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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Negative Thoughts Keep Pursuing Me


I could use a reminder if you feel willing. Life seems pointless. Are people just pretending that life is good and ignoring all this bad stuff? My most persistent recurrent thoughts are like: "You are not doing enough." It’s like the thoughts are really after me right now. It does not seem like it's from a mental habit. It seems downright malicious. Like something is trying to kill me to be honest. I mean, how much more can I stand? Even if I am miserable, I just keep going right? Just keep going to work, just keeping living, no matter what. So sorry for all of this negativity.  I should wait to write til I’m in better a mood.


Might as well get all the garbage thoughts out when they knock on your door. But remember, you have many doors in your mind. Each thought is a new door. If one opens which you did not want, simply open the door to a thought you do want. The brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought. You make any thought dominant by thinking it repetitively.

Your thoughts can pursue you but they lose their strength because you are not obligated to think them when they pop up. You can notice them, “thanks but no thanks.” Then, immediately, you can think another thought and if you concentrate on YOUR thought, the thought that popped up will fade.

An important thing to remember is that depression is the FEELING of hopelessness--that all is lost, nothing is worth anything, life is worthless, I am worthless and I am helpless to get out of this bad place, none of which is true. You don't have to think these thoughts. They are not reality. Reality is doing the task at hand, not musing about whether or not it is worthwhile to do it. STOP the negative thinking and think something else. A. B. Curtiss

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Keep Asking Myself What is Life Really About Anyway


Here are a bunch of thoughts which constantly go through my mind. Especially when I’m in a group of people whose company I’m supposed to be enjoying. "What is life really about, what's the point, are people all just acting?" These thoughts are super sticky. Hard to get rid of them.

They seem like they are reasonable thoughts but now I’m beginning to wonder if they are just negativity too, disguised as philosophical ponderings, though they do feel pretty awful so that’s probably the first clue. They come in demanding answers and leave me feeling distant from others. I end up watching life as if I am some cold alien observer, and when it happens in front of people I feel panicky. I recall your advice was to get interested in what people are saying, but I am still left with that yucky removed feeling.


That yucky, removed feeling is the first clue that you are into trouble--a trouble called self-focus. Self-focus is the same trouble all us human beings share to one extent or the other. If you understand that the brain and its product, the mind, is a defense mechanism, then you can see how, if it is left to wander and think by itself, it can easily end up in fearful thinking.

All that stuff about what is life all about seems philosophical, but it is simply fearful thinking. The way you find out what life is all about is when you actively engage in life, with others, and with things that other people are interested in. Panic always results from self-focus which always turns into fearful thinking. Self focus is the very opposite of self-understanding.

Self-focus is really the key to everything. If we do not choose to direct our minds, our minds can overwhelm us with all sorts of varieties of negative thinking. In the absence of any conscious direction on our part, the mind can direct itself right into a sticky mental mess. It is the sticky mental mess that always wonders what life is all about.

The poet Goethe was clearly referring to this same idea when he wrote, “Where a man has a passion for meditation without the capacity for thinking, a particular idea fixes itself fast, and soon creates a mental disease.” Understanding the role of self-focus can insure that we know how to avoid that. We just have to put our intellectual understanding of what self-focus is into a daily practice of avoiding self-focus and quickly getting out of it when we find ourselves in it.      

A. B Curtiss

Monday, September 28, 2015

How to Override Your Instinctual Negative First Thought in Any Situation


My goal and intention is to retrain my brain so that I can immediately turn away from negative thoughts and feel my okayness. I want to be able to rely on my ability to do this so that I can lose the fear of the return of bad feelings.

Last night I turned to your website for some uplifting reading and I clicked on the thought of the week and it was about how you had trouble sleeping and your mind was racing and how you eventually got to sleep. I allowed myself to feel anxious about the fact that you can still suffer anxiety and you are way more practiced then I am. So in the end, I just ended up picking up more worry where I was looking for ease. That is the way my mind currently operates. I am working on it.


