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Monday, November 30, 2015

How do you Change Someone's Personality?


Do you have a book that can change someone's personality?I am estranged from my grown son and his family because he is so negative, insulting and hard to get along with that it just doesn't seem worth the effort anymore. Whenever my wife and I are with him it's so stressful. He is critical, and arrogant and treats everyone like he knows everything and they don't know anything. For instance, I spent a lot of time and effort to paint the family room. I was kind of proud of it and when I showed it to him he tells me that it's the ugliest color he's ever seen. That kind of thing.


It's hard enough to change yourself much less trying to change somebody else. Sometimes, by changing your own reaction to them, people may change because you yourself have changed. However when people are difficult to get along with, and are constantly abusive and critical of the people around them it's hard to meet their behavior with love and acceptance. You could if you can take a different view of the relationship.

Here I might suggest reading "the Ten Paradoxical Commandmants" for inspiration.

One thing that helps in dealing with difficult people is to realize that their negative behavior all comes from their own repressed fear. We all have a lot of repressed fear from our past and most of us never try to get in touch with it and let got of it because it's hard work.

So what happens is that people with a lot of repressed fear are always on the verge of feeling intimidated somehow. They don't know they are afraid and they don't know that, because of their own fear, they need to feel like they are always in charge or "one up." Because of their own unacknowledged fear, at any moment they feel at some kind of a disadvantage. If something goes wrong, they are not afraid, the other person is wrong or stupid. They themselves are never at fault. They can't be at fault because it is too fearful for them.

These people don't take advice or criticism very well, if at all. In the end, only love works. But it's kind of like hugging a porcupine until you get the hang of it. We all should remember that being unreasonable is not evil.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Doing the Right Thing Usually Takes Courage.

Whether or not you do something should not depend on how difficult it is but rather on whether it is to your good or not. Perhaps I derived this idea from the observance of how easy it is to fall into things that are not to our good.

Brainswitching is in this category. It is extraordinarily difficult to do, even though it is extraordinarily simple. It is difficult to do because depression and anxiety are so easy to fall into and once we fall into them it is just so much easier to stay there than to exert ourselves to get out of them, the law of inertia working against us.

So the first thing we should do is to put the law of inertia to work for us (a body in motion tends to stay in motion) instead of against us (a body at rest tends to stay at rest). We are resting (albeit uncomfortably) in our anxiety or depression. We need to get into motion out of it. It is difficult, yes. And anything difficult always requires our courage.

A.B. Curtiss

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Do Something Difficult

Sometimes when you suddenly find yourself in a dark mood, you just don't feel like doing a dumb little exercise to get out of it. Doesn't matter whether or not the dumb mind exercise would work or not. If you don't feel like doing it, and haven't committed to doing one anyway, you won't do one. Okay. Then instead, do something difficult. Do a puzzle, or learn something difficult like playing the piano or the guitar and then practive like mad.

Tackle some difficult home repair. Work out until you are tired. When you do something difficult, it is necessary to bring your full concentration to what you are doing. Which means you have to withdraw your attention from concentrating on your dark mood. Dark moods cannot think themselves. They are completely dependent on your concentrating on them and thinking them to the exclusion of everything else.

The only way out is to concentrate on something else. If it is something difficult, that is even better.

Monday, November 23, 2015

We Can Always Help Each Other

While I was booksigning over the weekend, a woman passed by my author's table and told me that she had bought my book, Brainswitch out of Depression, earlier,  She said that it had been a great help and she always kept it by her bedside.

As she walked away she chanted "green frog, green frog, green frog." Then, as she waved a final goodbye she smiled and chanted  over her shoulder "roses and butterflies, roses and butterflies, roses and butterflies."

Of course I was gratified that my book had been helpful. The "green frog" chant was the first brainswitch exercise that I devised to help myself come out of a deep depression. The "roses and butterflies" must have been one that she made up for herself.

Funny thing is that for the last several days every time I got a small hit of that darkness that looms up;to grab at you when you least expect it, I found myself chanting "roses and butterflies. roses and butterflies." Worked for me just at well as "green frog."

