear G. O.

Men don't take well to your kind of angst where there is no real problem, just your inability to make your day work for you. They feel like you are blaming them, and thus cannot give you sympathy for they believe you are attacking them, accusing them of some kind of maltreatment, and they have to use all their emotional strength just to defend themselves against your onslaught. So they have no energy for seeing your side.

My suggestion is that you just simply go belly up and apologize profusely for your upset and then tell him all the things you appreciate about him.

How about Meals on Wheels for volunteering? Or check with your local hospital. It is hard to believe that you can't find some place that doesn't need a good pair of hands for volunteering. How about working for some airline on the ticket counter then you can get free travel. One of my friends worked on the counter for American Airlines even though she could have continued in psychiatric social work for which she had great credentials. When she retired she and her husband traveled all over the world free.

As far as your husband is concerned I would suggest that you try to make him happy instead of using him to try and make yourself happy. Happiness is quite over-rated. Caring for other people is what gets you what you really want. A. B.

Dear A. B.

Thanks! Fabulous feedback! Your insights as usual, are right on. Will follow through & keep these words of wisdom in mind. I really think that your next book should be about marriage! Like all your books, it would be oh so refreshing among the sea of psychobabble tomes.

Sincerely, G.O.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I've Been in a Dark Place for Months

Dear A.B.

Have been referring to "Brainswitch out of Depression" frequently lately as I have been in a very dark place for months. I must be a really tough case! On page 148-49 you write about seeking out the negative. Opt instead for positive thinking & behavior, you say. Also, we shouldn't pay attention to what our brain is telling us, we can think any thought we want, we are not our thoughts! I love that! I find solace in the idea, but find it so hard to implement!

For months, I've been on a thinking loop regarding the house we purchased almost 2 years ago. Worst mistake of my life! What was I thinking? This neighborhood isn't me. We paid way too much for this. Will we ever get our money back when we sell it? I miss my old house (which was old) surrounded by other old houses. I miss the community in the other state I was living in. Also, the people who bought our previous house are suing us. We go to arbitration in May. That takes me to a dark place, but I'm trying to use your ideas in "Brainswitch" and not go there. Trouble is, I feel like I'm being silly or childish, or not serious enough if I'm not worried all the time. But my brain NEEDS a break! I'm wearing myself out! I hurt physically so much last week I could hardly walk for a couple of days, but that fortunately has eased up this week.

"You can render any thought powerless by your refusal to think it," you write. That is comforting, but have you bumped into feelings of guilt or concern that you are being infantile & going into denial? People say all the time, "face the music, smell the coffee, don't put your head in the sand." Also, I guess my other hang-up that blocks me from positive thinking is fear of being disappointed. Could I handle the crash? Wouldn't it be better to keep expectations low & then disappointment & loss won't sting as much? That's a real fear & obstacle for me!

Thanks for the great new book & for listening! G.O.

Dear G. O.

Face the music? Well, you can see right away that you feel bad. Isn't that facing it? Okay you've faced it. That takes a few seconds. Now move on! Facing the music doesn't mean listening to it 24 hours a day. The thing about suffering and anxiety and guilt and all those things is that they don't profit you one bit. Since they don't do any good at all, they simply should not be an option. They are an alarm that gets us to look at our lives. So we can see the dangers and we know where to put our efforts and get to work. We are not supposed to stay in alarm mode and have our brain go clanging on like a fire alarm for days. Hey, the bell goes off, we look around, and do some positive thing.

When you talk about fearing to face disappointment this just means that you still have a lot of repressed fear you are dealing with. Read Chap 10 in Depression is a Choice. Nobody likes disappointment. But disappointment is just another one of those alarms. We face it, take what wisdom out of it we can for future use, and move on.

Instead of spending so much time missing your old house which gets you nowhere, spend some effort doing something that will improve the situation you are now in so you like it better. As for the suit. Do your best and let the rest fall away from you as you seek the next positive thing you can do.

Hope this helps. A.B.

Dear A. B.

Thank you A.B for the thoughtful response. Your comments about fear ring very true for me. I am aware of fears I have--fears of things going wrong, turning out badly, car accidents, things like that. My poor husband has to drive with the world's worst backseat driver when we go out. I'm really a scaredy cat in the car! My own driving "territory" is very limited. I am terrified of driving on the highway, I don't, especially where we live now--a densely populated area with crazy traffic. Accidents are reported on local news daily. I'm 45 & I see "old ladies" driving to places I wouldn't dare. I've been like this for many years.

In addition, I'm sure I have fears I'm not even aware of. In "Brainswitch of the Depression" you speak much about fear. I also revisited Chap 10 in "Depression is a Choice."

I may be so engulfed & entrenched in fear that I can't extricate myself from it. On pg. 227 in "Brainswitch" you give a laundry list of childhood terrors. I relate to most of them. Screaming alcoholic mother, no father (parents divorced when I was in the womb) bullied at school, lived in neighborhood without other kids-isolated. I don't dwell on my past. No one would ever guess I grew up this way. I know that I am poised, well-mannered, attractive and well-regarded in whatever setting I have found myself, yet, I see myself on pgs. 226-227 as you address the immaturity issue. Yes, the fear manifested in my driving limits has definitely held me back from opportunities.

I also wonder about "secondary gain." Do some of us cling to negativity, complain incessantly, etc. to play the "victim card?" A card that seems to carry a lot of currency in today's world? Honestly, I think I'd rather have someone feel sorry for me than think I'm so glorious that I should run for president! G.O.

Dear G. O.

It is great that you know you are afraid in traffic. You are not really afraid of traffic. This is old repressed fear being projected on traffic. So the way to get in touch with your repressed fear is when you are driving with your husband, don't backseat drive. Simply ride the fear and feel it. It will feel like you are dying. You are not dying. Your fear is dying. This is a wonderful opportunity for you. Recognize your fear of traffic, feel it, and refuse to do all the things you usually do to try and make yourself safe. Be unsafe, afraid, and let it pulse through you. This is how you finish repressed fear. It will be nice for your husband too. A. B.

Dear A. B.

Thank you, I'm going to try it! G. O.

Dear A. B.

