THE ART OF DEPRESSION (Part 2)

"Man is not the creature of circumstances; circumstances are the creatures of men."
                                                             Benjamin Disraeli
"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world."
The Buddha
Believing they have little control over their destinies, people who act depressed consistently let life happen to them. Does this mean that if you believe you can do some thing, you can do that thing; and if you don't believe it, you probably cannot? A Belief may be thought of as a large categorical "chunk" of stored experiences-- like a library for a class of information. When you believe something is "true", you access powerful internal experiences from that "library" that compel some behavior. Think of a belief as delivering a direct command to your nervous system. Beliefs can be empowering resources in your life. A successful businessman often believes himself to be confident, convincing and "congruent" (i.e., his body language, posture voice tone and words match).
People who communicate well believe they possess superior social skills that allow them to feel comfortable in a variety of work and personal situations. The power of effective beliefs is evident even at the level of human physiology. Most of us are aware of the "placebo effect." When given a drug and told it will have a certain effect, people often report experiencing that effect, although the "drug" had been an empty pill with no medicinal properties! In a similar vein, studies in hypnosis have generated cases in which someone experiencing pain had been convinced that the pain shifted to another part of the body; or disappeared only to return under certain conditions. On the other hand, beliefs that limit your thoughts and actions can be devastating. If we believe we are lonely, despondent failures, incapable of relating emotionally to another, we will act that way-- depressed. If we believe we cannot concentrate, or learn; or believe nothing we do will make a difference to improve a situation (i.e. lack of control), we will also act in a depressed fashion. And if we believe that life is terrible and not worth living, we will go around acting pessimistically and weepy; alienate others and in so doing, confirm other negative beliefs!
Believe it or not, your beliefs can be a conscious choice. You can choose those which support you, or those that limit you. Thus, a useful format for combating depression involves selecting beliefs that enhance your success at some endeavor, and discarding those which hold you back. Essentially, this means that in order to stop acting depressed you need to modify some beliefs. If those limiting beliefs, supported by a multitude of negative experiences seem too overwhelming for you to change alone, take comfort in the fact that you don't have to be...there is help out there.
A popular idea in eliminating depression is that it is important to reconnect with negative, painful experiences from the past that "caused" the depression in order to be able to let go of them once and for all. However, when you do this, you are accessing an unresourceful state of consciousness; and the chances of your producing new, more resourceful beliefs and attendant behaviors is greatly diminished! In fact, this idea may inadvertently reinforce the depressed pattern. Rather, than trying to change content, it may be more useful to consider changing the structure or pattern of negative beliefs--how they are represented, internally-- and replace them with more positive ones. Some depressed people see a "dim" future; or have a lot of things "weighing heavily" on their minds; or "blow things out of proportion." Have you ever had a negative "little voice" that wouldn't shut up? Often, we assume these phrases are just metaphors and not real. However, they are quite precise descriptions of internal experiences.
Challenge those negative beliefs by weakening them while simultaneously strengthening more positive beliefs. Alter your sensory experiences! "Brighten" that picture of your future in your “mind’s eye.” Add color. Reduce the proportion of a bad experience, place a border around it! Then run it as a movie; a cartoon; then backwards! Reduce the volume of that internal voice, make it softer, farther away, flirtatious, with your favorite song in the background. Feel "floaty" and enlightened. Do changes in these internal representations alter your beliefs that lead to acting depressed?
There are those that may believe acting depressed is their true way of being that is incapable of changing, but possibly manageable with medication; and altering internal thoughts, changing components of your sensory experiences in the ways suggested is a tenuous solution at best. Then perhaps you can pretend to believe you are capable of changing unresourceful beliefs that generate depressed behaviors, remembering that you cannot really alter “depression” and that you are only pretending...and then maybe you will forget you are pretending... and enjoy the rest of your life.