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Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm Not Doing Well With Brainswitching

Dear AB,

It's been two months since I’ve returned to work full time, and to be honest my depression and anxieties are worsening.  My work performance is low as I have a hard time focusing and I’m starting to get in trouble at work.  Today is the second time I’m calling in sick (last week too).  I try all the brain switching or direct thinking exercises but I don't succeed.  I feel like I’m falling apart again. 
I've been pushing myself just by exercising my will every day at work but today, I just cannot face the day, or face life itself.  Today I feel like resigning to depression and staying in bed all day, which I know is not what I should be doing, but i just feel so broken.  

I know you‘ll say just don’t think those thoughts.   The depression is getting worse as I'm starting to have death ideation, not that I would take my own life but wishing for an acceptable exit like accidents. 

I almost know what you will reply, that they will be some straight forward strictness about discipline and self-responsibility, but I would be grateful to hear what you have to say.  I wonder why brain switch isn't working for me...

Thank you always, Y________

Dear Y_________

It seems as if you have had some success. In two months there have been only two days you have not been up to getting up and doing your job, not two months like before.You are not without some track record of proving yourself capable of discipline. What kind of trouble are you getting into at work?  What keeps you from concentrating on your job? You don't have to give up on yourself as if you can't do your life.

How does it serve you to give up on yourself?  I was thinking yesterday as I got up that there must be millions of downer thoughts in my brain and not any of them are worth thinking. And it is so easy to think them and so hard to think something else other than the downer thoughts.
But since I know this, I can think something else, anyway, and that will always save me. Even if I just think 1, 2, 3, 4 I can do that. I can even think goody, goody. I can think it anytime I want. I can insist, even if I don't fee like thinking goody, goody. And I can think of something, or someone else other than myself. It is always my choice.

I can also think the downer thoughts. That also is my choice. But I do not choose to think all those downer thoughts because there is no point to thinking them. And I can do any work I choose to do no matter how I feel. I am a human being. I can choose. I can go out and walk outside and hope that the world will have some solace for my loneliness, and some tree might comfort me or some small good might occur, and I can think about that. I have been born. I have a life. I should live it the best way I know how.

I may live a small life. But I will honor it. There are other people who are struggling. There are other people whose brains are full of noises, and anger and negative things. Some people are struggling and not doing well.

Perhaps in some way if I pull myself up, I can help others just by doing that.  We are all in this together somehow. I can always ask for help if I need it.

I am not alone. You are not alone.

Why don't you go and see your doctor and tell him about your death ideation. It might give you some sense of security to talk, face to face,  with another human being.

I don't know why it is harder to think something other than to think your depression. That is just the way our brains are made. But we can make new places in our brain wherein we can take some small refuge and momentary peace from our pain, and dammit, we can even dare to think goody, goody and goody for that. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A.B.,

Thank you for your reply and comments.  It's true I have used courage and discipline to go to work for the past two months so I should give myself credit - but it's more just the showing up part and rather pretending to do work.   There is so much detailed work, needing to pay attention to details that I have a difficulty doing. 

The minute I get to a task, it's panic because a) I either don't know how to do it in a productive way or b) it's so much work  --- I ask around but I can't understand what people are saying so need to ask for a lot of repetition.  I can really tell my brain function is lower than before.  I'm missing deadlines, my assistant complained that I’m disorganized in giving her work, my boss complained that my progress is too slow and affecting the whole team.  

All day at work for the past 2 months I've been fighting that feeling of wanting to run away and not face work-- but I've used will and tried to follow through with my commitments.

And of course I try the brainswitching and other exercises continuously all day.    Now I feel so cornered and consumed with work and life that I keep thinking about death, and how I can make it look like an accident. I even looked up websites so I know it's a warning sign.   I've spoken to my doctor but frankly he is useless -- he just says I should up my medication dosage which I don't want to.  I already rely on them too much to get through my day at work which is not good in the long run.    I’ve tried many Doctors here in Asia, but they are so behind in this field.
Objectively I can see how my thoughts are messed up -- but hopes of making progress going back to work seem not to be working, and I think that is what is making me discouraged about the future - that I'll never get better ( though I KNOW this is a thought I’m choosing, right? )

I wish I could be like you and honor the life I’ve been given and help people - it must be such a good feeling.  I don't know why all my efforts are paying off. 