I guess that makes two points. We can always help each other. And, any mind trick works. It doesn't matter which mind trick you use. Just that you do use one. Roses and butterflies. Roses and butterflies.     A. B. Curtiss

Friday, November 20, 2015

Plantar Fasciitis or Bone Spur

I had a bout of plantar fasciitis on my left foot about  5 years ago and it took about 2 months to heal. I got a pair of tennis shoes that didn't hurt. Of course I spent 3 hours trying on every shoe in the store but I finally found a pair and I wore them almost exclusively for 2 months. Then I did the exercise on the stair where you stand on the ball of your foot and slowly lift your heel up and then down as low as possible. I did it about ten times a day, ten lifts and lowers each time.

When I got it again this year on my left foot, I tried the same cure and after 4 months it still didn't abate. Finally I got an idea. Instead of doing the up and down foot lifts on the stair for ten times, I decided to do just the left foot for ten times. Surprise! I could only do four lifts and lowers. So my left arch was weak, I reasoned, that must be the source of the problem. So for the next week or two I just did the stair exercise on the left foot about ten times a day until I worked up to ten times. The pain disappeared in three weeks. A. B. Curtiss

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

You Have to do the Hard Work Yourself

Emotional self-responsibility requires courage. Succumbing to depression, anxiety, stress requires that we do absolutely nothing at all. The difference between the two involves making a choice, making a decision to be in charge of our own emotions instead of allowing our emotions to run our lives...to ruin our lives. Making a decision and sticking to it no matter what is difficult. 

But in the case of depression and anxiety the easy way turns out to be very hard on us. And the hard work involved in seeking out alternatives for succumbing to depression will, in the long run lead to an easy, calm way of life. Your choice. Your hard work. Your reward.

There is a wealth of information on alternative methods to manage our emotions, restorative breathing, yoga, exercise, service to others, reconnecting with others, meditation. They all work. But they only work if you do the work.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Way to Redirect Your Depressive Thinking

In addition to meditation, mindtricks and brainswitching to redirect your brain in another direction out of depression and toward more productive thinking is to do something that is really difficult for you.

Most of us avoid doing difficult things but in the case of a depression hit, it is such a good intervention. For myself, I decided to take piano lessons. It is difficult for me and and the most difficult parts are an instant cure for depressive thinking.

When I am concentrating on a difficult part, it is impossible to think about my depression at the same time. And remember, we must pay attention to our depression because it cannot continue in the absense of our thinking it. Depression cannot think itself. We have to think it. A. B. Curtiss

Friday, November 13, 2015

What is Depression?


What is depression, really? There's no real definition. It seems everybody knows depression when they get it. Why do we get it?


I didn't know what to call it but I certainly remember my first "hit" of depression when I was 12 years old. Like being hit by a truck. I couldn't let anybody know how I felt. I was totally lost and had no one to confide in. I couldn't talk to my parents about it. I don't know why. I just hid my depression from everyone for years until I finally went to a psychiatrist in my thirties.

Now I realize that, practically speaking, depression is more of a routine than a disease. By that I mean depression can be a downshift in your mood that you shrug off and turn your mind to something more productive—a quick choice of an alternative thought like a nonsense rhyme, a thought about something you’re grateful for.

Or when you get a downshift in your mood, you immediately let it slide into depression as a matter of course. You just naturally start withdrawing. You don’t “feel like jogging” or “going to work.” Of course you hate the bad feeling and the fact that you just got hit again is disheartening. “Oh no, not again.” And you give up and give in to depression and follow your regular depressive thinking and behavior.

You don’t have to follow a depressive routine. You don’t have to carry this heavy load. You can shrug it off. That's what I do when I get a hit. 

You can interrupt the downer thinking with a mind exercise or physical exercise or immediately turning to some small task at hand. Any small thing accomplished instead of just being depressed is a help. Think about that.

I haven’t done much this morning yet. Wait a minute. Yes I have. I made my bed, walked the dogs. Wrote my blog. I can think about that. Maybe I even encouraged somebody else to shrug off their heavy load of depression. I have a whole day ahead. Maybe just a routine day. But it won’t be a depressive routine. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It's Never Too Late to Learn Something

I have a piano at my house which nobody has used since the lessons my children took never "stuck" and as adults they have no interest in playing. Except one of my daughters. From time to time, when she visits, I notice her playing a song she used to know so that she doesn't entirely forget it. Good for her.