It is human nature that our first instinct is to jump to the negative because our brain is a defense mechanism. Our brain is responsible for our DEFENSE: As a defense mechanism, it is always looking for the negative slant in everything. Just like the Secret Service agents who guard the president. These agents are not trained to look for the positive. They are dedicated to look for the slightest thing which might turn into a negative and endanger their “charge.”

Our brain is the same way but, of course, in this case WE are the “charge,” not the president.  And we should always respect this facet of our psyche because it is designed to alert us to some unusual real danger that might one day occur to us.

However, in general, since most of us do not live a life of everyday danger and intrigue, we have to override this tendency toward the negative by insisting that WE can look for the more productive possibility in what lies before us.

When we earnestly decide to do this, since the brain works by learned association, we will find that we can attach to that first instinctual thought caused from the fact that the brain seeks the negative, the concomitant thought that HOWEVER, WE can look for the possible, or positive idea so that it will immediately pop up and occur to us at the first stab of needless instinctual doubt or fear.

Learned association, remember, is just like thinking salt and then the idea of pepper naturally occurs to us because we MADE that association between the two. Most associations are caused accidentally but we can also make on-purpose learned associations. Like associating the thought “I have just turned off the ignition key” to the thought, “now put the keys in a safe place before you open the door.”

OR. Okay, I can see that negative in this situation, now what is a more useful, productive thought I can think that can override the useless, instinctual negative and get me going in a more positive direction. The more you practice, the quicker you will remember to grab for some more positive application.

A.B. Curtiss

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Don't Feel Guilty about being Unhappy


In your book DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE you say that your husband is never depressed.Did you feel guilty about your husband ever? What I mean is when you were so depressed all those years.

For myself I keep thinking that this is not the person my husband signed on to marry—someone who is constantly miserable and unhappy. I love him so much that I would rather see him with someone else who does not have this trouble. Someone who is not afraid of so much, afraid to have kids. I feel like such a burden. Also I am deeply embarrassed that I can't control my mind enough to be happy. It's so effing embarrassing.


One of the first permissions I gave myself after I started to get a better handle on my depression was that I don’t have to be happy. It’s not a requirement in order to move ahead with my day. You’d be surprised how much guilt this lifted from my overburdened soul. You can’t just will yourself happy. It doesn’t work that way. Happiness is a byproduct of the relationship between on-purpose thinking and on-purpose behavior.

When those moments of unhappiness come to me, I recognize them and accept them. But I no longer self-focus on them. I no longer further power up the fear factory of stress chemicals by the immediate reactive thought. "Oh, no. Not again!. I quickly move on to something more pro-active and productive. What I found was that no matter how unhappy I get, I can always be cheerful. Just because I get a neurological hit of depression, that doesn’t mean I am therefore compelled to do all the depressive behaviors I used to do in addition to the yucky feelings still blindsided me now and then.

You don't have to be happy, you just have to be cheerful and move forward courageously with your day. You just have to avoid and ignore whatever unhappiness has fallen to your lot. Unhappiness, a feeling, is a product of the subcortex. Cheerfulness, a principle of attitude, is a product of the neocortex.

We have two different chemical factories and we can choose which one we wish to power up by manning one production line or the other, according to the thoughts we choose to think.  “True joy,” says Seneca, “is a serene and sober motion; and they are miserably out that take laughing for rejoicing; the seat of it is within and there is no cheerfulness like the resolutions of a brave mind.”  

A. B. Curtiss

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Should I go into Counseling for my Depression and Anxiety?


I am wondering if I should go into counseling for my depression and anxiety. My concern about going into counseling is that I would use it as a format to let out all of my negative and fearful thoughts and get someone’s feedback on them and then this would become a crutch. Did you find any use for counseling?


