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Monday, December 22, 2014

We Thus lose the Possibilities of What Might be at Hand

Anonymous left this comment on the post "My husband is being mean to me again."

Men seem to act like children and it seems we have to treat them like a child when they throw temper tantrums. No wonder Women are more dominantly the smarter sex. We do not act immature and childish and pitch fits when we don't get our way. I am getting so sick of my husband's negativity and put downs and being rude and demeaning. It creates such contempt that is hard for me to push aside. My husband needs mental help and counseling but of course he does not think so... He was raised by a very abusive mother who was also drug addicted and very verbally abusive as well. His father had mental issues too. Jeez, anyone raised in that type of environment would need counseling.

A. B. Curtiss response:

Men who have traumatic childhoods are dealing with a great deal of repressed fear. But they don't know they are afraid, they think the other person is wrong, or an asshole or stupid. This is the way they protect themselves in ambiguous, or uncomfortable situations. They are trying to control the other person so that they don't get blindsided again. Fear is very painful to feel and unless you make a conscious effort to get in touch with your repressed fear you project it onto others in the form of your criticism of them.

These men don't trust that they are really and truly loved. It makes a guy kind of mean at times. A person who feels truly loved and cherished is comfortable with things as they come up, even uncomfortable things because they have this solid base of feeling they are worthy.

So what can you do. You can love them anyway and learn how to protect yourself when the rampages start. If you can keep from getting angry at them for their fear, you may even be able to help them a little. I have been married to one of these men for more than 60 years. I dearly love my husband, although there were many years when I couldn't get past all this and was not so loving in my general attitude toward him. I have tried to encourage his good traits and since I am no longer afraid of his rampages, he has softened a great deal. It is a vicious cycle. As he softens, I am more loving and as I can be more loving, he softens more.

The big problem is getting rid of preconceived notions of how things "should be" and being able to be comfortable with the unexpected.When we spend so much effort wanting "something else" that we can fail to appreciate what might be at hand. If we are both stubborn we end up playing the loser's game of "you be reasonable first." We can always decide to be reasonable. There is just no downside to being reasonable first.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Depression is not real life--get back into real life

Dear A. B. Curtiss

I once contacted you and you kindly responded to my email inquiry. (I don’t remember how long ago.) But, since that time I have been off of all antidepressant/antianxiety drugs for a couple of years.  During this past year my mom was in and out of the hospital for a month at a time and my dad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  I took care of my mom 24/7 for a couple of months until we were able to find a place that was able to provide for her needs.

During this stressful time I felt slightly manic but managed to keep myself “together.”  Then during Daylight  Savings time and the start of winter I “crashed”…since then I have been using Light Therapy, vitamin D3 and rereading your book, Brainswitch.  I have several questions.

1) My mom is unable to leave the assisted living facility due to her the nature of her physical disabilities.  She is quite depressed.  I find that I feel anxious/depressed as soon as I enter the facility.  So I am struggling with using brainswitching techniques while talking/spending time with mom. (she has always had a negative outlook on life’s events—but more so now) I have tried to talk to her about training the brain—she just isn’t open to the ideas.  In the meantime I find that I am affected by her mood.  How does one carry on a conversation with a depressed/anxious loved one and keep from triggering those pesky neuronal associations?  Do I simply practice the techniques before and after visits?

2) Same question re: news.  I avoid watching/listening to most news for the same reason.  I have, however, read about environmental issues for over 30 years.  I keep up with these issues online too—to give support to environmental movements and sign the petitions. But, I have to admit that even from a neocortex point of view the news is not encouraging for the fate of life on our planet.  So is my only choice to ignore all news?  Obviously there are a lot of neuronal associations with the destruction of life forms on our planet.  It seems like it should be possible to be informed without panic attacks but not so sure anymore.

3) I am not religious—and so I don’t have the comfort of believing in an afterlife.  The more losses I have experienced in life the more I find that it’s harder to distract myself from fear of loss/dying.  

I think what I am trying to figure out is how to balance my thinking more—I find it almost impossible not to ponder the big picture but I also don’t want to feel crippled from anxiety/depression—and the pathways in my brain.

Hope this made sense!


Dear S,

Perhaps what might work for you with your mom is to reframe in your own mind what she is really trying to communicate instead of getting sucked into her negativity. People who are depressed all the time are very self-focused. They have positioned themselves in such a way that they deal with the world only through their struggle with depression and, more than that, they force everybody around them to deal with them only through their struggle with depression. It is a very safe cocoon where the depressed person never really experiences the reality of the world or the reality of the people around them. It makes for limited relationships with both.