Thank you again for listening. 

Kindest regards,

Dear Y______

Be careful that you don't try to escape the difficulty of your work by taking refuge in depression. This would be a natural thing to do and you want to guard against it. It is human nature for our mind, our natural defense mechanism, to think it is "saving" us by guarding us from risking ourselves in effort that might change our "status quo." The mind knows that so far we have been "safe" and survived in depression. The mind is naturally fearful of what would happen if we were to face our difficulties. Face the difficulty of work instead of sliding into depression so you don't have to face the difficulties which are always harder to to than depression. A. B.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I've Tried Your Brainswitching Technique, But

Hello Mr. Curtiss, 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article, it was very informative with obvious scientific backing. As a type of scientist (petroleum geology) I enjoy reading scientific papers. However, I have tried your brainswitching technique only to find that even if I "scream [the thought] in my mind," there is still the side of my medically diagnosed ADD that remembers, so as soon as I stop "screaming" in my head, I am still in the same position as when I started. The emotional thoughts still return and I find myself still depressed, despite the momentary reprieve I get from distracting myself with logic. I am not asking you to solve my problems, but was thinking how this type of situation fits into your hypothesis.

Any response will be greatly appreciated. J_________

Dear J__________

For one thing most people don't really know how their brain works. That it works by learned association. Most people don't know how they actually get from one thought to the other. What a thought is. What is the role of neurotransmitters. (This is the real problem with so-called medically diagnosed ADD--the brain works by learned association and if you don't direct your thinking, that is, if you don't do on-purpose thinking, you will do passive, re-active, accidental thinking that will follow hap-hazard connections of learned associations.) 

Usually there is no medical evidence of  ADD. And if you don't know how your brain works, you can't know when you are giving it instructions that have it go, neural activity-wise, into places you would rather not go, like into depression.

Most people don't know that depression is only produced in the subcortex that there is never any emotion of any kind in the neurocortex.

Most people don't know that the brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought. Depression is a dominant neural pattern. However, with effort, you can insist, first on distrating yourself from the acknowledgment in the neocortex that the pain of depression is being produced in the subcortex. Remember there is never any pain in the neocortex, so the longer you can hang out there, in the form of heightened neural activity, the better.

Then, second, you can insist on doing something, some work, some exercise in present reality (depression is not really present reality, it is the past projected as present) and think about what you are doing, thus making these new thoughts dominant by repetitively thinking about them. The chemistry will persist for a while as a cloud around you but as you insist on doing something, your doing will ultimately cause the brain to take a new direction away from its depressive learned associations to the more current pattern of associations.

Ultimately you can prevail because the brain will remake itself along the lines of new thinking and new behavior as it makes new neural circuits based on new thinking and new behavior. We make our brains day by day, neuron by neuron. The depressive neural pattern will always remain but you can make new strong neural patterns that you can insist on using instead of the old one. Hope this helps. At the risk of sounding crass, I could suggest that you read my book Brainswitch out of Depression for a crash course on how your brain works.  A. B. Curtiss

Dear J______

I read over this and decided I should apologize for my comments on ADD. They are my opinions but they seemed a little insulting under the circumstances. I’m Sorry. A. B.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Need to Hear That Brainswitching Does Get Easier

Dear A. B.
I need to hear that this does get easier. Do you know of other people who struggled like this in the beginning, but won anyway? Right now it seems as if I am just one endless stream of negative thoughts. I am wanting to grab for anything that will end them. I grab for a "green frog" and between each damn green frog there is a negative thought squeezing in! If I am not green frogging I am thinking about depression! I structure each day with one objective....In which setting will it be easiest for me to ignore my negative thinking. I still have a lot of fear. I am afraid of my weekends b/c they don't have much structure so how will I keep from thinking?
A major thought that comes back every time and all day long is that what I do each day really matters. "What will you do tonight my brain asks. Oh really? That's all? Hmm I wonder what other more worthy people will be doing? You should be doing that" Then I get all the fun, weird, paranoid thoughts like "You have conciousness, you can realize that you are sitting here and you can watch yourself" That really freaked me out last night. I can watch myself...and I seem to do it all the time. Ok, enough...I will re-commit the rest of the day to thinking neutral or positive. But I would love to hear if you have seen other people be discouraged and then come through anyway. R_________
Dear R________

Why is it that we all want to do extraordinary things instead of being satisfied with a simple, ordinary life where we accomplish small productive things every day. To make the day count, we just need to move ahead with our lives and connect in loving ways with those people we come in contact with.  Why do we think we need to accomplish some great deed? Maybe we're just supposed to accomplish little things. Why isn't that good enough? No doubt I will never be a celebrity, never be like the well-known authors appearing on Oprah. Does that mean I should stop pursuing my craft and doing the very best I can?