I learned a great deal from counseling. The best way to get something out of counseling is to decide, in advance, what it is that you want to learn. It is helpful if you can coalesce your whole confusion of concerns into a single problem that you think would be helpful as the first thing for you to solve; or a short list of specific goals. Then you will have a better handle on where the counseling is going and, more to the point, whether it has accomplished anything for you.

The problem with some counseling is that it can drag on for years with no apparent changes for the person being counseled. After three or four sessions you should compare your progress with the goal or goals you had set in the beginning and see if your time and money has been profitably spent.

If you can narrow it down to a single problem to start with then you can ask your counselor if he has worked with people with this same problem before and what general methods he will use to help you.

A counselor who listens to session after session of “storytelling” is not terribly helpful. You can do that with a recorder and listen to yourself and make just as much progress.  I have told many of my patients who were used to doing that with former counselors that people’s back story is seldom all that useful. As a matter of fact you could exchange back stories with anybody because the cure to your problem does not lay in past behavior but in present behavior.

If you don’t like the way you are feeling or acting in your day-to-day life then the real question is what can you change in your daily life to start heading in a different direction where you exhibit different feelings and different actions? It is not helpful to figure out who is to blame for where you are. 

One of my friends told me that her husband had been going to a psychiatrist for decades to cure his depression, and all the psychiatrist ever suggested was anti-depressants and then he would encourage her husband in every session to rant and rave about the abuse he had suffered from his relatives. After a lengthy period of ranting and raving, toward the end of the session, the psychiatrist would hand her husband a pillow and tell him to "let out his feelings" and “punish” his aggressor by beating on the pillow. This kind of counseling I consider practically useless. The point is not to act out your fear and anger but deal with the pain of the repressed fear that is the source of most of our problems. There may be many people to blame for why you are the way you are, but there is only one person who can heal you and that's you. And you can only heal yourself in the present, not the past. Luckily there are many techniques to help you heal yourself.          A. B. Curtiss

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Red Flags of Irrational Action

There are times everybody gets down. It's more rational to not to go along with the down mood but to turn in another direction. I look at it this way. Sometimes it is helpful just to use your logical mind. So when I get a downer mood I might ask myself, "Would I rather spend two hours being depressed and unhappy or would I rather spend two hours going out and doing something productive and helpful to someone else no matter how I feel." The answer is then obvious. Just the very  action of getting up and accomplishing  some small task or activity may be a real catalyst to change the entire direction of your downer mood.

One of my friends told me he once went into a deep depression that dragged him down for months. “One day,” he said, “I realized that I had sat in the same chair for three days in my underwear, without doing anything except getting up and going to the bathroom. I started to talk to myself, out loud, ‘Is this rational?’ My answer was ‘No, this is not rational.’”

“So,” he said, “I got up, got my car keys, got in my car and drove down the road to the 7-Eleven. I was still in my underwear, so I didn’t go in. I waited for about 5 minutes in the parking lot and drove back home. But I had done something other than sit in that chair. It was a victory of sorts. When I got home, I got myself something to eat. I felt better.”

“After that incident, says my friend, “I decided to erect a boundary for myself, a marker to alert me. Now when I am deep in depression I visualize two little red flags, one on either side of my head, just in my peripheral vision. Those red flags tell me to get up and do something. Those red flags tell me that it is not rational to lie around and be depressed. The flags tell me to get busy. And when I see those red flags, believe me, I do get busy!”

It doesn't matter the greatness of the task that you decide to do instead of doing depression. What matters is the turn you then make, with any small non-negative action, in your direction of focus away from depression

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bad Thoughts Make the World Seem like a Bad Place

Dear AB


Part of the issue for me is, although I know it must be true that thoughts are not reality. I sometimes still accept them as such. (Even though I REALLY don’t want to!) I still allow them to threaten me. They pop up, I say STOP, I move on to another thought, they come back, I stop them, they repeat. They leave this yucky feeling in their wake.

That these thoughts are there at all makes the world seem a bad place, it seems almost evil in a way. We can't have been put here to suffer...?