But, no matter, the depressed person still wants what we all want. We all want to feel loved and respected and made to feel that we matter, that we are special to somebody, that we are a worthwhile person. In a way, deep down we all want the impossible—to be loved unconditionally. And of course, that’s never going to happen. So all of us are forever slightly disappointed with life.

The best possibility for you is to accept your mom in her cocoon without getting drawn into her cocoon. With love. Concentrate on what small ways you can show love for her without expecting any overt positive feedback for your efforts. Remember that if you require someone to have a particular response to your loving outreach to them, then the outreach is not a pure gift without strings. The string is that you require something in particular back from them for your outreach.

I am an author and do booksignings frequently. I offer people bookmarks as they walk by my table. “Would you like a bookmark?” If I feel offended that they turn away and don’t take my offered book mark or don’t even bother to say “no thanks” and just walk away then my offering them a bookmark is not a pure offer. It comes with strings.

So concentrate on the love you are generating for your mom rather than knocking on her closed and locked door and expecting her to open it. Your relationship is, of course, limited. I had a very limited relationship with my mom and I finally just kept her company by being a kind handmaiden to her, finding small ways to make her comfortable, reminding her of something she had accomplished over the years, or some kind thing I remembered that she did for me when I was young and how much I appreciated it.

After all, I was a helpless baby and little girl and I wouldn’t have survived without my mother. And my mom did not have the benefit of my education (she never even finished high school). She was very bitter towards my father and always felt like a victim in some way. I finally got her to write her autobiography and got her to admit that it was much more interesting because my father had done so many stupid things that she could now write about. I published her book for her on iUniverse. It’s called “The Early Days” by Bert Beman. She was so proud of that book. My mom was very beautiful as a young woman and I kept reminding her of that.

It’s hard to be a human being. How do you get out of your own depression? You have to keep reminding yourself that depression is not real life and you have to leave that room whenever you realize you have wandered into it, determinedly close the door and get outside your depression to real life by re-engaging with real life. Do some chores. Reach out to some friend. If you don’t have a good friend, or any friends then go out in the world and start to look for one. Join some book club (most libraries and small town Barnes and Nobel’s have them), some charity, some class, any kind of local activity. Read Dale Carnegies’ How to Win Friends and Influence People for some ideas of how to make a good impression on people. It really does help.

Stop yourself when you get into downer thinking about anything. The economy, the environment, the street protesters, the fate of planet Earth. The problem with downer thinking is that nothing good comes from a negative thought. So a negative thought should never be an option. Be brave. Be a noble person. Tell yourself that some good might come of the day ahead. Could happen. There are millions of people dumping their depressed thoughts into the world. Don’t be one of them. Maybe your positive thought might even help the world somehow. Could happen. You can’t solve the problems of the world all you can do is some small positive thing in your own sphere of influence. When you get bogged down by thoughts about the destruction of the planet or the futility of life or fears of your own mortality, read the “Desideratea.” I find it comforting and have committed it to memory Get a biography of somebody like Mark Twain or Benjamin Franklin and read it. All human just like you and me. You reached out by writing to me. I feel good being able to answer you. Win—win. You are never really alone and alienated. We’re all in this together, hooked together by own humanity.   A. B. Curtiss

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Help, I'm Sliding into Depression Again

Hi, A.B.

I hope you don't mind but I wanted to reach out to you for a little help again.  I was feeling so great and confident about using the BrainSwitching techniques and as I told you in a previous e-mail, I was starting to wean off my anti-depressants (regarding which you cautioned me about weaning problems).  I took it slow and was very careful but just recently realized that depression was popping back up.  I tried to use the book techniques and they may be keeping me from slipping lower than I could be at, but I do feel somewhat disillusioned because I thought I could work with my mind without the drugs and yet, can't seem to. 

Any thoughts or advice?

Right now, I'm bumping the anti-depressant dosage up again because I just want to feel better and despite my efforts can't bump myself out of this "on my own".

I have been listening to hypnosis CDs for Anxiety and am about to do a hypnosis for depression, but feel that I keep trying and trying and getting so discouraged with life.

Thanks for listening.

Dear M,

Sometimes I slip into that old habit again myself. I have found that the techniques always work. However they will not make me happy. The techniques keep me from succumbing to depression.  They are used as a stop-gap, a kind of brake on where I go in that direction. I acknowledge that the old stuff has been somehow triggered. However, once I put the techniques into action, and stop the slide, then I turn myself immediately to some task or project and carry the heaviness along with me, accepted and basically ignored, into that opposite direction. Into the direction of new and more productive action.

