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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My MRI is Scheduled for Tuesday

Hope to be better soon. Right now my face is swollen like a chipmonk because of steroid anti-inflammation pills and my mind is numbed with pain pills. A. B.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cold Showers are Probably Good for Depression

Dear Ms Curtiss

I noticed when I take a shower by laying down in a warm water increases depression. I think cold water is better because it keeps you active and not relaxed.

Regards, R.

Dear R,
I think you are right that cold water keeps you active and not relaxed to fall into self-focus. Nothing like a little physical effort or discomfort to get you outer-directed.  A. B.

Dear A. B.

I wish you all the best Ms Curtiss

I would love to give you a hug and let you feel better. Please let us know if you need any help. 


I appreciate all the comforting messages. Hope to have an MRI early in the week and find out what's wrong. A. B.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gratitude is Better than Self Esteem

Dear A. B.

Thank you for all your time and talent spent to help those who need re-direction -

I read both of your books (regarding Depression) and think of them often and keep up with your blog. Many times I have turned to them and found relief or answers or a new direction.

For some reason I remember you not being a fan of self-esteem. Can you give me your views because I'm thinking along with Directed Thinking, decreasing self-absorption and increasing physical exercises a plan for implementing self-esteem is extremely important. I keep thinking I can reduce the negative thinking if I increase the self-esteem. Does it work that way?


Dear L

I'll try and answer your letter. I'm on medication for pain caused by some sudden-onset spinal problem and waiting for an MRI to see what the trouble is-- so my thinking may be wobbly. Therefore I will try to make my comments brief so I don't confuse myself.

What works better to decrease our self-focus is not self-esteem but gratitude. Look for little things to be grateful for, to "love." We have the choice to source love or fear depending upon our choice of thought. Any small thought of gratitude is more powerful than any thought of depression because love is the greatest power. Fear (depression) covers  over love so we may not see it anymore, but  fear cannot destroy love.

As for being nervous in Toastmasters. It is a great meditation to be nervous and just allow yourself to be nervous in front of a kind-hearted audience. Nervousness accepted and loved is a whole different matter from nervousness despised and hated.

A. B. Curtiss

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Learning to Stop Depression When you are a Child

Dear Ms Curtiss

My understanding about depression that every person "human nature" is having a cyclical depression and have negative thinking for short time. 

People get out from this cyclical from what they taught from "parents" when they were kids by doing anything to break this cyclical and the habits became solid in the brain by the time. 

Is that right. 


Dear R
I think what you are saying is essentially correct. Depression is a state of alarm brought upon us by the triggering of the flight or flight response due to fearful thinking which does not use up stress chemical in any physical action.

f you can learn how to distract yourself from downer thinking as a child then you will not spend a long time in a distressed state and thus depression will not become "hard wired" in the brain due to long-term concentration upon depressive thinking.

If we don't learn how to distract ourselves from emotional despair and move into more rational, non-subjective thinking we can develop a habit pattern of "giving into" depression and remaining depressed for longer periods of time than those who can distract themselves and "get out of despair."

However, whatever methods to get out of downer thinking  you don't learn as a child you can learn as an adult and even though depression will hit you more often, you can always get out of it by using brainswitch exercises or physical exercise. As you have more practice in getting out of depression by doing simple brainswitching techniques, you will become better and better at getting rid of depression when it comes. To the point that much of the fear of depression will also be eliminated. A. B. Curtiss

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dependence and Independence

Dear A.B.,

This film may be of interest to you.  I haven't seen it, but came upon this website which includes the trailer for the film & some reviews and news about it .  Its message reminds me of points you made in your essay about filling your life up with you.  You spoke in terms of a larger cultural context in the essay, not just in terms of individual psychology.  I think I heard you suggesting that many facets of our society contribute to the development of the mindset that filling life up with one's self is the way to go.  The message of the film seems to encourage interconnectedness, and a holistic, more compassionate approach to sustaining life.



Dear Ginger,
Yes, as central governments around the world have been promising more and more "free stuff" and "basic rights such as healthcare and welfare and a guaranteed wage" to get people to support them, and these governments planned economies take in  more and more authority, the central governments get more powerful but the people and small localities controlled by the larger governments feel less and less powerful and become dependent and thus less creative. Controlled, dependent people are not happy. People are happy only when they are free to pursue their own unique ideas of how to take care of themselves; when they are free to prosper and free to fail on their own initiative.

Dear A. B.

What a wonderful, thought-provoking, pithy reply!  Thank you, I appreciate it. 

I am changing my views as I age.  I used to be very liberal & support all the social programs you list in your first sentence & more. How, I asked, could a compassionate person not want a "living wage" to be mandatory for all?

Now I see the economic, psychological and sociological harm that dependency on such programs create.  I still do wonder how to address the needs of people at the lower economic rung who have little hope of advancing say, beyond a job a McDonald's.  Not everyone has what it takes to move beyond such a position.