There is no way we can prevent suffering in our lives. The good news and the bad news is that suffering is the only way we grow and nurture our strength of spirit. But we are never completely helpless when suffering turns into unmitigated anxiety. A good way to counteract the anxiety caused by our suffering is to use the four step program that Dr. Claire Weekes advised for people to get out of anxiety. Suffering does tend to cause us a lot of anxiety.

(If there has been no particular downturn for you, be sure to have yourself checked out by practitioner of homeopathic or Chinese medicine. Sometimes your body chemistry can be better balanced by use of natural supplements, or even a change of diet. Many people have found great relief by changing to a non-gluten or non-dairy diet.)

Here are Dr. Weekes's Four Steps to curing anxiety.


The first step would be to notice that you are suffering, not just from the downturn or tragedy in your life, but from your anxiety about that downturn; or from anxiety that comes from you know not where. It's best to learn to notice the first stages of anxiety because it is easier to nip it in the bud rather than let it escalate into a full-blown panic attack.

The second step would be to focus on your anxiety in an accepting way. Oh, yes I know this, it will not overpower me. It is just my own feeling. This takes practice so, at first, just your intention to accept may be as far as you can go even if you can’t accept it all right at that moment.

I used these steps myself when I was diagnosed with PTSD after a taking a drug for a back injury. I only took it for 3 weeks so my heart goes out to those who suffer with high-intensity anxiety. The acceptance step is necessary because even the intention to accept will help over-ride the fearful thought that the anxiety is going to get worse which continues to power up the stress chemical factory in your brain. Accepting is an activity of the neocortex which, if employed long enough, can indirectly influence the subcortex into calming down. Here, too, you go back and forth from trying to accept to fearful thoughts of “Oh no, not again.


The third step is to kind of float on top of your anxiety. Almost like you are on a cloud looking down at your pain. The pain is still there but you can insist upon yourself floating on top of it, like a forceful wave pulling you into some action or distracting possibility (like a book or a movie.) that draws you out of your pain. The pain is still there but it is more removed from you--at a distance which gives you some breathing room.


Remind yourself that whatever caused this anxiety took some time to develop an insistent habit pattern in your brain. A new habit pattern of accepting and moving away from anxiety will take some time to develop.

Float on top of your stressful thoughts to thoughts about the beauty of the earth, the trees, the sky, the stars at night. Anything to turn your thoughts from self-focused to outer-directed while time passes.

A. B. Curtiss

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Do You Keep from Getting Down in the Dumps?

Dear AB


I am beginning to realize how my focus is very inward directed. I worry over wrinkles and my appearance like you wouldn't believe. On the other hand, at some level I realize those things can't possibly matter. Only being good can really matter. It's hard for me not get to feeling very down because of where society has gotten itself. So material focused.

How do you personally not get down in the dumps about that? What do you tell yourself about it?

I get closer each day to wanting to leave earning excess money behind and just living a simpler life. One without a lot of extras. But I can almost feel societies scorn already.


Here are some of the things I tell myself when those same thoughts invade my own sense of wellbeing.

I am my age and I’m good enough.

Sometimes I remember the phrase of the “Desiderata”: “You are a child of the Universe no less than the stars and the trees. You have a right to be here.”

 I can't help everybody but I can try to help somebody.

 I can't do everything but I can do something.

 I'm lucky to have any money in a world where people are losing everything.

There is always a task at hand to save my sanity.

And if nobody is around and I feel lonely I can always go out and say something pleasant to someone at the grocery store, the library or the post office. A. B. Curtiss

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Do You Have to be Busy all the Time to Stay Sane?

Dear A.B.

One part confuses me though. Do you always have to remain active (busy) to stay sane? Does that not leave us always on the run? My sister has terrible anxiety and is always running, she is afraid to stop doing. Do tasks save our sanity? R.

Dear R.