Experimented with this over the weekend. Did pretty well! So the key is to let the fear in and just let it pass through you? I kept my mouth shut 99.9% of the time and just let him drive.

Regarding repressed fear- I have always heard that the 1st 4 years of life are the most important. Do the later childhood years still count? That's when I was bullied the most-elementary school yrs., had the worst times with my mother-ran away from home hitch hiking several hundred miles at 14. Also, do we repress fear from events during adulthood? When I worked in a hospital

4 years ago I witnessed much death, destruction & trauma. It was my job as an advocate to offer support to the suffering & their loved ones. I loved my work & was good at it, but could I have repressed fear from seeing the things I saw? Could that still be with me today? Does it matter, as I work to deal with repressed fear that I KNOW the source? Or, should I just accept that it's there & move on? The key seems to be to let myself feel it, don't mask it, yes? Thanks, G. O.

Dear G.O.

The fears from childhood are more traumatic because, as a child, you are more helpless to do anything about your fears by yourself. If you don’t have a wise parent figure to help you through your fears by anticipating them for you and suggesting coping mechanisms then you have to repress the fear—hide it from yourself so you don’t feel the pain of it. We have all gotten so good at repression that we forget that fear really hurts. But that’s also how we have gotten more angry at others as a way to repress our fear. Remember, blame is the way we avoid fear. You probably blame your husband for inconsiderate driving, right?

Sometimes you can find out about your child’s fears and, at the same time, see that they have already handled them by themselves. For instance my four-year old told me once that “there are lions hiding in the dark” when he walks down the hallway to his bedroom at night. I asked him if he was afraid of the lions, thinking to help him with his fear. But he had already handled his imaginary fear with an imaginary “fix”. He said he wasn’t afraid of the lions due to the fact that “bad lions never bite him because laughing lions like him.”

And yes, you keep repressing fear all your life, even as an adult, if you don’t handle it as it comes up. But it doesn’t matter when or where you repressed the fear, the way to release it is the same. Start noticing when you are afraid, and start feeling the fear. That’s it. Simple, but very hard to do because fear is, by its nature, frightening, and painful.

And facing fear is hard to do because, first, if you don’t know what fear feels like you will have trouble catching yourself being afraid. Second, you have been used to putting out your fear on others in the way of blame and it is very quick to switch from from fear to blame. Sometimes you can catch your own fear by checking out your own blaming and turning from the object or person you are blaming back to what you are feeling. Underneath any kind of blame you will detect your own fear.

A. B. Curtiss

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Need Help With Depression

Dear A. B. Curtiss

I purchased your book in the midst of a chronic depression which I am still experiencing and sent an e-mail about hypnotherapy which you kindly responded to. I am trying the brain switching exercises which I have not mastered yet. I try green frog, and row, row, row your boat, and yes, yes, yes the most frequently as I have difficulty recalling any others. I am in jeopardy of losing my job due to my depression and as a result it is deepening. What can I do at this point to move things along towards a better state of mind? It feels as though my mind is fighting hard to overcome the non-emotional thoughts that I am thinking.

Any more suggestions? Thank you, SM

Dear SM,

You have to give more energy to actual physical behavior and continuous objective thinking rather than constantly taking your emotional temperature. No matter how busy you get doing things like chores, work, going to the movies, if you are always checking into your fears, always saying to yourself, I'm still depressed, then, guess what? You will remain depressed. The reason for the dumb little exercises is to get you started learning how to ignore the thoughts and emotions that agonize you by thinking of something else besides them. You have made depression the most important thing in your life. Why did you do that?

For myself, I periodically wake up in a deep depression. But since it is no longer the most important thing in my life, I have learned how to ignore it. I do a few exercises to get me started and then I move ahead with my day as a sense of duty. My mind cannot control me because I can control my behavior and my own thinking. I would not dream of talking in a weak, sad, voice, of moving slowly and sighing a lot no matter how bad I felt. These are not options for me. I have done with them. I would not think of sinking into bad emotions or agonizing thoughts. I have done with them.

Yes, there might be an aura of despair around me for a while. I ignore it. I look forward to more productive things. One thing I have learned, you can't make your depression worse. Try it. Even the cognitive act of trying to make your depression worse puts you in charge of your depression. Your depression does not want you in charge of it. Your depression wants to be completely in charge of you--to beat you down and then step on you. Rise up to this relentless enemy. Laugh out loud. Dance around for ten minutes to some peppy music. You won't want to do it. But even more than you not wanting to do it, your depression will not want you to do it. Do what your depression doesn't want you to do.

Remember the poem INVICTUS?

I remember it from my elementary school days. I was reminded of it with the new movie with Morgan Freeman. Recently I decided to commit it to memory. Sometimes I used it for an exercise. Oh, how my depression hates this poem. To bad, Old Buddy, it’s my mind, not yours.


by William Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the Shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

I got this letter the other day. It might give you some hope. If you like I will send your email address to him (he's in Canada) to see if he would like to correspond about his methods to stay out of depression. We need company, we need like-minded company, no one can proceed with life alone. Sometimes, it is necessary to stand alone if the world is against us. But, sooner or later, we need to find a friend. But let's not sic our depression on our friends as if we don't have a choice. We can always choose a cheerful behavior and attitude no matter how bad we feel. We are in charge of our lives.

This is the letter

Dear A. B. Curtiss

Thank you for mailing the book, Depression is a Choice, so quickly (my mother ordered it for me) -I received it about ten days ago. Your book is life changing. I found it at our small local library six months into a horrible depression. Despite over twenty years of managing/fighting severe manic depression, I was in an especially dangerous low (financial and marriage pressure followed by a manic episode followed by my wife asking for a divorce). Despite all the different medications I've been on it has always been up to me to control myself, and it was always a question of pulling myself up by the bootstraps to emerge from my depressions. But this was my biggest "real life" loss -I love my wife and stepson and the house I built for us is on the market and that life I loved so much is gone. Enter your book. With it I was able to put aside the why, as in "why go on?" and just go on. You laid out all the tools for taking control of my thinking and behavior and did it in such an inspiring way. I've read your book three times and have taken lots of notes because I still slip back, or lose perspective,or forget the concepts, or just need to be inspired. I'm so glad to finally have my own copy. You have truly written an amazing book and I was so pleased that you autographed it for me. Yours Truly, M. H..