I am exploring new ways of tackling social and economic issues, and isn't it funny that there is a personal parallel in my own little, private world?  This whole issue of dependency as a way of being, as an answer, is one I've been challenging by learning to stand on my own feet emotionally.  Redefining my expectations of marriage so that I don't insist on getting sympathy, encouragement, validation, reassurance, etc., from someone else.  Funny that in my youth on both the macro and micro levels, I saw "being taken care of" as compassion in action.  I used to think something was seriously wrong if I was required to take care of myself emotionally, and I used to think something was seriously wrong if the government didn't take care of its people. 

For me, these are all exciting new ideas, and I am still very much exploring, I am embarrassed to admit, since I'm not exactly a teenager! 

If you have a chance, are there any book recommendations off the top of your head?



Dear Ginger,

The Mainspring of Human Progress
by Henry Grady Weaver

Or The Wealth of Nations
by Adam Smith

And remember that these basic questions, although they are based in the discipline of economics or political science as to how nations create resources and promote wellbeing for their citizens, they have much relevance to individual psychology-- how the individual is going to best be able to create unique resources for himself, and promote his own wellbeing.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fear of Depression Hitting Causes it to Hit

Dear Ms Curtiss

One time for two weeks I did not experience any depression because I spent all my time in physical and mental activities for all day. I felt much better before I was having depression.

This experience required me to pay attention all the time to what I am doing now and never think about depression. 

I think by this way I turned off most the neurons in the sub-cortex and make the cortex the only one to work.  

I remember that I did not give any chance for the brain to think with anything except the present reality. 

I think when depression hit that means we allow the negative thinking to start and that why we have this cyclical almost everyday. When we are busy with anything 

depression will disappear completely and no hits anymore.

I think fear from depression to hit is the reason to initiate this hit. I think we have to forget depression at all and be busy busy busy.


Dear R

What you are saying is true.  You can't experience emotion, depression and physical pain included, if you don't think about it. This is due to the process of pain perception, that signals from the subcortex that it is producing pain, depresssion and other emotions must go up the brain and be received in the neocortex, and must be acknowledged (be paid attention to) before they can be felt.

But beware if you think you are now immune from depression. It may be you are never again troubled in the same way. But depression has a way of tricking us temporarily into thinking it is not depression but that life, all of a sudden, is no good.

This is why it is good to realized that if you feel "down" you are being taken over by depression. You don't feel "down" because of present reality. You may experience the legitimate pain of mourning some loss but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about nothing whatsoever in your life changing and yet your mood changes from absolutely okay to sad and despairing. Absolutely okay is your reality which is covered over by depression.

This is why it is good to recognize depression as soon as possible so you can distract yourself from it by changing your thoughts. You can change your mood in a few minutes as long as you recognize it is a mood. When you don't recognize your "down" as a "mood," as depression that must be moved away from, but, instead, think that life itself is worthless, depression lasts much longer. A. B. Curtiss

Friday, January 7, 2011

Depression Pretends to be Reality.

One thing to guard against when you are depressed is that you must not forget that depression is a state of alarm. Nothing is really wrong with you. You are fine. Take a deep breath. Nothing has changed. One time you felt okay and the next moment you were in a horrible place. That's all depression is. It is a room in your brain that you have been rudely pushed into.

But the door is not locked. It can never be locked. In can't be locked because you have control of your own thoughts and thoughts are powerful enough to move you into another room in your brain. Pull yourself away from thinking about how you feel. Self focus keeps you from seeing that you can move away from your depression. Self-focus is what pushed you into that dark door.

Decide to move out of the doorway. Focus on anything else, the sky, the ceiling,. You may not feel any better. But you won't be so afraid either. You will have already weakened the pull of depression. Keep moving away from self focus anyway you can. Sing a song, laugh out loud, smile and "crack the great stone face." You may not be happy, but you will be courageous. Being courageous is better than being depressed. A. B. Curtiss

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How to Think Up When Your Feeling Down

First, it is sometimes difficult to acknowledge that we are depressed. We don't always immediately grasp that depression has taken over our thinking unless it is a major depressive attack which is extremely painful. For the less painful "blues" we usually don't immediately leap to our own aid.

I sometimes use the following device when I FINALLLY acknowledge that I'm not feeling all that great. I decide that every single time that I think a bad thought or notice I'm feeling bad I will immediately look at some small thing and be grateful for it. It's surprising that you can actually be grateful as a matter of will over any depressive feeling. You don't have to have any goal of how much gratitude or what kinds of things to be grateful for--a tree branch, a glass, a bit of sunlight coming through the window.This morning I even found the fringe of one of my rugs was sufficient for me to source a thought/feeling of gratitude. (Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a thought from a feeling--there is something truly wonderful and mysterious about the power of thought, the great gift for which we need to be reverentially responsible.) . There didn't seem to be any words about how great the fringe was or anything like that--just conjured up a grateful thought/feeling and directed it to the fringe. It's so interesting that this is possible to do.

After doing this for a while during the morning, my mood changed entirely. And heck, even if my mood didn't change, I would consider that sourcing and putting out into the world vague feelings of gratitude is a whole lot better than sourcing and putting out in the world vague feelings of sadness.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mind Exercises and Interacting with Others is the Key

Dear Ms Curtiss

I can beat depression when it hits. I hold my mouth with counting 1234 in a hard way to restore the chemistry balance. 

