Posts Tagged ‘depression’

In writing a book on Depression I have been comparing ancient wisdom – that of Buddhism, Bushido and Red Indian philosophy, with current wisdom from the last 100 years. The following section, compares the quest for happiness (Freud) with the search for meaning (Frankl). At this point, I turn the draft over to you for feedback. Sometimes the best ideas are yours as they rebound back at you. Please use the comment bar below to offer your response. (more…)


“Why on earth did you do that?”

The voice came out of the blue.

It sounded like my father’s advice to me as I was growing up. I could hear the voice clearly in my head but dismissed it as being an old tape playing. Like a conversation that you had years ago that you can easily recall.

Only problem was that it made perfect sense. Like a voice of logic.

I argued back that I was only 17 at the time. That I didn’t know.

“But couldn’t you see that buying that car was a waste of money?” 

I then came out with a cliche of my own, “If only I knew then what I know now.”

Making decisions about what to do with current situations is easy if you have an all knowing spiritual being helping you. A Scrooge-like character that advises what will happen if you take a particular course of action. He doesn’t judge your actions. He is a passive observer that can be called on at any time. He just talks to you calmly and then drifts away whilst you get on with your original plan. It’s years later that you learn to listen to his sage advice. It’s only after time and time again of him being right that you realise that common sense does prevail.

That is what this book is about. It’s about separating the chatter of well meaning internal dialogue and acting on reliable advice. The kind of advice that is in all of us. It just gets rationalised by our emotions. Remember that emotions are knee-jerk reactions that are a result of past experiences. Problem is they get twisted and in the end we act contrary to what we know is right.

Our lives are punctuated by trauma.

Unfortunately the enlightenment we seek happens at the end of the trauma. Can’t we have the enlightenment without the trauma? Can’t we just learn the lesson without the pain? Why do the good feelings hide under the trauma in a game of hide and seek?

Each time we experience difficulty, we look to the enlightenment that we know comes as a result.

“What’s my lesson I have to learn?” I say.

Whether we like it or not, we have to face each impending disaster.  We wait until the event is over but often are doomed to repeat the situation. Unless we grow. Unless we learn.

We look to avert the next disaster by seeking refuge in religion, distraction, cheap thrills or addictions.

The big question is how many traumas does it take? We are often traumatised by life’s rotten apples and have even given it a name. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s actually an opportunity for growth if we can separate our emotions. Post traumatic Stress Opportunity. PTSO.


That sounds better.

(The ebook, “If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now” is due for release via Kindle in February 2015. Follow this blog to learn more)

We all do it. 

You probably did it as you read the title.

Choosing thoughts needs to be quick.

You definitely did it as you looked at the picture.

Our critical mind judges in an instant.

We play ‘devil’s advocate’ and call it ‘reality’.
This process was originally designed to save your life in the form of an adrenaline surge when we were flooded with fear after hearing a lion’s roar. It demanded our attention and jolted us out of our daily chores.

Makes sense so far.

Later, we detected situations where danger was likely and the same thoughts entered our conscious mind. Then adrenalin. Just like Pavlov’s dog, we found ourselves sweating as we entered the scene of our last encounter. But it helped us to survive. Being smarter than the average bear, the signs and signals of danger made a permanent imprint on our minds and we gained control over most situations.

This permanent imprint now follows us and creates it’s own havoc today. With few situations that threaten to cull our population, the thought process continues. It means we remember the negative more than the positive.

We need to un-learn this, but not completely as it still has value.

So where to now?

We need perspective. And a story to illustrate the process that is necessary.

The Monk And The River

Two monks were walking on a narrow trail near the base of the Tian Shan Mountains, in Northern China. They had both taken a vow of celibacy and silence. Mile after mile they consciously walked without talking. After a while they came to a shallow river. At the bank of the river was a beautiful young girl who was looking for a crossing. As the monks approached, the first monk picked her up, carried her across the river, put her down and continued walking. The other monk was exasperated and after sometime could hold back no more. He exclaimed, “How could you do that? How could you pick up that beautiful young girl?”

The other monk replied, “My friend, I put her down on the bank of the river. Why are you still carrying her?

It’s Not That Hard.