Of course people get discouraged and come through anyway. Even if that were not true look at your options. Keep changing your brain for the better. Or, give up and don't keep changing your brain for the better. For sure you are changing your brain whenever you have a new thought. That is just basic neuroscience. There is a change in your brain for every thought you think. And the thoughts you think more often are stronger and more imprinted in your memory banks.

You seem to be looking for some guarantee that doing better thinking will make you a better person. That should be obvious. Will you be rid of depression for ever? No. But it will start taking a back seat to the rest of your life and will cease to have importance in your life.

Nobody has a guarantee that their life will turn out well, or even that they get to live life another day. Life doesn't owe you anything. You have the gift of the present moment. For that gift it is your duty to make the best of it. That is what you owe to life. You need to call upon your courage more often and you will see that as you call upon your courage, it strengthens.

You are responsible for whatever thoughts you decide to think. Grabbing for "Green Frog" between negative thoughts is good. Follow that up with doing something productive and then thinking about what you are doing instead of thinking about what you are feeling. In this way you more easily ignore your negative thoughts and the brain will follow the direction of your most current dominant thought, what you are working on. A. B. Curtiss

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Feel the Brain Chemistry Move When I'm Exposed to Stress

Dear Curtiss 

I need your help. The job I found is meeting to proffitionel people for sales and customer service. I am having interview today for this and i am having bad mood for the moment.

will be difficult for me this job to do. 

I feel the brain chemistry moving when I am exposed to stress.  R___________

Dear R_______

You know a lot about how  your brain works, and how to access your rational faculties when your emotion is raging. You have had some success in exercising your courage despite your fear. Now you need simply to go forward, pray for courage, be yourself, and honestly show an interest in the job itself and what you can bring to it. It may be difficult but you will be immensely proud of yourself for carrying on despite your fear. There is always some fear in any new situation, you are not alone. There are probably 50,000 other people throughout the world, on that very day interviewing for a job and they are just as scared as you are. Say a prayer for them as well. You are not alone.
A. B.  Curtiss

Dear Curtiss

Thanks for the guidance and encouragement. 

I went to the hospital with my wife and the doctor said she has anxiety because she suddenly has fast heart beat and panic and cannot eat heavy food causes her distorting heart beat and sometimes feels she will die.   

The doctor said that because of genetics unbalanced seratonin causes her to have this. and this needs her to have drugs for at least 8 months and then the problem will be fixed.

Is anxiety different from depression and do you think drugs will help. I am trying to explain to my wife all my thoughts about anxiety because its similar to depression. Thanks, R_________

Dear R___________

Anxiety is better handled by learning how your brain works and how to handle panic attacks with belly breathing and anti-stress exercises. These exercises are in the book Brainswitch out of Depression, which I think you have.  A. B. Curtiss

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Kind of Information Should be Taught in Schools

Dear A. B. Curtiss

I truly stand behind each word you have written and thank you for all  the inspiring resources on your website. This kind of information should be taught in schools, along with yoga, meditation and information about nutrition and relationships...this is the kind of knowledge which would save people so many  wasted hours...hopefully, the next generations will be able to benefit ;  )

Thank you, C___________

Dear C_________
Thank you so much for your letter. If you ever have any questions about my work or your application of my ideas, I will be glad to answer them. A. B. Curtiss

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can my Negative Beliefs Prevent me from Being Successful with Brainswitching?

Dear A. B.

Thank you so much for your encouragement and common sense. My mind keeps demanding proof that this will work. It also keeps telling me that other people can do it because they don't have my exact issues and all this tangled mess of negativity, vanity, insecurity etc. I have so many negative assumptions and judgments that it seems odd that such a small change could really last.