Tasks save our sanity when we need our sanity saved. However this needing to save our sanity is just during those times when we are in a stressed state of alarm mode.

In general It is helpful to have a place in life where you feel like you have a home and can relax at times instead of always rushing and doing. It could be taking care of your spouse or your family. Many people make their job a kind of “home” where you have people to interact with, help, share your daily stories. Which is probably why statistics indicate that so many people die within 18 months of retirement. If you are planning to retire, make sure you have some place or craft or activity with others to retire to.

If you don’t have such a place, no problem, you can make one. If you have a job, that’s a good place to start. Instead of seeing your co-workers or customers as just co-workers and customers, you can begin to think of them as fellow creatures on your daily path, who have their flaws and drawbacks and challenges and need to feel connected just as you do. You never know when your friendly greeting or some spontaneous kind word can help someone else feel less alone in the world. Believe me, thinking of others instead of always self-focusing is the best way in the world to free yourself from downer thinking.

One of the ways I feel connected is through my writing. I meet people when I do booksignings and when I answer their questions either in person or via email, it helps to give me purpose in life.

It might take a while to find your “place” if you are starting from scratch. In that case you will find that just talking to clerks in a store or fellow passengers waiting for the bus or subway, and seeing them as the real people they are, can give you a moment of connectedness with the world at large. Then you can graduate from this to maybe joining some neighborhood group to connect with people who have interests similar to yours.

Remember that it’s always easier to see other people’s flaws than it is to see your own. What might be helpful here is to review Kent Keith’s Ten Paradoxical Commandments which is kind of a further extension of the “golden rule.”. It actually gives you a good framework to look newly upon your fellow man with love and compassion and a rich feeling of connectedness instead of fear and judgment ending a sad feeling of alienation.

Here are the first two of the Ten Paradoxical Commandments:  

People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered
Love them anyway.

 If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Turning Around a Habitually Negative Mindset Takes Practice and Time

Dear A. B.

This positive thinking stuff just takes time right? I could use some encouragement if you can think of any. I just wonder when the world will start to seem like a better place. I find, despite my practicing, that 90% of the thoughts that pop up for me are negative. I redirect, next negative thought, redirect, negative....hmm. Am I just not trying hard enough? R
Dear R,

Yes, it does take time. But meanwhile, perhaps one problem might be that you are just waiting around for whatever thought hits you instead of pursuing some kind of productive thinking that logically leads to some productive action. Perhaps you need to be more proactive instead of simply remaining reactive.

Instead of reacting to your negative thoughts why don't you initiate productive, positive thoughts and that way there isn't as much opportunity or room for the negative thinking if the brain is already occupied. After all, remember the brain can't concentrate on more than one thought at a time.

Remember, practice makes neurons. A. B. Curtiss

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Don't Fight Your Negative Thoughts

Dear AB.

You taught me a great deal, and for that I thank you. I like to believe that I am making some progress. I used to lose sleep when mood stuff hit me, and I no longer do that for the most part. I also am able to turn away from thoughts that hurt, I just can't do it 100% yet, and therefore don't feel 100% yet.

The only way this effects my life at the moment is that I am distracted at work and not as productive as I might be, and I am just not enjoying my life as I could be, fearful etc. I have to believe that if I am persistent...it will pay.

.All day, every day, I work with my thoughts. I don't get a moments rest, I am constantly on guard. I wish I could explain how quickly they "take me down". It can happen in an instant to me. I was in a friends bathroom a while ago and had a negative/anxious thought "what am I doing here?" I nearly had to leave I got so down. I hid it and then left. I was super down for days after that. I just don't feel that I have very much control

I had this trip planned for next week as a little vacation. Now I am too afraid to go. I would be with people that don't know about my anxious thinking and I can't risk getting down or panicky around them. R

Dear R

Go and enjoy yourself and think about other people instead of thinking about yourself all the time. Other people are fighting great battles too. You are not the only one.