Dear A.B.

Yes, please send him my email address. SM

Dear A. B.

I am particularly interested in hypnotherapy since I learned that you practice it. I was wondering if you make tapes for purchase that I could listen to each day as a supplement to the excercises in the book. As I have the most difficult time with depression upon waking in the morning I thought if I could drift off to sleep with positive thoughts and direction it may help. Please let me know as I would be greatly interested in this.
Thank you for your time,

Dear S.M

It doesn't do a whole lot of good to go to sleep with positive ideas because they can engender their opposite due to the fact that the brain works by learned association (think "up" and the thought "down" pops up, think “salt” and the thought “pepper” pops up. Positive ideas might keep your mind positive or they could trigger just the opposite. You don't have a lot of control over the brain while you sleep. You just take control immediately upon arising. But almost any hypnotherapy tapes are very relaxing and might help getting to sleep. A. B.

My Husband is Verbally Abusive

Dear AB

My husband is verbally abusive & emotionally abusive. He has not spoken to me since last Friday night, when at dinner, I said I was very tired & I was not very conversant. That night he slept on a sofa downstairs & he has not returned or spoken to me since. This is on the heels of a big blow-up about a month ago over a conversation about a traffic light! After yelling at me for hours he did not speak to me for several days.

What should I do now, as he refuses to talk to me & the days pass by? I don't want to "chase" after him, that only makes things worse. I don't know how not to look needy & clingy & yet approach him. My husband has much disdain for neediness, clinginess & any signs of weakness or vulnerability. I want to look strong & nonchalant but also want to put this silence to rest. This is not a good way to live.

Thanks! G.O.

Dear G.O.

Try something different for a change. Find a good book to read, or movies to watch and wait him out. You didn't feel like talking for the evening. Maybe he doesn't feel like talking for a month. Wouldn't it be interesting to find out how long he'll go. Be pleasant. You can still talk to him whether or not he talks to you. So what if he doesn't answer?

He is trying to make you feel bad by not talking to you, an old bully trick, perhaps because, like you, he doesn’t know how else to handle this situation. This is the only game he knows. But the bully trick doesn't work if you simply don't feel bad. Here's his game: He's not talking to you and you feel bad. Here's your game: He's not talking to you and you feel just fine, and you are still pleasant and talk to him. A. B.

Dear A. B.

Thanks so much! I hear ya! G. O.

Is Shyness and Introversion also a Choice?

Dear A. B. Curtiss

My question to you is: Is shyness and introversion also a choice. What can I change and what should I learn to accept?

Thank you. L. N.

Dear L.N.

Shyness and introversion are habits that can be changed. Mainly the reason people are shy and introverted is because of a bunch of repressed fear (left over from childhood) that has never been faced and dealt with.

So the answer to shyness and introversion is two-fold. First you start getting in touch with your repressed fear (read Chapter Ten of my book DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE.)

Second, start risking yourself in social situations. This is the kind of thing that we usually are helped with in our younger years when we are afraid to go to a birthday party, and our parents urge us, tell us what to say, tell us it's all right to be nervous and make some dumb mistake going to our first party, etc. But if you didn't have that kind of support, you have to go all the way back to your young emotional self, and do the work you didn't do twenty or thirty years ago. It's a matter of practice and familiarity with learning how to mix with people. Some people have it naturally, the rest of us have to learn how to do it.

I usually suggest that shy, introverted people take a course in Toastmasters, Int'l and learn how to speak in public. Most social anxiety is helped by this. You not only get to see your own fear and face it, you get to see how afraid other people are also and you don't feel so alone. There is a chapter in every city and it is very inexpensive. A. B. Curtiss

I am Using your Depression Book in My Psych Course

Dear A. B. Curtiss,

I am once again using your book "Depression is a Choice" as a required reading for a psychology course I am teaching at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD.

Some years ago, when I was using your book, you agreed to respond to e-mails from students in my class. As it turned out, very few took advantage of this special opportunity. This time I have some very good and highly motivated students in my class (15 students in all). I am wondering if you would be willing to answer questions from those students in my class who would write to you?

Please let me know. We are now reading the book "Where the Roots Reach for Water: A Personal & Natural History of Melancholia" by Jeffrey Smith. We will be starting your book on February 26.

The course is PSYC 397 Topics: Depression, Unhappiness, Despair--Exuberance, Happiness, Gladness.
Thank you,
Michael Nedelsky
Associate Professor
Psychology Department
Augustana College

Could Your Techniques Help Me With the Pain of a Break-up?


my name is T___. I am going through a really hard break- up with someone that I truly love. Do you think that your techniques could help me with the pain? Yours, T.G

Dear T. G.

Yes, the techniques will help. There is a difference in mourning a loss, and the chemical process of depression that will take you over if you let yourself go too deeply into self-focus. Sadness is not depression. Depression is the inability to choose to function from the neocortex because of your preoccupation with the emotion raging in the subcortex. If you are not tough with yourself, you will become emotionally dependent. Being emotionally dependent means that you will not be able to choose to function from your thinking brain when your emotional brain has plunged you into despair. Pills is what most people grab onto. However, if you can grab onto some information about how your brain works you can manipulate your brain to do the thinking you want it to do instead of rote, habitual depressive thinking. My book “Brainswitch out of Depression” would be better I think for you at this time than the book “Depression is a Choice.” A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

THANK YOU. I hope sunshine is always with you. :) T. G.

Dear A. B.

The pain is like darkness at this moment. I am going to embrace it and let it do its work. It seems to ravage it's way through us destroying everything in its course. I guess we have to focus on and hope in what is left. It's almost like a sculpting. A chipping away at ourselves and our wants. Leaving us with what I have no idea. I do not believe I can mask it or push it away. It would be like trying to clinch the sea in my fist. I believe it is going to wash over me. I have been through so much pain in my life. So much pain. I guess we all have. Thank you so much and I will check out that book. T.G.

Dear T. G.