I did well with it for a few days there and then I started not doing as well. I feel a bit like a rat on a wheel. Like, when do I get to quit running type of feeling. I think I tend to try to complicate things. It means so much to me that you are here and responsive to those of us that need the guidance. Yesterday I had the chance to spread the word about Brainswitch to someone else I know that struggles. He is looking forward to buying and reading it. 
peace to you, R__________

Dear R_________

Just remember that there is not a single one of us that can make it alone. A.B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.
And do you know people personally that have used this and no longer have the fear and depression?

Yes. One man in La Jolla was so grateful that he asked me out to tea. He said he has completely turned his life around. One of my good friends no longer is troubled by chronic depression since I told her about my brainswitch exercises more than 15 years ago. She's still good. Another of my friends handles depressive hits well but she still does not believe me about migraine headaches and so she still gets those every few months. 

I had lunch recently with a good friend who told me she keeps my book on the bookcase where she can see it when she wakes in the morning and that is all she needs to remember that she can get up, anyway, even if she doesn't feel like it, and get going. Those people I know, or have met in person. Many people that I don't know have written me that they are off medication and use brainswitching to get rid of any de pression that still comes. But it does sound like you are looking for excuses that this can't work. Can you see the futility of such a mindset? A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.
I can see the futility in it. I think I just have so much fear and such low confidence. I appreciate any success stories, they really help me believe. Thank you so much! R_________

Dear R________

It is a very scary thing when you finally realize that you and only you can save yourself, can make yourself happy. People can help with education and experience. But they can't absolve you from your own self-responsibility, or at least they should not try to absolve you from self-responsibility with excuses. In the end it is up to you to do the actual work of living every day, every hour, every minute to the best of your ability. Most people do not want the responsibility of saving themselves and taking over their lives. There are millions of people who simply give over to drugs, alcohol, and despair, none of which, in the end, change your brain for the better.  A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.
I just wonder if you can offer any words of encouragement. I am finding this to be so challenging. The thoughts in the negative vein are seemingly never-ending. I feel like as soon as I wake up I have to play "whack a mole" all day and I am tired. I also had a question  about beliefs. Do you think these sit there under it all and continue cause trouble? For example, let's say I hold the belief that I am generally messed up. Then I go about my day "fighting off" negative thoughts, but all the while the underlying idea lives in my consciousness that I am messed up. I don't exactly know what I am asking...but maybe yu do. In a certain sense I feel like I am pestering you, I hope that is not your perception.

I just wonder if it is "supposed" to be this difficult. I have made a commitment to myself to do this. I however continue to have the thought that "maybe some people aren't as good at redirecting, maybe I will need the medication after all". How long does a thought have to be there before the damage is done, because I also have the thought that once a thought gets in (and this gets back to the belief question) on a certain level I believe it. Even if it was only there for a second and I successfully redirect it. Am I that one step closer to taking medication again because that thought got in and formed a tiny underlying belief. Here's hoping this makes sense to you!

A soul who appreciates your guidance,  R____________

Dear R________

It doesn't matter what your brain believes or doesn't believe. You can rationally decide to override any negative belief with some more productive thought. You are used to be used by your brain. You are used to being reactive. You are used to reacting to thoughts that pop up.  You are just not used to being the user instead of the usee of your brain. You are still emotionally dependent in that you find it difficult to think rationally when you are emotionally upset.

You can learn to be emotionally independent. You can learn to use your brain instead of being used to it. You are not used to being proactive and creative in your thinking. You are not your brain. You are You and Your brain is your brain. You have a brain. Your brain no longer has a you when you decide to take charge of your thinking. Your brain cannot think any thought against your will. Yes, it can pop them up one after the other. But once you have more mileage with the more productive thoughts, then the unproductive ones will start to lose their power and not pop up as often. They can pop up now quite often, but they cannot think themselves because you can always refuse to think them and think some other thought instead.