Remember, the brain ALWAYS follows the direction of its most current dominant thought. You have to keep rethinking and concentrating on what you are doing, turning away from the darker reflections and getting fully immersed into some more positive action thus making those thoughts dominant over the anxious thought. If you give too much credence to some negative feelings like "Oh, no, here I go again, I can't bear it..." the brain takes it more seriously.

No, you must accept the darker feelings   (Oh, yes, I remember this crap and it always goes away when I get busy and concentrate on other things..." ).  I felt a little dark this morning. I've had a stomach flu and haven't been able to do much. But here comes your question and I feel well enough to reach out to you. And in that reaching out to you, I am already out of my own murkish world and heading back into the land of the living and okayness. I will invite you to go along with me this morning. Find something worthwhile to do, no matter how humble.

You could look up the Desiderata on my depression website and commit it to memory. I did that a while ago. It dawned on me then what it meant by "go placidly amid the noise and haste." Sometimes it's basically the noise and haste of our own upsetness and moving in the wrong direction. We can always turn around.

Hypnosis is good as well. Get Emil Coue's book. And remember that depression is a kind of self-hypnisis as well, although accidental. We can always trade accidental, passive thinking for on-purpose, directed thinking.  If you haven’t had a check-up with a homeopathic practitioner or nutritionist, that might be a good idea. When the cells get what they need, we feel good. A. B. Curtiss

Thursday, March 6, 2014

 A.B. Curtiss writes for EZArticles. Her latest article: "How Nobody's Park Became Mine" is now online.

How Nobody's Park Became Mine
By A.B. Curtiss
There is a little tri-corner piece of property, probably less than a quarter acre, nestled among my house and three others. I walk by it every morning and watch it fill up with weeds. The owner hasn't lived in his house for maybe 15 years. Once or twice a year he sends a yard man to clean up the little park. But the weed cycle soon takes over again.
Click Continue to read the full article.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why Your Psychotherapy May not be Working

        There is a huge unrecognized problem with psychotherapy today. Neither the therapist nor the patient grasp the fact that most of what occurs during their sessions is that the patient is trying to go back and "fix" their history or at least be paid for it.
        The patient is still angry and hurt about being shortchanged by earlier abandonment or abuse, and they want to be reimbursed. Wants justice. Wants recognition for the pain. Wants the therapist to blame the abuser, or the terrible circumstances of the past, and take any blame away from the patient for failing in their own present life.
        Why does this happen? We all avoid dealing with our own repressed fear and pain, which is extremely painful by blaming. Which is why therapy takes so many years.
        The patient is still using the process of blame to avoid seeing their fear, and being able to address their fear, so they can make more positive behavior choices. So the "other causes" and "life history" start to seem more important and powerful than "the patient" and his effort at making something out of his regular day. When the past becomes more important than the present, you can't live in the NOW.
        In most psychotherapy, therapist and the patient both believe the patient is trying to fix her daily life. But if that were true, they would not need to go over and over and over the patient's past background. Child abuse or bullying of any kind has nothing to do with adult choices except that it is easier to fall into habitual use of old negative habit patterns than to form new positive patterns of behavior.
        One of the worst things for a therapist to do is have their patient constantly "pillow-bashing" their former abuser. In order words, having the patient express their anger in acting out in symbolic aggression against the abuser. This is a waste of time. This old fear and anger (fear focused outside oneself) should be brought up, fully acknowledged and accepted rather than bypassed by acting it out. By acceptance, I mean allowed to finish by being recognized and felt deeply by the patient.
        The scientific fact is that old poor behavior patterns have no power to limit one's use of good behavior patterns. This includes former crazy behavior as well, which is not often thought of as a choice. Once we realize this fact, then we can simply put all our energy into practicing new thinking and behavior patterns, until the new patterns become dominant over the old poor thinking and behavior patterns.
        The old thinking and behavior patterns will still exist in the memory banks but as new ones take precedence, the old ones cease to be used as often. This is due to the brain's plasticity. The brain creates new neural patterns as a result of new behavior and new thinking. These new neural patterns can be used instead of the old ones. It is the patient's choice which patterns to use.
        But this seems too simple. Most people prefer the "therapy" for fixing their life to be complicated so that there is more excuse for lack of success. Why would we want lack of success? It is human nature to settle for the old ways, the known, even if it's miserable, than to risk the new. As the old phrase goes "better the Devil we know than the Devil we don't know."
        The new positive behavior choices generally involve dealing with your fear. Repressed fears are extremely painful. The more you are willing to risk addressing your fear, the less need you have for excuses, and the more you will use your energy to take the simple road of applying new and better behavior and thinking patterns, and therefore making yourself a better brain to insure yourself a better life.
        The funny thing is that you could write yourself any kind of life-story history, and substitute it for your real background, and take it to a therapist, and the change would have no effect on your therapy. The only difference is that your real history EXPLAINS your fear. But you don't need your fear explained. You just need to address your fear so that it can finish, and you can move on to make something of your day.