It helps to think of your pain as a specific neural pattern in your brain that you are presently concentrating on and, the truth is, you could choose some other thought pattern and insist on concentrating upon that--even something dumb like an old nursery rhyme, row row row your boat. For as long as you can concentrate on a thought that has no emotional connotation, you can be free from pain. You improve with practice. Do it. Think row. row. row your boat over and over. or some other nonsense thought or mantra of your own choice. Peace be with you, you are not alone. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B. Curtiss

Well I just finished your "Brainswitch" book, and I can honestly say it is the best self help book I've ever read. I would even consider your books and methodology to be among the greatest achievements in modern Psychology. No one else really seems to understand how the depressive mind behaves and reacts, thus no one else could understand a useful way to cope with it.

I've read a lot on the theory and treatment of depression and anxiety- from Freud to Beck and everyone in between. This should be the main textbook for every caring counselor and therapist.

As I've stated to you in a previous letter, I've suffered from depression and panic since I was 31. I'm now 42 and I've had some good years, but every now and then that feeling creeps back and takes over. Luckily, drugs worked pretty good for me. But the side effects really are a pain. When I go off of them, though, the feelings return.

Your techniques have helped so much. I could not even begin to tell you. My relapse is now gone, and I thank you. The really nice thing is that it works so fast--instead of waiting around for months for antidepressants to kick in.

Anyway, thank you for sharing the knowledge you have acquired and for spreading hope among the hopeless.

Thanks, TG

Dear TG

You are welcome. You’ll be happy to know that BRAINSWITCH OUT OF DEPRESSION has now been translated in 4 countries—Russia, Japan, Lithuania, and Estonia. I have had correspondence with doctors in China and India about translating there but so far no contracts have been signed. I've lost some of your earlier correspondence in a computer crash but if you have any more questions, I’ll be glad to answer them.
A. B. Curtiss

Monday, January 25, 2010

How can I get out of this depression?

Dear A. B. Curtiss

I have just reviewed your website for the first time. I see your information to be very discerning and not too generic, like a lot of information I find on depression, etc.

I have recycled into a depressive episode (first one I was aware of was 4 years ago) after really trying to improve my physical health. It was initially diagnosed as PTSD, but I think all of these problems have similar root causes. Unfortunately, I had a stress event (job loss) that came at the wrong time. I could feel the problem coming this time. It seems to be particularly insidious this time with the deep numbness of emotion, but I am more aware of what I am dealing with. Nevertheless it is very painful and hard to bear.

My question is why does your brain literally not want to move down a path toward finding joy when you are in this state? I find myself in emotional pain literally hating to try to think something pleasant. It's like my brain is compelled to be stuck in this pitiful state that can be debilitating (can't concentrate, can't feel, etc.). I've never understood that. You try to connections to good feelings/moods of the past and you can't do it. This stuff is so not me from most of my years. Thank you. GH

Dear GH

The answer is a bit complicated.

First of all, all the pain, trauma and upset is in the subcortex. There is never any emotional pain or upset in the neocortex. The subcortex is our original brain. The subcortex was all we had before we developed the neocortex (new brain) on top of it. Because the subcortex is our original primal defense mechanism, it takes precedence over the neocortex every time. The subcortex is a our basic instinct, our survival instinct, and we are programmed to pay attention to it first. This is why it is so easy to be depressed. We don't have to do anything. Our attention is immediately riveted to any emotional pain. Depression and fear and panic work automatically.

The neocortex, is a further development of our brain and is not necessarily self-triggering. It may be triggered through learned association (which is how the brain works—think of “salt” and the thought “pepper” pops up) In order to be sure the neocortex will function during stressful times we must "on purpose" call for it to work. We do this by giving it some task. (during a depressive episode we might say to our neocortex--okay what exercise should I do to get out of this pain. Then, if you have previously programmed a few possibilities of exercises into your memory banks, your neocortex will then get to work and come up with a possibility for you.

But getting the thinking brain to work as an act of will is much harder then having our emotional brain activate by itself . We have to tear ourselves away from our instinctual emotion in order to contact and activate our non-instinctual reasoning. As long as we understand this difficulty, we have a choice, we have a possibility of exerting ourselves to make the switch from emotion to reason. But if we don't really understand how our brain functions, we generally just wait for something better to occur to us than our pain. We wait to feel happy rather than immediately moving in a more positive direction which would ultimately lead to happiness. We don't take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and make happiness happen. We can make it happen. It is very doable. But it is always harder to function from reason than emotion. This is called freedom of the will--our choice to function from reason rather than be forced to function from instinct. Our subcortex happens on it own, which is why we are suddenly plunged into depression. We have to will our neocortex. Hope this helps. A.B. Curtiss

Dear AB

That was very helpful. Frankly I'm a little skeptical of CBT in general because I had visited a CBT psychologist when I slipped into my first depressive episode 6 years ago, and he wasn't very sympathetic. I couldn't even concentrate on my name at that time. Fortunately, although this time the pain is consistent and intense, it is not as overwhelming to my conscious thought.

A couple of other questions I thought of last night. What do you recommend to help sleep when you are in the trenches with this? I know sleep is real important and linked to the depression, but I did not want to not rely on prescription medications (because of side effects). I haven't found anything yet that has worked in the food store. Also, how long do you typically see it takes for someone in a moderate to severe state to break the cycle and begin having a lower level of drive, motivation and joy without depressive symptoms? Thank you. GH

Dear GH

I have some exercises in my book Brainswitch out of Depression for insomnia, and there are also some exercises on my website for insomnia if you don't want to get the book.. You basically use the same technique to get to sleep that you use to get out of depression, using exercises to switch from the subcortex to the neocortex. The main difference is that in getting to sleep you want to bore your neocortex with monotony, but to get out of depression you want the neocortex up and running with creativity and new stimulating ideas for more productive thinking.

I used to have depressions that lasted from two weeks to several months. Now that I use the brain-switching exercises I generally don't suffer depression for more than 20 minutes, sometimes only 5 minutes. It comes back all the time because when I am asleep I get into it, and two out of three mornings I wake up in deep depression. But using one or the other of my dumb little exercises, I am out of it in a few minutes so that depression no longer has much of an impact on my life. Depression is now more like having nightmares. They are gone as soon as I turn my attention away from them to something more productive. And in a few minutes after I direct my thinking elsewhere, the chemical imbalance (caused by anxious thinking triggering the fight or flight response and dumping the stress chemical in my brain) resolves itself and the pain is gone.