You are in the process of re-making your brain with new neural circuits and trains of thought that are more productive. If it were easy then tens of millions of people would not be on anti-depressives. It is hard to grow up because, unfortunately, growth involves pain. That's always been true. That's why most people don't really grow up. It's too painful. That's why most people don't exercise. Too painful. Nothing really worthwhile is easy. That's the human experience. People are successful in direct relation to the amount of effort they are willing to put into improving themselves. You have made a commitment. That is what is necessary. And you have to keep re-committing yourself in the face of discouragement. Recommitting is very simple but it is very hard. You just have to keep chosing a better thought, or a thought that distracts you from the negative thought. But you have to move independently of your emotional upset and this is hard for you now. It won't always be so hard. Remember, even discouragement is nothing more than a negative thought which does not have to be thunk.  A.B. Curtiss

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some of My Early Experience With Mood Change

I'm editing my book Depression is a Choice to put it on Kindle. Yesterday, I ran across this paragraphs about my early experience with getting control over my mood change and thought it might be a helpful addition to the posts lately.
"When I was depressed I, too, heard people say that depression was caused by self-pity and it helped me “keep a lid on myself,” out of shame, in front of those people. (Sometimes it is a great source of strength that we do not dare to show weakness in front of our fellows) Later, as a therapist, I noticed that everyone who believed that depression was caused by self-pity didn’t suffer from depression. One of my first investigations was to find out if these people believed such a thing because they didn’t get depressed, and were simply ignorant of the pain the rest of us had to endure. Or was it the other way around? Was the reason they didn’t get depressed directly due to the fact that they had that belief?
I concluded that the reason some people don’t suffer from depression is because they believe it is caused by self-pity, and therefore they simply refuse to concentrate on how bad they feel and, as an act of will, turn their attention to something else the moment depression falls upon them. It was my first important clue. My second important clue was people who believed that they could be happy if they just “put their mind to it,” and acted “as if” they were happy, whether they “felt like it or not.”
At first I considered such people stupid, boring, phony, and shallow. Then, when I found I could replicate their experience, I learned from them that the painful strategies of the primal mind can be fooled into “standing down” if we act “as if” we’re happy, and before long we will actually feel happy. This is corroborated by other therapists’ work. In his book on depression, Terrence Real encourages his patients to do the behavior and let the feelings follow later–to fake it until you make it. Which is really just another way of saying we should choose to fund our behavior by the use of higher-mind principles no matter how we feel, and let the resulting rational and creative thinking effect a positive mood change in the primal mind, sooner or later, as a result.
To be honest, in the beginning my mood control was more clever than wise as I often slipped right over into mania, of which I was sublimely unaware. The important thing about these experiences was that they taught me to question the reality of things that I had always taken for granted. I began to question the reality of my depression. This was the paradigm shift in attitude necessary to develop the concept of Directed Thinking.
But please understand that I am not just talking about intellectual conjecture. I experimented with myself by initiating behavior different from the usual just to see what would happen. When I got depressed I did something other than just taking to my bed. Anything else. It is not possible to question the reality of depression without some actual experiences that cause one to question it.
Much later I found the neuroscientific explanation for the positive outcome of these experiences, such as the mood management by those inveterate “happiness thinkers.” The mood change comes about because their very specific choice of thoughts or action activates neural activity in the higher mind, thereby causing a lessening of neural activity in the primal mind, where depression is located."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sometimes I Forget the Most Important Thing

First I want to express my thanks for people who email me with supporting comments, and helpful ideas.  Someone wrote me that when they read in one of my first blogs that I beat depression, they understood where I was coming from, and they would go on to read the blog with a clearer understanding. Sometimes I forget that the most important thing about my work it that I beat my own manic depression (they call it bipolar now.).

I guess I do forget that sometimes, in the busyness of trying to answer someone's question. The most important thing about all my exercises and explanations is that these are the exact things that got me out of depression, and continue to get me out of depression whenever depression hits me. I spent so many decades a slave to depression whenever it called upon me to do its bidding, you'd think I wouldn't forget. But because I haven't "been depressed" for more than twenty years, I don't always remember that I need, more often, to make that connection for people.

There is no way to tell someone to read the first two blogs first. So I guess I will have to think about re-writing my intro that appears at the beginning of the most current daily post.

I will try to incorporate that most important fact in the most concise way, not leaving out all those things that add legitimate credibility to what I say.

In the meantime, let me state again. I beat depression with mind tricks, inspiration and intellectual understanding from ancient wisdom, and a system of brainswitching techniques I created by using the ideas and exercises on myself and my own depression. It is a system that never fails to work.  I can show it to anyone that wants to learn some cognitive behavioral techniques.