I took lessons for about a year along with my children some 40 years ago but I long ago forgot what I learned. I tried, like my daughter, to keep playing the one song I remembered but then I waited too long and finally, when I tried to play it, I couldn't. Years have gone by since thenand I have often thought with a great deal of regret that I never kept up with my piano lessons. How much enjoyment it would be now.

A couple of weeks ago I asked my daughter in law if she know anybody that taught and she gave me a name and number. Finally last week I took the plunge and actually made an appointment. I felt a little foolish doing such a thing at my age. Some of my friends are accomplished piano players.

I had my first lesson last Monday. I was so delighted that I could actually play a simple tune with one hand. There is something about music that soothes the troubled soul.

In spare moments I memorized the white keys. I haven't done the black keys yet. Funny thing is when I got a small downer shift of mood  on Tuesday, I went over the white keys up and down the piano in my mind. The mood quickly gave way and vanished into thin air. An unlooked for benefit of learning to play the piano I thought.

I've been practicing the simple tunes in my kindergarten music book. I'm determined to stick with it this time. You can always call yourself a beginner and begin.Wish me luck. A. B. Curtiss

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Discipline of Depression

What psychology should have been doing all this time is the discipline of depression rather than the illness of depression. By that I mean that we can't insure we won't ever be hit by depression. However, we can insure, by educating ourselves, that when we do get hit, we don't have to become ill with depression. 

We can use methods easily and immediately available to us; to walk away from depression and get on with our day in a more productive way than concentrating on our suffering. Depression grows with your concentration upon it. How do you not concentrate on it? That takes educated discipline. A. B.Curtiss

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Never Surrender to Depressed Feelings

Depression is extremely powerful. But it is not at all intelligent and we can outsmart it seven days a week if we practice some simple mind exercises and mental techniques. 

And this eternal striving to take charge of our thinking helps us grow stronger and more confident in ourselves.

We must refuse to act upon our depressed feelings, knowing that they are not necessarily objective reality. Depression is not regular life. It is our own private hell of self-absorption. We can't sit around and wait for our life to get fixed up so we can then jump back into it like some kind of movie.  

Our only hope is to decide, as an act of will, to get up anyway, even if we don't feel like it, and take some small positive action. Run, or take a walk, take out the garbage, make the bed, volunteer to clean up the highway. Doing anything helps.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I Wandered for Years in Confusion for Years

I spent 30-years as a manic-depressive, they call it bipolar now, wandering in confusion around my life, until I decided I would refuse all thoughts of despair because they were a waste of time and ultimately came to nothing except to exacerbate my downer feelings.

Why couldn’t I control these thoughts of mine? After all, weren’t they my thoughts, happening in my brain? Believe me I had tried despair for years and that certainly didn’t work.

I came to the rational conclusion that thinking negative or painful thoughts is a human being's most unnecessary, unintelligent and pointless activity. And I also came to the conclusion that I could choose to think any thought I wanted, that I had free choice of any thought I wanted to think. 

The conclusion I came to is that it is possible to insist that you not any longer care to think these unwanted thoughts. That it is possible to think another thought other than a negative one and insist, insist, insist on thinking your own chosen thought. So that is what I do.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Feelings are Like Electricity.

Feelings are like electricity in that it is very important that we learned control over them.

Feelings are neither rational, nor moral, and they do not have the least modicum of self—responsibility. 

Feelings have no regular, reality-based intelligence with which we can connect as, for instance, our rational mind. Feelings are like electricity, powerful but inaccessible to much of our understanding. We simply don't know why we have the feelings we do much of the time.

Like electricity, feelings simply exist and we either make use of them properly or not. We cannot avoid them. The trouble with both feelings and electricity is that unless we learn how to handle them both properly, either one of them can kill us. We cannot allow either one to be in charge of us. No pun intended.

We have pretty much been educated to the dangers of electricity. But feelings, not so much. If we want to study our feelings objectively instead of subjectively being terrorized by them, a good place to start is simply observing them without judgment. Choose a place and time where you will not be interrupted and allow yourself to observe them. As if you are a an uninvolved bystander to them instead of the victim of them. Meditation is extremely helpful for starting to get a feel for your feelings. No pun intended.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What About the Connection Between Depression and Arrogance?