In a way you have to ask yourself the question, "Okay, what am I going to choose to do now instead of doing my depression." AB Curtiss

Dear AB

You've been great. With the literally thousands of $$$ I have spent on treatment over the last few years, I've never understood why I could not "move" my brain to more "normal" thinking rather than sit there in a semi-fog everyday, watching my children, etc. while I ruminate in anguish, irritability, heaviness, etc. If there is something in my past that is haunting me, God knows I've looked for it. If there is bitterness, God knows I want to release it. There just seems to be more to it that I don't know that I can control, and with God's help, I can find thought patterns that "entice" me and get me on the right track to normal thinking.

I assume you are referring to Depression is a Choice when you say "Brainswitch" book. I look forward to learning more about how to take a stand on this effectively. Thanks, again. GHHHH

Dear AB

Where is your therapy practice based? I'll get your book.

I feel like I'm doing a decent job managing the disorder this time, but ignoring it did not get it to completely remit last year. Maybe I was not proactive enough. I want to be proactive this time, without giving it more attention than it deserves. It did seem to overtake me last Fall with a renewed intensity, and I felt powerless to do anything about it. I'm just tired of the momentary desperation I get from day to day. Maybe you discuss the process and the cycle more in depth in your book.

Dear GH

You are not powerless over what your brain thinks. You can choose what it thinks. I am in San Diego however I do not take private patients anymore. I will answer anyone's email and I do not charge for this. I also suggest you get Deprssion is a Choice on amazon.com I think you can pick it up used for just a couple of dollars. AB

Dear AB

Thank you. I guess my last comment/question for now is your point about how quick the thoughts are that come in from the subcortex. For example I have been sitting here trying to work for most of the day. I can stay fairly on task, but I have rumination and desperation that "flairs" in my thinking without warning. I almost feel dizzy at times from what I suppose is the tension. When I speak to someone on the phone and try to interject some "passion and empathy" in to conversation that is painful. Thinking in the future is also difficult to imagine.

When you are at this level of the disorder, how are you able to keep yourself distracted enough to make it through large periods of time? Is distraction, then, how your brain can then readjust to normal life circumstances and move out of the "panic/desperation" mode? Hosea 4:6 says that God's people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. I'm trying to understand fully what we I am dealing with and be as proactive as I can. I've been exposed to so much information about depression relating to its root causes that I'm just confused, and I haven't been able to make a dent in fighting it. Should I just plan to have no emotion for several months, etc. and to be "on guard" at all times. It's hard not have a reprieve with some joy in it, yet I know this battle can be fought successfully.

Thanks for all the information. You, I'm sure, have been a help to a lot of people. Regards, GH

Dear GH

What will help you tremendously is to understand how your brain works--the Brainswitch book will educate you about that. Not knowing how your brain works, you are probably giving your brain wrong instructions. Once you know how it works, you can immediately notice if it has gone off course and you will know how to redirect it before anxiety becomes entrenched. When I think of all the years I let my own brain decide my life instead of using my brain to have the life I want. But it's never too late to be smart. AB

Dear GH

I have ordered both books, and will do. Are these techniques the only tools you used to definitely address your depressive symptoms over time? Thanks, GH

Dear GH

Trying to get your mind in order without knowing how your brain works is like trying to turn a screw in a hard piece of wood with your bare hands. You don't have the proper tools. Read Depression is a Choice for the philosophy of how you get out of Depression and read Brainswitch out of Depression for the neuroscience and techniques of how you get out of depression. I’ll be glad to answer any questions as you read. AB Curtiss

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Social Anxiety, Repressed Fear, Beating Depression

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Social Anxiety, Repressed Fear, Beating Depression

Social Anxiety, Repressed Fear, Bi-Polar, Depression

Very often I get a letter and answer it and afterward there may be a flurry of correspondence back and forth for a couple of weeks. Then, often, I may not hear from the same person for several months, or even several years until they have another question that they would like answered. Here is a flurry of such correspondence

Dear A. B. Curtiss

I have been on the same path as you, but alone, did not know there was anyone else out there!!! So reassuring, (and confirming) to read the info at your website.

Also, are you at able to do one or two phone sessions? (I read that you are not taking private patients anymore) Perhaps just the thought control will cure the panic (since when the depression goes away, so will the panic) but I would love to discuss this further with you. Thanks so much!! R.A.

Dear R. A.

I am glad to correspond with you via email and I will answer your questions within your letter so it is less confusing to me and I can remember where I am. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B. Curtiss

Thanks so much for getting back to me!

I have spent numerous hours at your website and have gotten so much out of it. Largely the info there is a confirmation that what I have been doing to help myself is indeed correct, that I am in fact on the right path. For this I am very grateful to you!

Still I do have a few questions:

YOUR QUESTION TO ME: You mention that you still struggle with depression. I believe that you mention hopeless, helpless thoughts almost every day when you wake up. Granted, you ARE able to switch out of it within a few minutes but I would have thought by now that those neural pathways would have been so modified that you would not have to do this daily work of brainswitching. I guess it also makes me a little hopeless: i.e. Well, if you still have those neural pathways operating-- after ALL the work you have done on yourself, -- how I
am I supposed to have success? (granted -- another negative thought that I need to switch from!)

MY ANSWER: Whatever you have thought at one time remains in your memory banks and can be triggered off by a sight, a sound, something in your dreams. I have very strong depressive neural patterns because I spent 30 years being depressed. So almost every day, when I wake in the morning, since I have no control over my thoughts when asleep, I have temporary depression. I say temporary because I also have strong neural patterns made in the last 20 years that trigger off whenever depression hits, and says “do an exercise.” There is also the thought triggered at the same time, through learned association, that says “remember this is not reality, this is just depression.” It still feels agonizingly bad but I go forward with my exercise, and morning chores, and I ignore the horrible feelings. If the depression is a bad one, I revert back and forth to some dumb exercise when it seems necessary to thoughtjam my feelings.