It doesn't matter if a person is on medication for depression. Learning how your brain works, and how you can manage a big depression hit can be useful if you are on or off depression medication. These techniques have no negative side effects. The only problem is that it is very difficult at first to direct your own thinking because your brain's entrenched thinking habits are hard to break. That's the bad news.

The good news is that it does get easier as you automatically start to build new neural connections to the new habits of thinking, but it always takes a great deal of effort and tenacity to turn away from depression when it hits.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'm Sorry to Tell You this but You are Wrong and Disrespectful

I had an anonymous  comment on my post We Have No Idea What Percent of our Thinking is On-going Negative..."October 18. 2010:

“I am sorry to tell you this but you are wrong. Studies show that football players who have a lot of concussions missing brain cells get depressed. Also the chemicals in your brain can be off or it can be genetic. Please try and be open minded because you cannot make up a disease that millions of people have. This is disrespectful.” Anonymous

I pass along this information, not because I am not respecting people who suffer from depression, but because I absolutely respect their ability to take advantage of ideas and processes which are not well known to the general public, outside of the field of neurobiology.

It is certainly true that there can be tissue damage to the brain due to physical trauma, and the capacity for self-management of thinking and mood will therefore be limited. But for a normal brain that hasn’t been damaged by physical trauma, and chronically goes in and out of depression, obvious there isn’t tissue damage involved.

By knowing our brains work, how we actually get from one thought to another, and the importance of neurotransmitters and neurobiological processes like the process of pain perception  to getting out of depression, we can learn how to manage it. Psychiatrists, instead, point to chemical imbalance as a “probable cause.”

However there is a chemical consequence in the brain for every thought we think. If we think the thought lemon, there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes the physical symptom of salivation. The chemical imbalance rights itself when you stop thinking the thought lemon and you stop salivating.

A depression pamphlet from Kaiser Permanente states right on the front page “nobody knows the real cause of depression.” Once you know how your brain works, and that depression is only located in the subcortex, never in the neocortex, it is only common sense that if we are depressed  we should think thoughts that stimulate neural activity in the neocortex, our thinking brain, instead of our subcortex, our emotional brain (where depression is raging) .

It can be shown by neuro-imaging that some thoughts stimulate neural activity in the neocortex and other thoughts stimulate neural activity in the subcortex. This is not a matter of disrespect, this is a matter of science and anyone can check it out by hooking themselves up to a neuro-imaging machine.

As far as a genetic connection with depression. There is no medical evidence that points to depression as being inherited rather than a family, group, or or cultural “contagion” of adoptive thinking habits and behavioral strategies. See the book Depression is Contagious by Dr. Michael Yapko. There is medical evidence that depression is contagious.

There is ample medical evidence that the brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought and you can make any thought dominant by thinking it repetitively. This is how you can effect a mood change if you wish to make the effort. Again you can check this out with a neuro-imaging machine.

I was in a science museum in Connecticut last month that had a neuro-imaging set-up where  even children can hook up to the machine, lower their brainwaves by thinking non-stressive  thoughts and watch their brain activity on a screen go from agitated to calm.

Knowing about these things, things  like the process of pain perception is so important. All depression is produced in the subcortex  and the signals must go up the brain and be, not only received, but acknowledged in the neocortex before you can be depressed. With the use of interstitial choice you can block the message in the neo cortex that depression is being produced  in the subcortex and the depression, without your concentration on and acknowledgment of it, will soon fade in intensity.

People, including doctors and psychiatrists, who don’t know much about neurobiology will be necessarily limited in their ability to handle their depression. Unfortunately most doctors today are rushed and too dependent on pharmaceutical salesmen who are marketing their latest drug. While the cover story this year in Newsweek magazine (Jan 29) tells us that new research shows antidepressants are no better in the treatment of depression than placebos

Some people, just because they hear it constantly in ads from pharmaceutical companies, or read research funded by pharmaceutical companies get boxed into thinking they are the helpless victims of depression.  This is a hard psychological position from which to manage their depression.

It is sad that my work as a cognitive behavioral therapist to offer exercises and information to people who want to become self-responsible and learn how to direct their thinking and moods  to get out of depression  would be thought to be disrespectful to depressed people.

