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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