YOUR QUESTION TO ME: Is it possible to totally transform ourselves so that these old neural pathways are no longer? Or is that unrealistic?

MY ANSWER TO YOU: Again, whatever you have thought at one time remains in your memory banks and can be triggered off by a sight, a sound, something in your dreams. But, also, no matter what neural patterns are in your brain, you don’t have to think them if they happen to pop up. You can just refuse to think them. You can always choose to think another pattern, or do an exercise. Those neural patterns that are used less tend to take a back seat to neural patterns that are used more often. For me, my exercise patterns can immediately be made more dominant than my depressive patterns.

YOUR QUESTION TO ME: I am convinced that your approach for me is the best approach and yet I cannot help but think that for some it is important to explore what the depression means. I am thinking of someone like my brother. He is not at all self-analytical and so is a stranger to himself. He has no idea what makes him tick and no understanding of how the dysfunctional home in which we grew up is inextricably related to the anger and poor self image that he experiences today. Instead his wife has discouraged any form of self-inquiry and told him "don't think about it", "just do it," "stay active." As a result this poor man is essentially a hollow person, a time-bomb, a person who would fall apart if she ever left him or died. For him, I think self-focus is necessary and that all he is doing is repressing his hurt, anger etc from his past. I don't think brainswitching – which he is doing already-- is the answer.

However for someone like myself who HAS been very introspective and self-focused, it is critical to shift out of feelings. After years of therapy, my feelings have no more to tell me and if I stay with them I am just wallowing. But my brother has never explored feelings and I think that he is doing a tremendous disservice to himself. The issue is probably not black or white and I would really appreciate your comments and clarification.

MY ANSWER TO YOU: I would have to hear from your brother to comment on his situation. For people who are self-focused, as you say you are, it is better to start re-connecting with present reality by being outwardly, objectively focused on someone, or something else rather than inwardly and subjectively focused on yourself and your own feelings

YOUR QUESTION TO ME: Finally re: the intense social anxiety with panic and hyperventilation: I have made great strides in overcoming this condition (logically I am 100% aware that no one is judging me, and yet in my gut is it as if they are -- I"feel" like they have me under a microscope, will criticize, reject, yada, yada, yada). My body tenses, my breathing is significantly altered. I tried some breathing programs unsuccessfully and of late I have decided to just alter my thinking -- since from doing this I HAVE witnessed a few glimmers of improved breathing. Given the panic, I have major difficulty holding a job, dating, etc. The difficulties then lead to discouraging thoughts -- which then sets me up for more panic... a vicious cycle.

I know the answer is CONSTANT ATTENTION to what thoughts I am choosing to think and yet my level of disability is severe, and it is so very difficult to stay positive in the wake of such paralysis (which of course still doesn't mean that I cannot!)


Yes, self focus is a bad habit. Even if you start out feeling good, you soon get into self-judging and withdraw from others. When you are sufficiently withdrawn, then you blame others for being cold and judgmental when it is you, yourself, that has withdrawn. The answer is to re-connect in some small way. If you are afraid to talk to a guest, talk to a waiter or maid. Anything to get out of your own (cold and uncomfortable)dark fantasy world into present reality, where most people are kind and forthcoming. If you hit a dud who has their own problems, go on to someone else. Pet the dog if you run out of options. Or look around you and focus on the furniture or architecture until you are in present reality and out of your head.

YOUR QUESTION TO ME: Also, I would be curious to hear what your experience has been with directed thinking and anxiety disorders, or better yet social anxiety. Do you think the tools you suggest are just as effective with panic as they are with depression? (Perhaps you address this in your new latest book.)

MY ANSWER TO YOU: I do address this more fully in my BRAINSWITCH OUT OF DEPRESSION book. Anxiety and panic attacks are better treated with deep breathing exercises than brainswitching exercises. I call it “Belly Breathing.” Put your hand on your belly and make sure your hand goes up when you breathe in and comes down when you breathe out. Focus on your breathing for about 20 minutes.

Social anxiety is a matter of habitual self-focus, repressed fear, and lack of practice in risking yourself in social situations. In your DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE book, Chapter 10, I discuss getting in touch with repressed fear. I always recommend taking a course in Toastmasters, Int’l, to do some public speaking. This often puts people in touch with their repressed fear so they really know what fear feels like, allows them to risk themselves in a social situation, and lets them see that others are also afraid to get up and risk themselves socially by speaking in public. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

I am trying to avoid antidepressants -- largely because I think they are unsafe, AND for me I need to know that I -- the powerful one -- am doing it and not a pill . (Because I give my power away when I need, in fact, to become aware of how powerful I am!) But my question. I find that I have to thoughtjam CONSTANTLY. No sooner do I do it for a few minutes, I am back to square one. It just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier and I get so discouraged. Of course, there are real things that bother me -- loneliness, fatigue, etc -- but these are facts of life at times and should not cause overwhelming depression.

But in me they do cause overwhelming depression....I have always been fragile, my heart on my sleeve, and my parents (gone now) were chronically suicidal and used me to rescue them! Their view of life was extremely BLEAK and I have had to try and get a new value system...not easy. At this point I literally have to thought jam all day long. There is nothing easy about it. Does thoughtjamming get easier? Am I doing something wrong? I do think about suicide a lot though have no immediate plans at all -- just something that is there as an option if life becomes at some point too unbearable due to health issues, poverty, etc.

Dear R. A.

If you do feel suicidal, call 911 or the suicide hotlines. A good thing to write these numbers down when you’re not suicidal, so you have them it if you need them. Here's some numbers to use in case you feel you can't go on.

1-800-SUICIDE/1-800-784-2433; 1-800-273-TALK / 1-800-273-8255

Thoughts are powerful because they have an immediate effect on brain chemistry. However they are not, in themselves sentient, or even accurate. Whatever you have thought before leaves its physical record in the memory system of your brain and provides a history and framework for the continuity of thinking you need to do to make your way in the world.

But you can decide at any time to provide new thoughts for those memory banks. As you use a thought over and over it becomes more prominent in the memory banks, which is why we use of positive affirmation. But positive affirmation will not erase negative thoughts that are already in your memory bank. The thing is you don't have to use the negative thoughts and can turn away from them when they happen to pop up through learned association (which is how the brain works and how you get from one thought to another). The brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought. Thinking a thought repetitively makes it dominant.