You say you are always on guard. This is completely reactive. It seems like you are anticipating negative thoughts to pop up so you can fight them. You don't have to fight negative thoughts. They have no power if you refuse to think them. It may seem that you don't have control over your mind because you don't choose to take control. You say that every day you work with your negative thoughts. It is not productive to work with negative thoughts. You are supposed to choose other thoughts instead of these negative thoughts and work with those more productive thoughts so your mind has limited space for the negative thoughts to pop up.

As your mind works with positive thoughts your brain starts to follow a positive bent instead of a negative one. If you work with negative thoughts your brain will follow a negative bent. Your brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought. If you are always working with negative thoughts they will become dominant and your brain will be following in a negative direction.

 If you take charge of your thinking and insist on choosing productive thoughts they will become dominant and your brain will follow a more productive bent. But instead of taking charge of their lives, too many people are just sitting around in their lives waiting for the next negative thought to attack. It’s like watching a movie and saying OMG I can't stand what's on the screen. Turn away from the movie screen of your negative thoughts. Get out of the theater and into the real world. Become more active physically and behaviorally instead of always anticipating your mind is ready to attack you so you are always ready to fight back. Relax a little. A. B. Curtiss

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Willpower Works Better than Won'tpower

Dear A. B. Curtiss

I realize that I create all my own thoughts. Yet, often, I still feel trapped by them. My life is good, I have nothing to be genuinely displeased with. But even with all that, I just read an article that says depression is on the rise all around and that it is the 2nd major killer behind heart disease.  And that only 1 in 6 people adequately deal with it. I did not read enough to get all the details. My mind just used that tidbit to scare me and say,”See, it's hopeless, it's an epidemic, everyone is suffering.”

This is not to say I am giving up. I don't want to give up, I just want to relax and get out of this mind trap. Any suggestions? R

Dear R,

To me it is simply not logical to believe that you have no control over your own thinking. However you are not alone in your belief if you do believe that you cannot control your depression with mind exercises. The way out of such a self-defeating belief is to start doing more on-purpose thinking. When you do that, then the accidental, fearful and depressive thinking will take a back seat since the mind always follows the direction of its MOST CURRENT dominant thought. You make any thought dominant by repeating it to yourself over and over.

So, do this: Immediately when you realize you are heading into a downer mood, choose some nonsense rhyme or pre-chosen mantra to concentrate on instead of concentrating on how bad you feel. The more you take control of your thinking, the more confidence you will have in yourself and the more you will FEEL in control of your thinking. Just keep remembering that you are you, you have a mind and the mind does not have a you. Willpower works better than won’tpower.

Friday, September 18, 2015

How do you Know When you're Manic?

There is a great unrecognized problem with mania that is causing a great deal of violence and alienation in our society. But it may be that events like school shootings, road rage, violent street protests, cop killing, and disgruntled employee shootings will sooner or later call attention to long-overlooked mania. The way out of mania is the same as the way out of depression. Brainswitching, directed thinking and meditation also work for mania.

In general, the public is much more aware of depression than mania because we are more than willing to buy drugs to lessen the pain of even a little depression for ourselves, and the pharmaceutical companies who know this continually bombard us with ad campaigns and info-mericials about the least little nuance of anxiety and depression, with a different pill for each nuance.

Pharmaceutical companies are not interested in mania because no one is going to buy medicine for that. Mania just simply doesn’t hurt. In fact, it feels good. No one wants to cure themselves of feeling good. For the most part, we do not recognize our own mania while it is in progress because it is never painful for us in the way that depression is. For myself, before I got a good handle on my depression, I believed mania was my “good days.”

Once I was able to recognize the “pain” and "fear" that are the underpinnings of mania, I was able to curtail that kind of thinking and behavior as well.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How do you Take that First Positive Step out of Depression

QUESTION: How did you start to get a handle on your depression? 

ANSWER: First, I decided that I would take charge of myself and  DO SOMETHING! To help myself.

