The Book of Depression

Maybe there’ll be an exception some day, but so far everyone I’ve worked with who “suffered from depression” ended up just fine once I explained to them how their consciousness worked. They all genuinely thought they were afflicted with some disease and so subconsciously they weren’t even really looking for a way to have significant influence over their daily experience they just wanted help enduring it.

55 Relax and Succeed - You cannot prevent the birds of sadnessI often get very rewarding credit for changing people but my students would tell you all I do is point out people’s own power. The reason we get confused is that when we’re young no one teaches us to use our consciousness. Other than being named it’s barely mentioned during life unless you take it up as a speciality in university—or like me; get hit on the head really hard. And yet despite people’s general ignorance about it our consciousness is where we spend all of our time. So I don’t change people, I just inform and then coach their consciousness. If they try what I suggest it will be the experiences they have that changes them.

We all have terrible experiences in our life and some are worse than others but in every kind of life there’s someone who’s turned out happy and successful. The difference between that and being depressed is very subtle.

Depressed people are often isolated because they’re depressing to be around. Their friends love them but they love them so they don’t want to see them in agony. They stay away. And why are they depressed? Until they’ve suffered enough that they’re ready to change they’ll always argue with me about this vehemently but in virtually every case the reason’s generally very simple; without being aware of it depressed people will spend their days thinking sad and painful victim-centred thoughts. (You can be assured that over the years I’ve heard every reason you can imagine about why I’m wrong about that but it never matters to me because my students keep getting better.)

56 Relax and Succeed - You can't start the next chapterImagine there a big bookcase with a person’s entire history in it. They keep returning to the same sad shelves over and over, re-reading the same sad books over and over and over, hoping that some day the outcome of the story will change.

We’ve all done it. Depressed people are just really good at it and they don’t get sick of it and naturally pull out. That’s because they often grew up around someone just like them, so being sad most of the time is considered normal. Because of that they don’t have the same impetus to shift to something more enjoyable. They don’t think that belongs to them.

Your existence is constituted by whatever your consciousness is focused on. So your consciousness doesn’t really differentiate between your life and some life you’re experiencing through something like a book, or through your own memories or daydreams. The sadness or happiness will come from your experience of thinking about the events and it won’t matter whether or not they are real or fictional; the chemistry in your brain will be the same. So if you found something sad when it happened then re-living it will certainly be sad again. It’s no different than burning your hand. If you sticking it back in the fire it’ll burn again.

55 Relax and Succeed - The law of attractionThe real trouble with re-reading those chapters is that it trains us to think in those terms: sad ones. And so we start to see everything from that perspective and we become a victim by assuming we have no power. We tell people they don’t understand as though we are the only person out of seven billion that’s been devastatingly sad, or who’s had to deal with challenging circumstances.

This isn’t to make light of it. Quite the opposite. This is me saying: yes life has some really awful parts to it. But since those are inevitable why spend any time worrying when we can’t avoid them? We just have to let them happen and then stop thinking about them. I can’t spend my time re-reading chapters of betrayal or abuse or cruelty and then expect to enjoy my day. If we keep re-reading / re-living the sad or angry parts of life we’ll end up making the kinds of decisions a sad or angry person would make. And those are rarely wise.

56 Relax and Succeed - In Zen we don't find the answersSo you can fantasise about how it would have been if you stayed together—or if you got back together. You can fantasise about what you’d say to put them in their place. You can fantasise how they would apologise to you. Or you can just not think about them at all thereby freeing yourself up to have new happy experiences rather than perpetually using your present to re-live the tragic events of your past.

Stop saying you’re depressed when what’s really happening is that you’re spending way too much of your time sitting around thinking sad thoughts. The reason you’re talking to yourself is because we’re social animals and you’ve cut yourself off too much. Spend time with people. Even strangers. Get connected. It’s your nature, and denying that will hurt.

Forget the pages of your past. Focus on writing your future. Your life was not designed as a book to be read, it is only a book to be written.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

3 thoughts on “The Book of Depression

  1. Anna March 5, 2013 / 9:21 am

    You’re categorically an idiot.
    Do you also believe you can think cancer away?
    While positive thinking can definitely help depression (it’s called cognitive behavioral therapy and you didn’t invent it), actual differences in the production of neurotransmitters is the biggest part of the problem.
    People who are depressed think about negative things because they are depressed, not vice versa. What you are talking about is just being down, not clinical depression.
    Give your head a shake and hopefully you are not telling depressed loved ones it’s their fault because of faulty thinking.
    Thanks for adding to the stigma.

    • relaxandsucceed March 5, 2013 / 10:53 am

      Thank you for your comment. I was wondering when this point of view would show up. I’ll do my best to address each of your points.

      Firstly, you’re welcome to your opinion on my intelligence. Also, I have no idea if cancer can be influenced by thought, but I suspect so. Even then, what you or I believe is irrelevant to what’s possible. Science can’t explain these people either:

      As for inventing things—allow me to reiterate that I’m not teaching anything proprietary. This is what every kid does and that is not Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I’m merely showing people what I and my students actually do. And because they could laugh even while they were “clinically depressed,” clearly they did have capacity to generate the required chemistry. They just needed to learn to manage that ability.

      I understand that your view is steeped in our culture’s medical narrative. But I believe you’ll agree that no one requires anyone elses approval in order to be healthy. With no offense intended, I feel safe in saying that my students care much more about the fact that they are happy when they used to be defined as depressed, than they care about the opinion of someone who would write to them under the email handle I’m also confident that now that they’re healthy, they would understand that it was you who was adding to the stigma and not I.

      Despite our disagreements, I sincerely thank you for providing this much-needed counter-argument. Enjoy your day.

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