However, it is not enough to get rid of depressive thinking in order to have a successful, healthy life. Strategies for thoughtjamming incessent downer thinking is great. Knowing how to get out of that painful despair is great. But this is just getting to neutral. One is not yet really in gear. It is necessary to develop other work, craft, activities, relationships, hobbies that will engage your interest, and therefore your thinking, so that your thinking patterns about new interests and new work of hand will soon become more dominant than your depressive, empty thinking.

It is not enough to say you have no interests. You must find interests by trying things out. Some will fall away and others will take root in your heart. This is the way we learn to love other things and other people. By simply concentrating on them and making an investment in them. Where there is empty spaces in your life, depression will fill in. You have to fill up those spaces with new creativity so that depression and intense, neurotic self-criticism has no home. Hope this helps. A. B.

Dear A. B.

Thanks so much ...a very interesting answer. So we should regard our brains almost like machines...and that most thoughts (at least the negative ones) are completely meaningless? And so do you mean that there is no validity to the concept of self worth? That when a person thinks of themselves as worthless it's all just meaningless thoughts?

When we change the thought, or do an activity, will that overtime change the neural pathway -- or will this constant thought changing be required for decades more? The reason I ask is that you, who have worked on yourself for many years, still apparently still has to struggle to change thoughts. It sounds like it doesn’t really get any easier??? Perhaps unrealistically I am striving for a day when these toxic thoughts won’t be there, when I will feel normal, self-confident. There is this deep-seated sense of shame that is always present. I feel defective, damaged, even though rationally I know we are all born into this world perfect. And endless discussion in therapy re: one's worth just seems to compound the problem. I am grateful for your answers . R. A.

Dear R. A.

Yes, the neural pathways change over time and it does get easier. But it's like life. You never know when life is going to get tough. But fear not, when things get difficult, you re-commit to doing the "next task." The thought that there is always "the next task" is one of the most important principles in my life.

As for self-confidence. Personally I don't think it is necessary to have a feeling of self worth in order to make something positive out of your day. Simply move forward, do not allow yourself the option of negative thinking of any kind and look for the next task. There is no way to heal ourselves from any wrong thinking, including the fact that we are worthless, which most therapy tries vainly and I think wrongly to accomplish. We just need to not think those unhelpful thoughts when they pop up.

Maybe a feeling of unworthiness is our core belief (I think it is mine). When I get that overwhelming feeling of unworthiness I remember that, for some reason, perhaps formed as a child, it is just my core belief. However, that doesn't mean it is true, and I don't have to act upon such a negative principle. I then turn to different, more profitable thinking. If I allow myself, I can always spiral down to the fact that I'm not good enough. But instead, I think, okay, so I'm not good enough. That's okay. I'm not good enough. Then I simply look for the next thing to do.

Who knows, maybe a deep-seated feeling that I'm not good enough has been the impetus that has propelled me all my life to achieve things, be a risk-taker and try to improve myself.

Practically speaking, what difference does it make, anyway, that I'm not good enough? Or that I'm worthless? It is a non-productive thought that just shouldn't be an option to entertain whenever it pops up.

As far as feelings of worthlessness caused by thoughts in your memory banks, these can simply be noticed and transcended by becoming more interested in what you can do with your day rather than interesting yourself so much in what dark fears you are feeling at the moment.

People used to rely on principles such as bravery, kindness (to yourself and others) helping others, which today are out of style. People want to be happy today, they no longer wish to be noble. But it is nobility of spirit that brings one true connection with the cosmos. People used to pursue nobility by turning in the direction of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

I'm afraid that what people seek in wanting self-worth is only the permission of others that they are really okay. You can give yourself permission that you are really okay. As for feeling normal, each person is unique and we feel a communion with others only when we can be kind to ourselves and one another. Trying to obtain self-worth is only trying to be better than one another.

All social and performance anxiety is caused by self-focus. You just need to recognize that you are self-focused then start to focus more on objective reality. Okay, what specific thing ought I to do next? If you are afraid to talk to someone, recognize your fear, and talk to them anyway. Who cares if you shake, at first. You need the practice. Really, it's okay if you're not okay. It's okay with me that I'm not okay. And sometimes I even feel okay. That's okay too. And it's okay if I lose that okay feeling. The best thing for social anxiety is to take a Toastmasters' International course which most cities offer at a very low cost. A. B.

Dear A. B.

I am having the challenge of my life. Have had to drop out of my MSW program because of social and performance anxiety, a problem I have had lifelong owing to the a lot of distorted family of origin notions re: status/achievement/ recognition, and that without these one has no worth. I am having many suicidal thoughts

(don’t worry, no plan). But also, working with a therapist about this may FINALLY be my opportunity to find peace and a sense of worth independent of one's credentials. It is so hard to stay hopeful when the same patterns are at work as when I was 16!! (in spite of lots of therapy).

So now my big challenge is to find peace and healing --difficult to do when one does not believe in a supreme being -- if I have any religion at all it is that of a unitarian/humanist. I know mechanically I must change every thought and/or sing, but finding the will is the problem.

You say "simply move forward". Do you think it is that simple? It requires so much will and determination to REPEATEDLY change thought after thought after thought after thought, yada, yada. Where does that one get that will when one feels so defeated and depressed? Perhaps you would just say -- do it anyway and life will start to shift? Thanks. R. A.

Dear R. A.

Do it anyway and life will start to shift is not easy. It is very simple and also very hard. If it were easy we would not have untold millions of otherwise okay Americans taking drugs every day, and running around to psychiatrists to get them to tell them they are okay or to give them the magic word that will make everything all right. It will not every happen that absolutely everything is all right, all the time. Life is just pockets of okayness sandwiched between pockets of pain, and we make our way though the maze trying to be kind to others and to ourselves. It is always hard to get out of self-focus and that never changes. But you do get stronger and more able to do it because you build a neural thought pattern that says "hey, you're self-focused, get busy and focus on somebody else (if you are in a social situation) or get busy on some chore or think or do something positive RIGHT NOW.