I do not know if I am doing the right way because I have to use power to restore it. 

Because I feel physically  the brain chemistry when depression hits. Something push hard and I have to resist it in order to weaken it.  In this case I try to use my strength in counting 
or using short sentences and repeating them really hard for half an hour or more. I do not know if that's the way I should do. 

I do not know if people who experience depression feel the physical changes of the brain.  R_________

Dear R_____

Depression is physically painful. What you are doing is succeeding in getting rid of your depression by using brainswitch exercises so that you can re-engage with your regular life. Good for you. Doing them HARD in the beginning is how I started too. Almost screaming them in my mind. Later, it didn’t take so much force, only dedicated concentration and sticking to it NO MATTER WHAT.

Dear Ms Curtiss 

My wife said she becomes worried and down in the evenings. IS there a way to stop depression before it initiates for the rest of the life.? Or there is no way to fade it and she must go through the exercises everyday like me? 

I think these are the symptom of the start of depression

Thanks, R___________

Dear R________ 

The exercises will help to weaken the habit of downer thinking and drifting into depression unaware. 

The exercises are just a device to get the neural activity started in the neocortex and to distract your attention from the pain being produced in the subcortex. What works in addition to exercises is to engage in conversation and involvement with members of your family and do small chores that need to be done, thinking objectively about what you are doing, humming some dumb tune, and engaging with children that need to be entertained. All these activities get you out of self-focus which is the big problem--thinking about yourself, filling your whole life up with YOU and what you are FEELING is the problem. Exercises help with this as well as any other distraction or interaction that can move you from self-focus to re-engagement with the objective world.

Sometimes, for me, having some small event to look forward to is a mood changer. Some movie on TV, going out for pizza, a scrabble game with my husband, a book that I like. On one side there is thinking about how you are feeling bad. On the other side is ALL OF LIFE. Turn from your feelings to things that represent life--loved ones, friends, movies, books, taking a walk, looking at the stars.

Anything that can fill in and take the place of self focus if only for a second. Just keep at it. Sometimes I sing a bit, work a bit, look around and find some small thing to appreciate, even just some interesting shadow, or how the floor shines. It all works.

A.B. Curtiss

Hey, R_______. It just occurred to me that I'm feeling down a little this morning myself. I think I'll just mentally send you a hug. WOW. Taking my own medicine here. Interaction works.  I feel better already. Really. The dark cloud in my heart suddenly turned into more of a sunrise. Kind of like love.  Sounds weird? Depression is the weirdest thing in the world. 
A. B.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More About You Can't Fill Up Your Life With You

A.B., would you please say more about number one? Can you give examples of what doing this and what not doing this looks like? It may seem like a no-brainer, but I think I & others could benefit from more details if possible.

Your question is  what does it look like if you try to fill up your life with YOU, or if you fill up your life with interconnectedness.

I don’t think this is a no-brainer. I think this is a very difficult thing to grasp because our world is so huge and impersonal now. We move from one city to another and aren’t always so successful in making friends. Our own families grow up and move away. We don’t live in small communities where we actually know the man on the street and can easily exchange daily greetings and acknowledge our connectedness and our common interest in the mundane and ordinary progress of life..

We can get very unconnected to others. We think the Internet is an intimate connection. We live in a world of mostly strangers. We need to acknowledge these strangers as important to us because we are also a stranger on the street.  It is not nourishing to the soul to live like a stranger in a world of strangers. You can't fill up your life with YOU. You can only fill up your life with your attempt (no matter how awkward) at a loving interaction with others.

People who try to fill their lives with themselves tend to be self-focused. They tend to discount, or have forgotten, or never realized the value and importance of an intimate day in and day out connection to others, to their fellow man. They concentrate on their own talents and craft in terms of “making  money,”  “proving themselves,” “being successful,” “becoming well-known,” improving themselves.” They pass by beggars as if they are of “lesser value” rather than sending them a small prayer of comfort.

People who try to fill themselves up with themselves value the content of their own lives rather than the process of their cosmic interconnectedness with those with whom they come in contact. They are overly concerned with what they have and what they can do to advance themselves. They might see their civic responsibility to “give back to the community,” but they don’t see the “man in the street,” fellow passengers on the airplane,  seat mates on the subways, people in the grocery aisle as gifts, as an opportunity to “love their fellow man.” It is in our love for others that we are fulfilled, rather than our love for ourselves alone.

People who know that they cannot fill up their lives with themselves value their everyday connection to other people. They make an effort to invest in a few friends. They spend some effort to interact with their community, personally, even if all they do is go out to a local diner and converse with the waiter.  They see others in terms of their own mirror image. Instead of seeing a fat man, or an ill-dressed woman, or a bum, they see a fellow traveler on the bumpy road of life and mentally wish them well. We can’t fill up our lives by caring about ourselves. We can only be fulfilled to the extent we can care about somebody else, anybody else. It is in our caring about the fellow travelers we meet on the road  that we can avoid the despair and alienation of self-focus.