Depression has the power to rob you of all possible joy, and those of you who are suffering from any form of depression know that it can affect your whole life. Family, productivity, career and social relationships become caught up in the downward spiral of mood and energy and render you feeling helpless. Sadness, hopelessness and a general lack of interest in life can be close behind.
Not surprisingly, depression is one of the most common symptoms of adults who come from dysfunctional homes. Who wouldn’t be sad if they had been physically or sexually abused, made to feel like they didn’t matter, ridiculed, abandoned or driven to perform like a circus monkey? Depression is a natural reaction if you are never validated as an individual, are ridiculed regularly for what you’re thinking, are called names, or live through endless put-downs or tirades of negativity. Ditto if your parent’s happiness revolved around your ability to “perform” as expected.
Genetically and/or Biologically Based?
Many readers will be wondering, “Isn’t depression genetic and biological? Isn’t that what you have been told since roughly the nineties? Doesn’t this mean you are a victim of a bad disease and have to just manage symptoms?” No, there are actually no studies that can conclude that depression is genetically based. There are, however, some illnesses and medical conditions that can cause medical depressions, including hypothyroidism, some heart conditions, and hormonal imbalances (more so in women). True Bipolar Depression is also a very serious medical condition requiring ongoing professional treatment. Some medications such as birth control and hormone treatments are also capable of producing depressive symptoms.
Another very common belief today is that there are chemical imbalances in the brain that cause depression. However, there are conflicting theories as to whether you were born that way or whether chronic stress, your environment, poor diet and worry produce the “bad chemicals.” These bad chemicals, such as cortisol, can take over the “good chemicals,” such as serotonin and dopamine, which are needed for mood stability. This can be corrected.
A major life event may have left you reeling in its wake or you may just feel a pervasive sadness that is difficult to shake. You may be experiencing isolation and loneliness resulting from a move or an illness. If you were raised in a dysfunctional system you most likely have learned thought patterns that can keep you unhappy without you even realizing it. The key here is that they were learned patterns, not genes handed down to you like hair color. Dysfunctional thought patterns can be traced back many generations just by remembering things that were said to you or ideas that were thought to be true by family members. This is why you often see many depressed members in one family. They often have shared abusive or other dysfunctional family styles so they think alike.
Recognizing and eliminating these thought patterns are the focus of today’s post.
The Simple Equation
The equation that I want to share with you is the first key to overcoming these dysfunctional depressive thoughts. It also works for anxiety and anger management so if those are also issues that haunt you please apply this to those as well. This equation is one that Cognitive Psychologists have been teaching clients forever. It is simple to learn and once you master the idea you are well on your way to feeling better. It is as follows:
Thought = Physiological Response
What this means is that every thought you have carries with it a physiological response or a shift in your body processes. Think about it. When you think about negative things or have upsetting thoughts, you have different bodily sensations than when you’re thinking about positive things or have uplifting thoughts. These bodily responses don’t come out of the blue. They’re directly related to your thoughts and interpretations. Below are a few examples of the emotions you experience stemming from different sorts of thoughts.
Scary thought (I’m going to fail)= Panic and anxiety = Heart racing, hot or cold flashes, etc.
Sad thought (I’ll never find love)= Sadness, Drain of energy = Fatigue.
Perception of another’s wrongdoing (That jerk cut me off on purpose)= Anger = Adrenaline and cortisol surge.
Happy thought (I’m doing something fun today)=uplifting of mood, anticipation=more energy, smiling face.
I’m not saying that bad or scary things don’t happen, or that when they do, you should be immune to them. Of course we are going to feel fear if there is a threat or grief or sadness with a loss.
The point is that your thoughts have all the control over your emotions. That is actually good news as your mind and your thoughts are actually the only things in life you have any control over. Learning to control your thoughts and the words that make up your thoughts will have an immediate impact on your overall mood.
So chances are, if you are finding yourself depressed more days than not, you are engaging in some life sucking thoughts. Keep track next time you feel very badly and see what your immediate prior thought was, I bet it was terrible! And usually not true or fact based, just something you happened to think. Change that thought to something new and see how you feel. It works.
You may be in a less than desirable situation right now and often that is when the worst of your thoughts come along, those like: “I will never be free”, “never have a better job”, “never be out of debt”, “never get another boyfriend”, you get the picture.
Do you have any evidence of any of that? Not likely. Your thoughts are better focused on questions to yourself like “How do I fix this mess? “What do I need to do to make this change?” These thoughts put you in the driver’s seat of your life and create momentum which is exactly what you need when you are in a mess. Wallowing in the mess get’s you nowhere and makes you feel worse. It’s a downward spiral that takes away all your own power. Change those thoughts immediately.
I often get some resistance here from clients who feel I am trying to change their personality. Let me clarify that that is not what is happening. The negative or scary thought patterns are hardly ever a product of your own personality. They are ways that you have been taught to look at and interpret the world around you. They find roots in our parent’s attempts to protect us and teach us based on what they thought to be true or understood. They are usually products of poor coping skills or problem solving abilities. A general lack of knowledge in any given area can create fear when encountered. These are all learned things, not an inherent part of your personality.
So this has been the first step in a learning process designed to help you to feel better quickly. I hope that you feel empowered and hopeful that you too can lead a happy and satisfying life of your own design. You have mastered an important concept.
There is an entire process I use also for recognizing the negative thoughts and eliminating them, please go to my free download “How to Break Free From 12 Screwy Thought Patterns” for that information https://psychskills.com/
Please feel free to email me any questions you may have at email@example.com