Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Ridding yourself of negative thoughts is impossible. As parents we know this when our child is crying. We make them laugh or show them something that interests them and within moments they are laughing. They have at least forgotten the trauma.Real mud

As adults we must replace negative distractions with positive obsessions. You see, by concentrating on defeating something like depression your focus increases the subject of your thoughts. That is, depression. It’s like trying not to think of your father. Instantly his face springs to mind.

To combat depression all you need is an idealistic goal to chase. Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who found himself in a concentration camp, accepted his place in the world, he just didn’t focus on it. He focused on the difference he wanted to make. He looked at how he could make a difference even though he was confined to Auschwitz with death all around him.

Okay, you are not in a concentration camp. But as the saying goes, “Man can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell”. So it’s up to you. It’s up to what you concentrate on.

Mud

Do you see burnt trees or new growth? If you have read this far, you know that the intended answer is new growth. The trick is realising that the fire caused the new growth.

It’s all about perspective.

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The way to make a massive difference in someone’s life is to give them good advice and to show you care.
Here’s an example…
I was witness to a serious case of bullying last year. Actually it was more of a full blown assault than simple bullying really. As I was the witness I was standing in the Principal’s office with the main offender. He had been caught red-handed. I expected the principal to show him the consequence of such a serious breach of school rules. I expected a dose of old fashioned discipline. 

What happened next showed me the power of personal relationships. The Principal looked at the boy and said, “Has your mum had the baby yet?” (He knew the boy’s mother was expecting.) The answer was, ‘Yes – yesterday.’ 
The Principal’s next reply was classic. He said, “When you leave for home today, take some roses from the school garden for your Mum.” 
The boy nodded. 
He then said, “Now, tell me what happened.”
Call this compassion, call this a pattern break, call it what you like. It worked. The boys tough exterior melted and he told the truth.

The Dalai Lama was right.

Nothing beats compassion.

“Learning is to a man as the leaves and branches are to a tree, and it should be said that he simply should not be without it.” So said Takeda Shingen, one of Japan’s best known generals who lived in the 1500’s. At age 52 he was hit by a bullet and died, but not before his legacy of knowledge had been recorded for all those who wished to see what a life of warfare had taught.

So it seems that a warrior can steel himself for battle not only by hard physical training but also by improving his academic abilities. If this logic holds, we can therefore create a life that rewards us more by following the same path. We can create happiness more easily than by just ‘trying harder’ – as our well meaning friends and relatives urge. If we research and see how others have dealt with difficulty, we find the same thing. Not only does it transport us to a higher level, we actually feel less alone. We realise that others who have come before us have also struggled (sometimes more than we have.) Our pain becomes more palatable purely through comparison with the trauma of others.

The question now becomes where do we look for guidance?

If the Samurai looked to the victors of the past, so should we. We should look to those who have left a record of actions that created a fulfilling life. Surely someone else has met with similar difficulty and has triumphed through a series of actions that will allow us to experience similar results.

The Samurai knew that attention to detail on a daily basis would lead to victory in a range of activities. They would not miss their regular training as they knew that hardening their resolve in battle came through defeating common human weaknesses. They knew that each time they didn’t attend to trivial household duties left them with the knowledge that they had chipped away at their level of discipline.

‘A nine storey tower begins with the foundation’ is a saying accredited to the ancient Samurai. In this same way, our foundation of attention to seemingly little things is the foundation upon which we build a character strong enough to withstand anxiety, panic, despondency and depression.

Quite often this can be as simple as rising earlier than normal and getting organised. It can then be improved upon by a short period of reading every day. Reading for a small period of time every day will bring about more emotional intelligence than 10 hours of last minute research when confronted with psychological pain.

At that point, it is often too late.

Rising early

Justin is 54. When he was 12 years of age he started competitive swimming. This lasted throughout his teens. Five days a week, up at 5 AM to do an hour in the pool.

You remember those kids. Wet hair at school at 8:30am.

When Justin’s competitive years finished in his late teens he kept up the early morning ritual. He still does it today.

He says that the early morning ritual sets him up physically and mentally for the rest of the day.

The point is not that swimming is the answer. The point is that the ritual is the answer.

A Ritual Gives You Perspective.

Ever notice that you can see things clearly when you are distant from them? Holidays in remote locations give us the clarity that is absent when we are in the thick of things. Early morning rituals provide a snapshot and the same result.

But perspective of what? It is sometimes called a helicopter to the ceiling. It means separating yourself from your day to day life and stepping back.

Leadership

Psycho hygiene.

Victor Frankl, author of  “Man’s Search For Meaning” talks about psycho hygiene. As author of one of the most interesting books around which is an account of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl coins the term psycho hygiene. As we all know, physical hygiene means small things done on a daily basis to contribute to glowing health. Psycho hygiene would therefore mean the same thing. Small things done on a regular basis that contribute to good mental health. A good routine every morning is one of the many things that contribute to solid mental health.

Mine is simple. Meditation, Goal writing in a journal and 15 minutes on a personal project. (The actual project isn’t important)

That’s it.

Simple and effective.

Keeps me balanced and happy.

The number of people who blame their childhood on their problems is huge. They say, “If I had a better start in life I wouldn’t have all these problems”. Well, every day you get a fresh start but it isn’t that easy. Our childhood trauma lingers in the form of memories that trigger the original feelings that we experienced. 
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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.

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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’.

Example:
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.
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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?

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