Second, I began to educate myself with that goal in mind. I went back to graduate school. That is not so necessary today because there are many excellent books available with alternative therapies.

Third, once I had the intellectual understanding of what needed to be done, I started in small ways to change. It usually is better to do something small in the beginning. Even full-blown bipolar began with small, unwilled, rote reactions to difficult situations (like not getting out of bed when we “didn’t feel like it”) that built destructive habit patterns over time. Small intentional reactions to difficult incidents (like insisting we will get out of bed to the count of three) can extinguish negative habits over time by replacing them with new and more productive ones.

Maybe we don’t have enough energy to clean our whole house, but perhaps we could make our bed or clear off the table.  The reason is that we probably won't feel like doing anything at all, so if we choose something small to do, we won't have such a big feeling about it that we will have to overcome. It takes a great deal of positive energy to reverse a negative direction in which we have been headed for some time. We can more easily step out over a small feeling than a big one. Any time we want, we can call ourselves a beginner and begin.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Learn to Choose Something other than Depression to Think About

I’m afraid that one of the problem with the burgeoning diagnoses of depression we have been witnessing is that doctors are not observing depression itself but depression exposed to their stereotypical questions. Instead of the nature of depression determining the measurements they are taking, the measurements they are taking are determining, for the researchers, the nature of depression.

In a way this is not so different from physics. The difference is that the physicist takes this into consideration and call their ideas theories. Psychiatrists cannot call their ideas theories because they cannot prescribe a medicine to treat a theory. They can only prescribe a medicine to treat an illness. What this means is that as far as depression is concerned, the doctors are treating a structure without knowing what it is the structure of. This is the reason the pills ultimately don't work.

Thousands of people take their depression into hospitals such as Kaiser Permanente to be “cured. In Kaiser, for instance, they are given a brochure that states flatly: “No one knows exactly what happens in the brain to cause depression, but brain chemicals called neurotransmitters are probably involved.” And then the patients are given chemicals to alter the balance of these neurotransmitters. 

Truth escapes us when we look to find only what our own study is already set up to see. The study of depression is based on a causal relationship between brain chemistry and depression. There is other research that shows a causal relationship between behavior and brain chemistry. Why is this being swept aside as incidental? Because generally speaking, you can’t prescribe medicine for a person’s behavior. Behavior is a matter of choice and to deprive a person from being able to make a choice about his own behavior makes someone very low functioning.

            I did not choose depression. Depression happened to me because of my lack of choosing behavior and thinking that was more cheerful and productive. When you are depressed, it is not easy to choose thoughts other than the thought “I am depressed.” But ultimately it is the only thing that really works to get you out of it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How to do I Get to "the Here and Now?"

Dear AB Curtiss
How do you generate the “here and now” when you don’t even know the next step to take?

Dear A.
We are never in the “here and now” when we are depressed or consumed with anxious worry. The way to “here and now” (present reality) is to be found when we turn our thoughts away from our subjective focus on how bad we feel and look for something more objective.

One of the greatest gifts to us fragile mortals, for which we seldom think to be grateful, is the fact that there is always some “next task” to do. We don’t have to look far to find it: some picture to be straightened on the wall, some clutter to be picked up in the corner of the room, a bed to be made. 

Therefore there is always some “next step” take.  And once you earnestly attend to the first task, the second task will become even more readily apparent.

It is this new objective direction of thinking that will cause the brain to pause in its unrelenting subjective focus on our pain and for a moment take another neural fork off to the side of the painful neural pattern of thought. That is because the brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought and in doing the next task we are starting to concentrate on more objective thinking. And repetitive thinking of a thought makes it dominant. 

We just have to insist on the new objective thought direction we are taking and not get sucked back into subjective thoughts about our pain. Every time we get sucked back into the pain, we have to renew our concentration on the next task at hand which will always present itself. Insist, insist, insist and the newer objective thinking can prevail. A. B. Curtiss

Monday, September 14, 2015

We are Studying your Book in our Abnormal Psych class

Dear A. B. Curtiss

We are studying your book, DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE, in my abnormal psych class. The professor told us that we could email you questions. I have two questions


You say all depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. What is the chemical imbalance you refer to?