You don’t have to believe in the exercises. Do them and try them out for yourself. There are no negative side effects to educating yourself as to how your own brain works, or doing mind exercises to improve your management over your own thinking and moods. A. B. Curtiss

Friday, October 22, 2010

You Never Finish Working on Your Life--Life is a Daily Chore

I noticed this morning that I woke up without the upbeat feelings I've had for the last couple of days. I wasn't "down" either. I was curious, what about the laundry room, I thought? How did I still feel about that? I thought about the laundry room and got no big high about that either.

Oh, well, I thought, I have put a lot of clutter away already and if I want to, and I guess I can always give myself another jolt of jolly good thoughts, and connect them back up to the laundry room. Our brains are such absolute slaves to learned association.

The learned associations have no choice but to connect with one another.  Just by that thought alone, "jolly good" already I felt a "shift." My next thought recalled the laughing out loud I did the other day walking down the stairs. The next thought was recalling the old first feelings of excitement about the laundry room.

And now, just in the act of writing this, all those connections are flashing back and forth at the speed of light in my brain, and I can't even help myself from a really good mood returning (not that I would want to prevent a good mood). My mood just changed from okay to really okay. After I finish this post I'm going to get up and go put something more away in the laundry room, goody goody.

Now, to be honest. I have spent a lot of effort to learn how to focus my thinking where I want to because I spent so many decades in the abject subjection to depression. I am very good at it directing my mind. I am as good at changing my mood as I used to be at staying depressed for weeks at a time.

I can turn away from a down thought as soon as I know I have it, and not return to it, or at least I can keep turning away and turning away, and in just a few minutes my brain is off that direction and in a new direction. But if I can do it so can anyone else. It is a human capacity to direct your own thinking, and control your own emotions, and ultimately, your own life. Human freedom of thought. It is our greatest gift.
A. B. Curtiss

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."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Quite Remarkable Mood Change Experience

The mood change I effected the other day is truly remarkable. Not only for it longevity--I'm still very up today without any further effort--buut for its intensity. I'm so joyful I'd  be manic if I didn't know better. But also it shows how simple it is to link almost anything, your mood, a project, a chore, with a bunch of positive emotional tags that already exist in your memory bank. I won't say it's easy because when you don't feel all that up you don't feel like doing anything about it either. It's always an effort to get out of a down mood.

The mood change the other day also shows how infantile the emotional subcortex really is. I still can't believe how excited my emotional subcortex now gets over that darn laundry room. I have cleaned a good part of it. And what continues to amaze me is how "fun" all of a sudden that dumb laundry room is. After being a drag on me for months. I look forward (my subcortex looks forward) to my next visit. I can hardly get by the room without "putting one more thing away." I didn't know I had a potential
Disney World housing my washer and dryer. That's what my subcortex thinks anyway.

This whole thing has been a much more powerful lesson than I realized when I first started out just to get out of a kind of nothing much going on neutral mood because I really like an upbeat, energetic one. A. B. Curtiss

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Effecting a Mood Change One Small Thought at a Time

Yesterday I determined to look for small things to think positively about, or even take a bit of joy in. I wasn’t overly  ambitious. I was just going to nudge my thinking off its negative course bit by bit .My mental barometer had slipped out of sunny mode into cloudy all day without my realizing it. But now I was realizing it.

I started looking for small things to think positively about, or even take a bit of joy in. I was just going to nudge my thinking off its negative course bit by bit. My mental barometer had slipped out of “sunny” mode into “cloudy all day” without my realizing it. But now I was realizing it.

I was determined to effect a course correction. While I was swimming I decided to think about the laps I had already done rather than the laps I hadn’t accomplished yet. I found I could do that with a little effort. I just kept  correcting myself. First I would think I had ten laps to go. Then I nudged that automatic thought aside with my chosen thought, “I’ve done ten laps already, good for me, think about that.”

Then I did the same thing with my yoga. I congratulated myself on the positions I had finished, instead of the ones yet to do. That too, I just had to keep correcting myself. Kind of like instructing a kid audience in a school play, “All right everybody, let’s have some applause for this  little lady, if you please.”