A great exercise when you are in despair is to say over and over to yourself: "Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with yourself."

You always have the will to do a difficult thing, it is just motivation that you lack. So your earnest intention to be a better person can provide the motivation. A. B.

Dear A. B.

I am profoundly grateful for your responses. They have helped already! Rumination is a killer and and your approach, along with some other things I have learned, helps a lot. I still have a few more questions and if my emails get to be a burden, please let me know. It's just that I am so hungry for answers, having suffered for decades in spite of supposedly good therapy.

As I mentioned I have given up the MSW program and am going to give myself permission for the first time in my life to not work (except for 8-10 hrs a week when I take a couple of retarded adults for outings -- $10/hr!), or go to school. I cannot afford to let my health suffer. Money will be extremely tight but I should get an inheritance relatively soon which will insure some degree of financial stability-- right now I have none, having lost all jobs due to anxiety.....I will use your approach along with some others (including Toastmasters!) to deal with this perfection/social anxiety. I have made the startling discovery late in life that if I alleviate the depression, I do a lot to reduce anxiety symptoms.

Last, I am fortunate to have the counseling support of a pastoral counselor/retired minister who has helped me more than all the therapists combined. His approach is similar to yours and yet I foolishly dismissed it because he didn't have the credentials and the pedigrees. Anyway, thanks again for your kindness. You are indeed a maverick in the field and I think that possibly I can turn things around. R.A.

Dear R. A.

Truth is truth. It needs no credentials.

What some psychiatrists are missing, I'm afraid, is that depression is a chemical reaction in the brain that is extremely painful but it can be immediately alleviated by manipulating the thinking process that caused it. They are trying to put two separate boxes (normal sadness and depressive disorder) into a single disease syndrome. What they need to do is realize that normal sadness can get out of hand, trigger the fight or flight response and end up in what they call depressive disorder. But for either depressive disorder or normal sadness, the cure is the same. Brainswitch from the subcortex, where all the pain is, to the neocortex where there is never any pain. This is possible to do because of the process of pain perception, which most psychiatrists have never heard of.

Dear A. B.

Question: Do you believe that brainswitching is key to also recovering from anxiety disorders? I carry such shame inside of me (yes, I do try to brainswitch out of it, and yes, I rationally know I deserve to feel ok about myself). But when I meet others, I feel very insecure and then this leads to panic. If I brainswitch continually (along with toastmasters and other social interacting) do you really think that at 62 I can change life-long patterns (neural pathways) of depressive, suicidal, and feelings of inferiority?

I realize there are no guarantees but based on your understanding of the brain, what do you think? I need hope.. I have been brainswitching continually lately but very little changes...I end up back in the the pits. And I truly don’t know how to find this new value system that tells me I am all right when I have failed at all jobs due to social/perfection anxiety. I have gone through most of my money, am living on 22K a year --hoping that there will be an inheritance there when my Mom goes.

Everyone in my immediate and extended familiies are PHDs, MDs, lawyers, and then there is me. I am working so hard to divorce my self from the family values that says you are only all right IF you achieve and have a high status position -- but the conditioning goes so deep...so hard to feel ok. Look forward to getting your comments.

Thank you, R. A.

Dear R.A.,

Of course you can change. You are always your own idea of yourself. All the pain comes from self-focus. The main thing is you will never feel at home until you find some craft or some work of hand that you can take an interest in--oil painting, writing, volunteering, yoga. You need also to find some companionship in friends with whom you can interact in some ways--you can do this with local book clubs (all the Barnes and Nobles and libraries have them) and groups like Toastmasters--also take yoga or some kind of classes at the local gym or adult education group. There may be theosophical groups nearby which you might find interesting. You could even become a massage therapist for this hands-on work would connect you with humanity in a good way.

It isn’t that you would want to do these because you need to build up credentials for yourself or otherwise you will be worthless. You do these things because what else are you going to do with your day? This all takes effort but you have plenty of time because you can use the time you used to spend in agony, depression and panic. You will always feel some jealousy for those who have more, especially your family, it is human nature. But those jealousies can be immediately recognized as human nature, and they can be accepted and let go instead of beating yourself up that you shouldn't feel that way.

I didn't go to graduate school until I was 48 I became a therapist after the age of 50. I still feel that old agony in the mornings but as soon as I get up and get about my day, it simply fades away--it's just chemistry after all, and I can always use the little dumb exercises, too, for the little while it takes to get out of it. You are the only one who can make a life for yourself. You don't need to wait until somebody fixes you. Accept that you are broken and move forward the best you can. Call yourself a beginner and begin. When you become afraid, call upon your courage and move forward. Your courage may be weak now but it will grow as you exercise it. Things can change. Fear is an alarm that is supposed to move us to action. Right now you stop with the fear and allow the painful clanging of the alarm to paralyze you. You are not really paralyzed. Just afraid to go forward. You can go forward. A. B.

Dear A. B.

I guess I am also wondering about whether one should attempt to always brainswitch even when going through the normal grieving process. As human beings, don't we need to feel loss and mourn? Is brainwitching a good idea for all negative emotions? For example, I am grieving the loss of giving up the MSW program. Isnt some pain and mourning appropriate, or would you recommend brainswitching? It gets confusing for me. Of course, if I stay with the feelings of loss/mourning, I cycle down into a severe "poor me"/depression so maybe given that I can't have the luxury of a normal grieving process? I would be very grateful if you can clarify. Thanks again.R.A

Dear R. A.

Personally I don't like to suffer so I brainswitch all the time. I honor my losses with some sadness and mourning but, since I know these feelings can easily and quickly get corrupted into mere chemistry if I let them go on too long, I feel this way about negative thinking. It should never be an option. Mourning, yes. But mourning is not a lengthy activity. It is a recognition and sacred ceremony of immediate acceptance, not a hopeless wallowing in pain. What good does a negative thought do anybody? So why allow it?

Just remember than an idle mind is the devil's workshop as the old saying goes. If you are not engaged productively in some reasonable entertainment, or chore, or daily activity, and just wander around aimlessly or vegetate, then your mind will look for trouble in its old memory banks because this is the mind's job: looking for trouble. A. B.