If you are depressed, ipso facto, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. Depression is the by-product of our human psychological defense system. Our defense system is activated by fearful or anxious thoughts, of which you may or may not be aware, that trigger the fight-or-flight response.

The chemical imbalance of depression is caused by the inadvertent triggering of the fight-or-flight response which dumps stress chemicals into our brain; chemicals like adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine, etc. to biochemically prepare us for immediate action. If we take immediate physical
action, the stress chemical imbalance is righted and we return from the stress mode (sympathic mode) to the at rest mode (para-sympathetic mode).

But if physical action is not taken, these chemicals are extremely hard on the metabolic processes of the body. They cause the feelings of weakness and powerless that we know as depression. Of course once these neural patterns of weakness and powerless are part of our memory system, they can take on a life of their own and be triggered by a color, a sound, or some thought fragment through the natural process of learned association. If we entertain and focus on these neural patterns (in effect memories which we incorrectly believe to be present reality), we trigger the fight-or-flight response once more and the stress chemical factory is back in business again. Instant re-run.

QUESTION 2: What is the correct amount of chemicals you are striving for?


I am striving for the correct balance of chemicals which return us from the stress mode (the sympathetic mode) to the para-sympathetic mode, our natural mode of okayness. The way to effect this return as an act of will is to brainswitch--to cease focusing on the agitated feelings of the subcortex , and instead think neutral or nonsense thoughts that stimulate neural activity in the neocortex. Thus powering up neuronal activity in the neocortex and powering down neuronal activity in the subcortex. If a person concentrates on thinking neutral or nonsense thoughts for five or ten minutes, they cannot at the same time continue to think those stressful thoughts that have been causing the fight-or-flight response to trigger which produce the stress chemicals that have pitched them into the sympathetic mode. As they continue with cognitive, objective, and neutral thoughts, they cease to produce stress chemicals, and the body will naturally return to the para-sympathetic mode.

It is a matter of constantly taking the correct fork in the thinking road instant by instant as soon as depression hits. Avoid the subjective, choose the objective. (Not: Oh I'm feeling bad, but isn't that an interesting pattern of light on the wall. Avoid the emotional, choose the neutral or nonsense (Not: Oh I'm feeling bad but “Row, row, row your boat” or some othedumb nursery rhyme or song.) Avoid the downer thought and choose the upper. (Not: Oh what a dreary morning, but hey, at least the house isn't on fire, how great is that!) Avoid self-focus, choose outer-focus (Not: I'm feeling bad but send some healing prayer to another person.) Avoid disengagement, choose re-engagement (don't crawl under the covers, get out and take a walk, talk to the paperboy.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

I get dizzy, shake and full of anxiety

Hi AB Curtiss

The reason that I'm writing you today is because some of my symptoms are very strong like I get dizzy, shake and feel highly anxious. I did some lab test and everything turned out negative. So now I'm thinking should follow up with a doctor psychiatrist, neurologist or somebody because the problem is not that I don’t have any desire to do things. I want to do things but I can't. I wake up in the morning exercise for 30min and get going, but once I get the symptoms, I can't continue. So what do you recommend? E

Dear E,

The natural response of the body to stress chemicals which are caused by triggering the flight or fight response with anxious thinking is: dizziness, head shaking, body shaking, hands sweaty and shaking and more extreme anxiety, all of which shortly to be followed by depression. Just to be sure check out with your general physician or a homeopathic practitioner, not a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are too quick to prescribe pills which seldom work in the long run.

You also might try some anti-stress or brainswitching mind techniques. These will distract you from the anxiety, the symptoms will subside and the brain will move in the direction or more positive and productive thinking. A. B. Curtiss