I next thought how I wasn’t real enthusiastic about editing my book because of the technical problems. So I decided not to think about that.  I kind of set that aside. It was planned work but it was “after breakfast.”I thought about getting breakfast instead.

Walking downstairs getting ready to make my smoothie for breakfast I decided to try a little laughing out loud since my husband wasn’t home. It didn’t bring any immediate change of mood. However, again I noticed to myself  that I had “at least done it, so take some credit for that.”

At the bottom of the stairs I decided that the laundry room was really a mess and I absolutely committed myself to put away at least one thing every day from now on until it was clean. I made a further decision to do that one thing right NOW. I did one thing and noticed that there were several items that were real easy to put in their proper place so I put away quite a few things. I spent maybe 5 minutes with this.

WOW. This time I noticed an immediate mood change. Not huge. Not that I was jumping for joy. But I was much more energized. I was thinking, “Hey this is really doable. I think I’ll have this spic and span in a week.“ This, after months of disarray and lint dusted floors. “I feel really good about the laundry room,” I told myself, as I continued on to the kitchen.

As I’m getting breakfast, I keep thinking about how great it was that I had put away so many things in the laundry room in such a short time. With not all that much effort. I kept thinking about it.  It wasn’t even so much I kept choosing, on-purpose, to think about it. I had started the brain in a new direction. The self talk just kept recreating itself in a more positive way. “Hey you really made a dent in it, didn’t you?” I think I may have even detected a childish “Goody,  goody for you” sneaking in.

After breakfast I got the idea of googling for help with my tech problem and what do you know? I found a company that for a nominal fee would take your book file and format it for Kindle. With that good news I was much more enthusiastic about getting down to finishing my part of the editing.

My mood now was totally different from what it had been for days. The grey cloud was all gone in about two hours.  I was energized to work on my book. I felt good about the things I had done, and was going to do for the day. And I thought about how it had come about. There were a couple of things that were obvious to me.

First,  I was glad I had taken my own advice that I hand out to other people and made an effort to redirect my thinking. Second, it was also obvious to me why these small changes, serially inconsequential as they were, turned the mood tide.

With every single  separate time I thought a small positive thought that nudged aside the small negative thought, I gave my brain another instruction to “connect with tasks accomplished,” “connect with things positive,” “connect with self-accomplishment,” connect with good thoughts about myself,” “connect with laughing,” “connect with clean laundry room,” connect with doing good,” connect with “goody goody,” connect with “fun things,”  

That’s the way the brain works, by learned association. Whatever thought you think, the brain takes as  instructions to get in touch with all other similar thoughts in your memory bank. And remember, the brain always follows the direction of your most current dominant thought. You  make a thought dominant by thinking it repetitively.

And when you are feeling good and energized, your mind is then ready for creativity, you get new ideas, like looking for help on the Internet for a technical problem. I had effected, on purpose, a complete mood change to sunny in the same way I had, accidently, effected a mood change to cloudy one small, inconsequential thought or action at a time.   

And that laundry room that had been a drag on my mind for months? It had turned into a “fun thing” by learned association in my brain to “fun things,”” accomplished things,” “good-for-you things,” instead of being connected to “things you haven’t done,” “things to feel bad about.” My feelings about the mess in the laundry  room, instead of bringing me down,  was actually turning  it into a fun thing, almost an adventure.

We should not forget that our emotional brain remains a child. Experts say it never matures like the neocortex. You see why you should never “believe” your emotional brain? It is so easily manipulated—on purpose or by accident. You are never gloomy, your emotional kid brain is gloomy.

So my emotional kid brain was now getting a "goody-goody" charge out of anticipating what things "we're going to put away next." The laundry room became  a source of “fun” and excitement for the emotional brain instead of drudgery. “Let’s do the laundry room again, Mommy? Nothing in my life had changed except my thinking. But I certainly felt my life had changed. My emotional barometer was now "sunny all day."

The brain is totally dependent upon us for its attitude about anything. Present reality for our brain is  how we connect it to our environment by the thoughts we think about our environment--by the new learned associations we forge in our brain, neuron by neuron. We make our brain and then our brain make life pleasant or unpleasant for us, depending on its mood. We have incredible power over our lives. We have as much power over our lives as we have over our laundry rooms. We should not forget to use it.
        A. B. Curtiss