So like the monk, we need to drop mental baggage when we decide it is not necessary. Deciding on the validity of a thought can happen in a split second. Without energy. The trick is to smile as you do it.

Smile? Yes, smile. Well maybe not on the outside but on the inside.

You see, we may not have the ability to stop a thought from entering our head, but we sure can decide on whether or not it is useful.

Here is an example:

Imagine waking up from a nightmare. As we realise we were asleep, our logic says, “It was just a dream’. We instantly relax and smile. The same process can help us weed out negative thoughts.

“Ah, it’s just anger.”

“Ah, it’s just jealousy.”

“Ah, it’s just regret.”

Labelling thoughts puts them in a box and allows us to move to something that will help us enjoy life. To enjoy the moment.

Your next thought will come whether you like it or not.

It just did then.

“Wake up. It’s just dream.”

Not ‘Funny Ha Ha’… but ‘Funny Strange’.

When your life is in danger you will do anything to avoid the impending trauma.
But in the absence of a threat, we question what it’s all for.

Confused? Me too.

Enter Kevin Briggs, a California law enforcement officer whose beat covers The Golden Gate bridge. Kevin has talked to hundreds of people as they stood looking down at the water 245 feet (75 metres) below, ready to jump. His estimations are that he has dissuaded over 200 people from the suicidal leap. Of those that did and survived (low percentage) they all said that the moment they jumped, they wish they hadn’t. THAT doesn’t make sense.

More than 1,400 people have jumped off the bridge since it opened in 1937 with only 2% surviving the fall and of that small slice only 4% were able to walk again, according to the Golden Gate Bridge transit district.

Sometimes we need to turn to a professional to get some perspective when grappling with some of life’s deep questions. So let’s get some advice from Mr. Victor Frankl, a trained Psychologist and Neurologist who happened to live in Austria during the 2nd World War and was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. When the average life span of a concentration camp detainee was somewhere between 3 weeks and 3 months, Mr. Frankl survived 3 years.
As a trained psychologist, his assessment of those that died and those that lived made him realise happiness is not the key. Meaning is. Those that find meaning for their existence are much better off than those that chase happiness.
His theory is called Logotherapy where meaning is the ‘primary motivational force in life’.

Aaah, now that is starting to make sense.

So let’s look at the meaning that others have found. Here are 5 examples of people who found a cause that drives them:
1) Adam Braun – Adam started Pencils of Promise where he builds schools for impoverished kids in third world countries.
2) Sam Kahamba Kutesa – This year Sam was elected President of the United Nations General Assembly’s sixty-ninth session. His vision of our world is far greater than any of our day to day headaches.
3) Al Gore – Mr Gore lost the US Presidential election but then went on to become the world’s foremost speaker on climate change. Instead of reflecting on his losses, he focussed on the job he had in front of him.
4) David Bryant – After retirement as a teacher and school principal, David found himself directionless. Shortly after he volunteered for a position teaching poor children in the Maldives. His passion for giving came back in an instant and at an age when others slow down, David is travelling and making a difference.
5) Team Hoyt – Fathering a cerebral palsy child is enough to give anyone meaning in their life. But Dick Hoyt motivates thousands if not millions of athletes by pushing or towing his son in countless triathlons and marathons. He says that his son Rick’s smile as they cross the finish line gives him motivation every day.

What next?

Search. Search for something that keeps you awake at night.
Something that will have you up at 5 in the morning motivated to make a difference.
Find a cause that upsets you.
Or one that fires you up.
Then find out how to act.
Then, commit.

Get Victor Frankl’s Book by clicking on this link: Man’s Search for Meaning, Gift Edition

In Thaiboxing, the brutal national sport of Thailand, fighters fight full contact for 5 x 3 minute rounds. Blood is plentiful. Knockouts a regular event. Lots of money and bright futures for the winners.

Now an interesting phenomenon happens in the last round when a fight is one-sided. Quite often the winner will stay stay away from the loser saving them both injury. They’ve effectively “give up the fight” knowing the end is near and the result obvious. Plus they want to fight again the next week.

Pretty logical.

So is it giving up when the end is in sight and the result is obvious? Is that what Robin Williams did? Was it as rational as the action of the Thai fighter?