A. B. Curtiss is a board-certified cognitive behavioral therapist, diplomat of the board--psychology, certified hypnotist, author of 12 books, and the creator of brainswitching, a system of mind exercises to get out of depression. Her books have been translated in 5 languages including Japanese and Russian.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Are you Suffering from Depression or PTSD--You Need to Know the Difference

Dear Mrs. Curtiss,  

 I read your book "Depression is a Choice" about 10 years ago because I was concerned about my son. Since being  in his 30's, he has been through pills,  combinations of pills,  and also ECT. The best thing about ECT is that he had to go off all meds. Well I knew, and he knew, after 12 ECT treatments that was also was not working. He never went back on meds,  and just rode through the depressions, waiting for relief and normalcy.

My son is now in his late 40s, owns his own company and works every day.  There are many days he cannot concentrate and feels hopeless but he has employees and he can, as he explains to us, hang at his desk looking busy.  I have read so often that depressed people end up not working.  He is a good athlete, plays racquet ball, golfs all summer. He knows he feels better with exercise so he makes himself go,  this is good.  But when the depression hits like a thief in the night and roams around for weeks...  you know the rest.

Well, the depression has been markedly worse and seemingly more frequent for the last 2 years.   I have just finished reading your book "Brain Switch".  Your explanation of the human brain in layman words as it pertains to depression is wonderful and I am so very grateful. The reason I am writing to you is I think my son would do well with a counselor for accountability and encouragement from some one WHO HAS BEEN THERE. 

In the past psychiatrists have been a great disappointment, so he is weary and leery of that approach.  I have not found a counselor WHO IS ON YOUR PAGE.   I trust with confidence someone who has been there, fought the battle, understands the pain and miracles of miracles through trial, studying the brain, etc.and writes a book to give others the hope and chance to live a normal life. 

My question, if Patrick came to California for an interview, would you consider counseling over the phone for a period of time?  Or can you recommend someone in my area who believes and follows your approach of direct thing  to treating  depression.  Thank you for your work.

Most sincerely, M

Dear M,

You said you read both books. How about your son? Has he read them?

I find that people who go to psychiatrists, in general, are unwittingly taught to take a dependent position as it concerns the state of their own psychological health. Even if someone is very independent in the social or business world, they may be taking a back seat to the workings of their own mind, almost as if it's none of their business and it is, instead, the business of the doctor to study and fix it. 

Most depressed people believe that their depression is being visited upon them through no fault of their own and therefore they believe there is nothing they can do, themselves, to alleviate the situation. What both of my books do for this situation is to give people some ideas, exercises and new ways of thinking which, if followed, can rid them of the learned and habitual behaviors which lead to and prolong depression. Strengthened by this knowledge and intimate personal study of their own behavior,  people have a wider, more inclusive picture of the structure of their depression. Therefore, instead of constantly looking for someone else to give them "the answer," "to fix it," or "to be the one responsible" for their emotional well-being, they can now begin to take control of their own well-being.

Here's a quote from Herman Melville's Moby Dick that describes the value of mucking around in your own habitual behavior with a new sense of purpose and awareness toward the idea of studying and assessing what you have been doing that heretofore you had not as thoroughly been aware.

"Faith like a jackal feeds among the tombs and, even from these dead doubts, she gathers her most vital hope."

Now the caveat to what I have just said if this. Perhaps your son has been on a lot of medication, that has so depleted his adrenal system that his system does not have sufficient amino acids for his brain to produce enough neurotransmitters to get out of anxiety, which is the default mechanism of the human mind since it is, after all, a defense mechanism. We call this PTSD and for this I would suggest a homeopathic practitioner or a Dr. of Chinese medicine to give him a battery of blood tests and an extensive overview of his diet. 

And the book for this kind of anxiety, and oversensitization of the nerves,which is a little different from depression, is by Dr. Claire Weekes and called Hope and Help for Your Nerves. I read this book three times when I myself had PTSD due to an overdose of oxycodone that the doctor prescribed for a back injury. It takes a lot of "hanging out" with Dr. Weeke's 4 simple principles which only finally come clear to you with the practice of applying them. As with a lot in my books, an intellectual understanding of what I am suggesting is not sufficient. The depressed person must take some action, must start putting into practice the principles before they will "get them to the core." It took me four months of nutritional help and "hanging out" with Weeke's book but, finally, I was completely cured and in the several years since, PTSD has not returned.

