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An Insider Approach to Your Mental Health


Years ago when I was doing my post doctorate residency I saw a flyer for a depression group. It said “Fight Your Depression: Join Today.” In that moment, and even now, I thought that statement couldn’t be more wrong especially when the aim with overcoming depressive mood or thoughts is to come to peace, especially with oneself. Going to war with ourselves only increases our distress because as the saying goes, “what we resist, persists.”

Our conditioning can be so severe that even the thought of facing our uncomfortable feelings physically and/or emotionally leads to the automatic negative thought “I can’t do this.” Depending on your mood, that thought will seem more or less believable. In other words, a thought is not a fact but rather a product of your mood or feeling in that moment.

However, if we are able to slowly face our fears, and understand and accept this part of ourselves that feels insecure and in pain, we can begin to change our relationship to our feelings of hurt. The moment we notice we’re at war with our difficult emotions is the moment when we’re sitting in the space¬†between¬†stimulus and response. The choice, possibility, and freedom we experience in that space is what I call The Now Effect.

3 thoughts on “An Insider Approach to Your Mental Health

  • August 8, 2018 at 12:47 am

    Thank you for sharing this insightful piece. I found it appropriate to my current thoughts and battle with my own demons. I honestly never thought mental health would affect me until I began working in the field and attended psychotherapy which opened up a whole other world of the need for self-care.

    Reply
  • August 8, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Hi Elisha

    My therapist has recommended ACT, which seems very similar to the mindfulness approach you mention in this article. I believe I have a lot of stored up anger, which is the source of my depression. I believe ACT advocates that rather than constrict the anger, I should “expand” into it.

    I have been doing this for about a week now, but have found that letting this anger expand or “run free” has resulted in a lot of residual anger being left in me, even after I have stopped practicing the expansion. The downside to this is that when I feel angry I find it a lot more difficult to think straight, and I also find it very tiring.

    Do you know if the “expansion” is supposed to be freeing the anger, which will eventually allow it to move on and therefore worth continuing to do? Or is the point simply to learn to live with the anger? If so, it doesn’t feel beneficial to have to deal with the tiredness and impairment to thinking that comes along with accepting the anger.

    I appreciate you must be busy, but any thoughts you could offer would be great.

    Thanks

    Chris

    Reply
  • August 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Dear Chris,
    I know that you were asking Elisha, but I felt moved to reply to what you have written about opening up to the anger, and about how tired and muddled it has left you. You ask if the eventual aim is to allow the anger to move on, or whether it is to learn to live with it (and the muddled exhaustion it leaves you with).

    Perhaps I can suggest a different model that may help. Every day, you have been walking down a path in your mind, where anger and sadness and other emotions have been sprouting up like tall weeds on either side, and you’ve been coping by walking the same worn path every day. The problem is that the end of the path is not a destination you want to be – it is depression and frustration. In order to get to a new destination, or to explore the other options, you have to be able to beat a new path through these unpleasant emotions. This is HARD! And it is tempting to get back on the easy path of burying emotions. But with practice, you will be able to do it. It still won’t be as easy, but it may be much more rewarding.

    Unfortunately, one week is not enough time to relearn to habits of a lifetime, and you will be constantly having to correct your path, and face up to things that you had become very good at suppressing. But every day that you make progress in this will be a day you are practising walking a new path – in fact, even the days you fail, and your anger takes you right back to the negative place – if you can notice this, then that is practising as well.

    Anger is a tough old emotion, a bit like a thistle, that can tear you up if you brush past too harshly – but thistles are not useless, not ugly if they are in the right place and handled well. Try talking about things that make you angry with someone you can trust. See if they can find another way of looking at things. You may find that anger can lead you to determination or compassion or resignation, that will give you an indication of how you can move on – not to avoid anger but to become a better you.

    I find that just knowing that I can make the choice between reacting in my old pattern, or choosing to respond differently, gives me hope that someday I will be the best me I can be.

    With every hope for you,
    Kat.

    Reply
 

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