In your book Depression is a Choice, you talk about the connection between depression and arrogance. Do you mean denial?


They are both underpinnings of depression—denial and arrogance. Once deep into depression, we can't imagine that we were ever the slightest bit arrogant. But we mistake feelings of helplessness for humility. There is nothing more stubborn and imperious than abject helplessness. We force everyone around us to relate to us on the basis of our depression rather than joining in with whatever others are doing and concentrating on that. Instead, we continue to focus entirely on how bad we are feeling.

The denial part is that we insist that we can’t interact with others in whatever project they have going on. We deny that it is a possibility for us to do something other than being constantly aware of our own pain.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How to Avoid Shutting the Door to New Possibilities


Can you comment further on the fact that depression is not reality. What does that really mean, practically speaking, in one's daily life?


As long as we are complaining about, or succumbing to depression, we are safe from doing anything or thinking anything that might change the status quo. Remember that the mind feels safer with a painful status quo than striving for some better unknown. The mind reasons that we have so far survived in the status quo no matter how painful and the mind can't be sure we will survive if we venture outside the status quo in which we have so far survived. The mind is not as smart as we think it is. That is why we have to manage our mind instead of allowing our mind to manage us.

I didn't know what complaining really was until I caught myself doing it all the time. I didn't know that I was unconsciously counting on having a perfect life and was therefore impatient with a normal, ordinary, mixed-bag life which alternated success and failure. I am sure that I was influenced in this by a modern-day tendency to look upon our success as more important than our character, the circumstances that befall us as more significant than how we respond to them; to look upon our roles in life as more important than our goals.

When we alternate blame, complaint, and depression like I used to do, all the doors to new possibilities are temporarily closed. We are not connected to our own present reality, and thus are not only lost to ourselves, but there is no way for us to really connect with any one else either. Depression is a wrongly triggered automatic instinct. Getting out of depression is rational, educated thinking and behavior.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How About Exercise for Depression?


I've heard that exercise is good for depression. Is that true?


Exercise is more effective than anything else for depressed patients according to studies at Duke University. They have shown that three 30-minute workouts each week brought relief equal to drug treatment. Even hard work makes a person more cheerful. 

It is my opinion that Psychology has been too interested in the study of weakness and damage and not enough interested in the study of strength and virtue 

Monday, November 2, 2015

What Am I Doing Wrong that I Get Depressed?


What am I doing wrong that I struggle with depression?


We get depressed not because we are doing something wrong, but because there are a few essential things we have never been taught how to do at all. Depression is essentially a trick of the mind. We can learn how this trick works so that we won't be fooled by it so easily. 

The way out of the trick is to realize that depression is a thought and there is no thought that we are compelled to think. We can choose not to think any thought we want by choosing another thought instead of it.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

"Putting the Lie" to a Negative Thought


If I don't "put the lie" to some of these negative thoughts won't they keep returning? Don't they need looking at? Isn't there any benefit to answering back? Or do we just say "hi thought, I am not going to pay attention to you"?  I ask because I used to do these exercises that David Burns recommends: take the thought, write it down and then categorize it under one of his ten categories of irrational thoughts and "put the lie to it.”


Any attention you give a negative thought makes it stronger.

The exercise that David Burns uses is a good example of cognitive therapy, changing rational thinking for irrational, emotional thinking. But "putting the lie" to an irrational thought can never erase it. All you can do is keep doing the exercise when the thought pops up. Once you think a thought, it is forever in your memory banks. However, the less you think any thought, the less powerful it is.

David Burns' exercise is good because doing the "putting the lie" exercise is certainly better than thinking the negative thought. But once you understand how the mind works you can see that the exercise is, in a way, just going around in circles. Once you decide that any negative thought is no longer an option, you needn't put the lie to it (which, because the brain works by learned association, can even make the negative thought stronger). The most efficient thing to do is simply turn away from the negative thought, give it no more energy and proceed to think a different, more positive, objective, or productive thought which sets you going ahead in the right way with your day. Even a nonsense thought keeps you from thinking a negative thought. And from the nonsense thought you can move on to more productive thinking.