If your son is unsure which is his situation, he can do a couple of things.

Have a thorough battery of blood tests and examination by a good nutritionist or homeopathic practitioner.

He can also read my two books, study some of the relevant correspondence on my blog, and put into practice a few simple ideas which can help him rid himself of many of the behaviors of depression, so he can then see what is left of his discomfort to better assess from which he is suffering, depression or PTSD.

It all might take an initial investment in time but then you are cured for a lifetime. I suffered for 30 years with depression but not for the last 30 years. Yes, I have normal ups and downs like everybody but the downs are short-lived and don't have a chance to escalate into what's known as depression.

If your son begins to take a more active view of his situation, I would be glad to talk to him by phone. I would not charge for it. And, as always I answer anyone's email and I don't charge for any of it either.

Hope this helps.  A. B. Curtiss

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Small Victory in Nobody's Park

There is a little tri-corner piece of property, probably less than a quarter acre, nestled among my house and three others. I walk by it every morning and watch it fill up with weeds. The owner hasn't lived in this house for maybe 15 years. Once or twice a year he sends a yard man to clean up the little park. But the weed cycle soon takes over again.

I have been particularly offended by the nasty little round black sticker weeds that peppered my clothes. They were the devil to brush off. So I decided to weed them myself when the flowers were still in bloom, before the beastly little stickers formed. It only took  two years to get rid of them. I found that a wonderful thing. Almost magical. Why had I put up with the stickers for ten years? Not my property, I guess was the reason. I'm not supposed to take care of it.

Which reminds me of a big fight my children had many years ago over a small flower garden I had made for them in our front yard. Each child wanted "my own garden." I don't remember if I convinced them or not but I do recall telling them that "this garden belongs to anyone who works in it." Perhaps I only convinced myself.

Anyway, back to my neighbor's park. After the stickers, the next arrival on the weed scene were thistles. Beautiful purple at first, their prickly leaves hurt. They ultimately produced a burst of seed fluff that sowed little thistle seeds all over my yard. It took me four years to get rid of the thistles in my own yard. So I finally made war on the thistles.in the little park so they wouldn't infect my property That took me another four years. Although, to be truthful, the last years only produced one or two stalwart stragglers that had evaded my murderous hand. Or glove, as you couldn't touch the spiny leaves with your bare hand.
But I never even considered tackling the wild mustard that grew in thick and healthy after the winter rains started. Oh, I made a stab at pulling out the biggest plants nearest my own unmustarded part of the yard, when the ground was damp and it was easy. But it was discouraging—there were so many. And the hill on the side near the owner was too steep to stand on. Mustard, mustard everywhere. It couldn't be helped. I didn't have the time. After all, I had wild mustard in my own field that I still struggled with, pushing them back a few yards each year.

But all of a sudden, for some unknown reason, last month my weeder's eyes gleamed ominously at the helpless wild mustard seedlings covering the dark earth like a green
5 o'clock stubble. Yes, it was daunting. But, heck, it wasn't like my four acres, it was just a little park. Maybe I could just hoe the now fragile green nasties for ten or fifteen minutes every morning. Heck, I could always quit, couldn't I?

But I didn't quit. After three weeks there was only a small patch of green left. Hooray, I thought, I could finish it today!! I called my next-door neighbor whom I thought might be the only one at all interested in celebrating with me my humble victory.

"Do you have five minutes to spare," I asked. I want to show you my progress on the little park. It's hard to believe but I think I've almost done away with all the wild mustard. I want you to bear witness to the last green patch."

Alas!  All she said was "could I make it another day?”  Her hair was up in curlers and she was busy washing windows. She's the older generation like me. We're the generation that still washes our own windows. We do it slow, a few at a time. Such menial "woman's work" hasn't been yet been gentrified out of our blood.

"Are you going to plant some wild flowers," she suggested. I was surprised at that. I had some wild flower seeds but they were expensive and such a few came in the little $4 packet. Although I did have some left over from a large project after the 2007 fire.

"I hadn't thought of that," I answered. "I don't think they'll grow without being watered but I happen to have some so I'll throw a few down and see how they do."

But I couldn't wait for “another day” as rain was predicted in two days and I needed at least one day to look for stragglers and throw down some wild flower seeds. So alone and unheralded I raised my hoe in salute, threw down some wildflower seeds and congratulated myself. It wasn't like I'd won the Nobel prize. But still, it felt pretty good as I leaned on the hoe and surveyed “my park.”