I’m definitely no better than you.
Only difference is, right now, I’m writing this and you’re reading it.
I could talk to you about life events. Things that I don’t have a monopoly on.


Not being mean or anything. Just saying that this is a law. It’s not meant to be nice. Just true. (more…)


The picture itself is 15 years old. I remember it like it happened yesterday.  (more…)

I was in the waiting room of a hospital for my son today. He was having four wisdom teeth removed. It was an excellent time for reflection as waiting rooms force you to sit with very little to do. I also had flashbacks of my own heart surgery last year, other visits to hospitals and even a week in a mental clinic in 2004. 

I reflected on my efforts to shake my own depression.
At the time, I tried alcohol but that was temporary.
My next effort really made a difference. Extreme sports. I jumped out of an aeroplane and bungee jumped. Both within the same week. I took massive risks when surfing. I even travelled to northern Brazil and surfed a wave down the Amazon river.
All life-threatening events.
All meant to jolt me out of my state at the time.
A bit like when someone is in a trance and you clap your hands in front of their face and they snap out of it.
That’s what depressed people try to do. They do crazy things to jolt them out of their current state.
We think they are crazy but to the sufferer, it is completely logical and therefore understandable.Image

These efforts are where suicide victims exist. Self termination is the ultimate way to jolt yourself out of depression. (World’s biggest understatement.)
A permanent answer to a temporary problem.
The only problem is that after suicide the depression jumps to family members. The ones left behind. Definitely not something you would wish on your loved ones.
So where to now?
Like my son’s dental procedure it is now a mix of medication and exercises.
The jaw exercises for wisdom teeth removal are to ensure that the affected area will return to full movement in the long run.
It’s the same with depression.
Physical exercise is a necessity for a return to normal life for the depressed.
Psychological exercises are also a necessity for a return to normal life. They help manage the pain of dental procedure and of psychological pain.
Unfortunately, this is where this article reaches its limit. Only qualified psychological help will give you the tools to control the damage for today and for the future.
But the onus is also on you to educate yourself in this process. Not only is it easier to educate yourself, it’s also cheaper.
Cheaper is good.
Don’t you think?’



If there is one story that defines what goes on inside me – then it is this. It is reproduced from my martial arts blog:

This next piece is going to be a confession of sorts.
Honesty that is not usually spoken out loud but takes place in all of us at some stage.

The situation took place recently.

My instructor stood at the front of the class with his highest ranks next to him. I was one of them. He announced to the class that there were some brown belts looking at black belt and how excited he was at the prospect. The black belt on my left nudged me, as if to say the instructor was talking about me. I looked at him and shook my head as if to say, “No he doesn’t mean me.”

Hang on, why not?

And where did that negativity come from?

Then I thought maybe I am my own worst enemy when it comes to backing my judgement and belief in myself. Maybe I am holding myself back from going to the next level. Maybe focusing on what I have achieved is stopping me from what I can achieve in the future.

Ouch, that’s ego.

Surely not me. Surely after 30 years plus of training I would possess the tenacity of a lion when it comes to achievement in any martial art. What happened was the ‘human’ side of me surfaced. The voice of the teenager who originally started martial arts to become confident still sits in there. Refusing to admit that this alter ego no longer exists is the same as believing that your instructor was always a black belt. Everyone struggles. Everyone has self doubt. Those who stick with their struggles overcome them in the long run. It is just a matter of time.

The Rain Dance
Researchers some time ago heard about a tribe in Africa that had a 100% success rate with their rain dance. Other tribes recorded a 50/50 success rate (sometimes it rained, sometimes it didn’t!) When they tracked down this tribe, they looked at the type of dance, the location, the words they used and everything they did in their particular ritual. Everything matched what other tribes did. They found no reason to have such an incredible record. Then one variable surfaced that made all the difference. They danced UNTIL it rained. So as humans wanting to achieve, it seems we underestimate the power of Osu No Seishin – Perseverance Under Pressure.

So what now?

Keep moving. The confidence and calmness that you desire lies on the other side of difficulty. Your instructors job is to present that difficulty. Your job is to confront it.