Category Archives: Helpful Thinking

My mind has a mind of its own

One of our family’s favorite camping areas, is a small park that provides many positive experiences for those who love the outdoors. In fact, just the name of the park, brings to mind the days of the past. The park’s name, Buffalo Trace, let us know that thousands of buffalo roamed through this area, years ago, following a beaten path, that led to the open plains of the Dakotas. Even today, there is a physical trace of the path that once saw the presence of these large and majestic animals, crossing the continent of the United States.

Just like the physical trace of those many buffalo, moving along their annual travels, our human brain also creates familiar mind paths. All living beings are creatures of habit.

For example, because of a construction detour, I was forced to take a different route home from work. Guess what happens? My mind’s GPS is confused, everything looks different. Our mental map has changed. This new route to get home, has now been turned into a labyrinth, making a familiar way to return home, now becomes a major problem.

I like to think of our mind as the executor of various tasks, mental, emotional and physical, motivating us to accomplish the need at hand. But, if the human mind, continues to bombard us with those negative thoughts telling us how worthless and hopeless we are, over time, it becomes a veritable impossibility to make a change. Our continued negative thinking, has created a pattern of thinking about ourselves, which holds no hope for change. It is like our mind has created a neurological rut, where the mind has no choice but to stay the course. That is, to stay in the rut, to stay depressed, as there is no way out.

For any of us, to even think of changing one’s mind and behavior, can in itself, be frightening. The motivation and energy needed to change is no longer available. To change our hopeless thinking has reduced us to feel like a robot, losing our autonomy and all formerly meaningful relationships. A false belief has been created in our mind that there is no way out. We begin spiraling downward into that abyss of darkness and annihilation.

What we are describing here is a metaphor for all addictions, be that of a mind altering drug or a process addiction where the mind follows a thinking pattern, which fills our mind with painful thoughts, that we are hopeless, unacceptable to ourselves and others. We are initially unaware that this negative and self-bashing addictive form of thinking and feeling, is potentially a life threatening trap. This mind of our own, which now has become our misguided fellow traveler, tells us there is no hope and that we are powerless! We take this as a truth. We now feel like the hole in the doughnut. Empty, alone, and living as a prisoner of one’s own mind.

So, our mind does have a mind of its own, and when it veers off the path of sanity, of honesty and a willingness to want to change, we discover sadly that we have been led to a place where thriving is not a personal option. The good news for us is that my mind can choose a road that provides freedom and restoration. In time, and with help, I have come to the absolute truth, that our minds do have a mind of their own. I am grateful that I have made the right choice–a choice that says, “I Came to believe that a power, (an eternal MIND) greater than ourselves, that could restore us to sanity.”

“Hope is the oxygen for the soul.”

Hugh S., for the fellowship.

Please join with us at our daily program of recovery at: depressdanon.com. You will be happy that you made the right choice!

When you’re depressed all you’re interested in is survival – Dorothy Rowe

 

THE ORIGINS of MISTRUST

I want to share with you how Dr. Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist, provides examples how our lack of trust can originate in early childhood. Patterns of isolating behavior and negative thinking, grow strong in a home environment where the child is not loved and nurtured.

Dr. Fitzgibbobs, tells us “that the seedbed of mistrust resides in childhood. Many times this lack of trust, of others and ourselves and the world around us, may have begun with the loss of a parent, sister, brother, or a close friend. A serious illness in a parent, sibling or oneself can be the cause of depression. Many times mistrust comes about because of an alcoholic parent so that a child never knows if a drunken loved one is coming home, or in an angry drunken stupor. Anger and rejection by caregivers and/or peers can also have an effect on the ability to trust. Parental divorce or separation can have an effect on a child. Also a cold distant, and unloving parent can have a negative effect on a child. Add to this, a legacy of mistrust and fear in the family will negatively influence a child. Finally, poverty may also be a cause of mistrust”

Brenda, (not her real name ) shares with us some of her own story:

” I have often reflected on how a lack of trust in myself and in others, had a crippling effect on my early childhood development. It was only until I began examining my own childhood, later in life, that I discovered reasons for my mistrust of others. I accomplished these discoveries by getting in touch with those early negative feelings that constantly bombarded my everyday thinking. Most of these early feelings remained unconscious and hidden, until I started to examine my childhood relationships, especially with those significant others who were my caregivers. ”

By utilizing the Depressed Anonymous Workbook with its’ 12 STEP COMMENTARY, and questions, directed toward one’s early life experiences, special attention was centered on those caregivers and significant others in one’s family, who, charged with caregiving, to provide the child with the love that a child deserves. For many children, who grew up in a home environment, filled with anger, parental arguing, and violence, made it impossible for a child to defend themselves against such abuse, including mental, sexual, and physical abuse. Some children create fantasy worlds, some with imaginary friends, with whom they can confide in and feel secure in a home environment where chaos reigns.

In our Depressed Anonymous fellowship, we can begin to open up to group members, giving us that opportunity to share and trust,\

others, who are like ourselves. We happily discovered that we are now no longer alone. Most of us come to our program of recovery, looking to find help, and that welcome relief from the daily crippling burden of depression, which has forced us to isolate from others, believing that we are not good enough.

Earlier, Dr, Fitzgibbons has listed some of the major causes of our childhood depression, and we can resonate with them within our hearts and minds. And in your moments of personal quiet and reflection, celebrate who you are and not who others say you are.

So get a notebook, and begin to write down your answers to those questions in the DA Workbook, which hold meaning for your own personal life and recovery, to which you can relate. Share your DA Workbook with your therapist, sponsor or friends in Depressed Anonymous at the ZOOM meetings online, and/or face to face meetings.

So now, not only will you be a survivor, you will no longer be a victim of those circumstances, which made you believe that you were worthless, unlovable and unacceptable. Progress, not perfection.

By completing my Fourth Step inventory, it became possible to uncover those areas of my early life which made trusting an impossibility. As mentioned earlier, and later into my early adult life, it was my own spiraling downward, into the darkness of depression, the only thing that I could think of was my survival. I was desperate to stop the descent into the darkness and physical pain. I knew that I must get active, preventing my paralyzing desire to take comfort in sleep and shut out the world.

My life is very different now. I continue to take inverntory of my life on a daily basis and I finally believe in myself and the Higher Power that has helped me believe that I have a purpose and a meaning for my life. I also believe in a power that is greater than myself and who continually leads me, everyday, on this wonderful journey of hope! Progress and not perfection.

TRUST IS A FEELING OF BEING SAFE IN RELATIONSHIPS AND IN LIFE.

HUGH S., FOR THE FELLOWSHIP

Boundaries

Definition
Boundaries are things that put a limit on something else. They clearly define the minimum or maximum. Boundaries define what is inside and what is outside. They delineate what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Boundaries can be many things to many different people. In the context of recovery and self-growth, boundaries are put into place to control the poor behavior of people and to protect one from the other.

Boundaries can be healthy or unhealthy. They can be lovingly firm or manipulative and controlling. Healthy boundaries are lovingly firm and should protect you from the poor behavior of others.

Boundaries are not perfect, you may still get hurt, but hopefully the boundary has protected you from the gravest of harm.

Firm, but flexible

Boundaries should be firm yet flexible. You may have a firm boundary where people should not yell and curse in your presence, but it should be flexible enough to allow for a loud and profane interjection after your spouse hits their thumb with a hammer. It wouldn’t permit a non-stop cursing tirade after hammering the thumb, but an involuntary curse after the hit would be understandable.

Creating and maintaining flexible and healthy boundaries can be very difficult but it is well worth the effort. Below is an example of an unhealthy boundary as it is porous.

Unhealthy boundary

Two types of boundaries

  • Protective boundaries
  • Containment boundaries

Protective boundaries are limits that I put into place to protect myself from the poor behavior of others. Protective boundaries can be put in place to prevent persistent yelling, or sarcasm, or any other poor behavior. Protective boundaries typically take the form:

When you do (specific-behavior), I will remind you of my boundary. If you continue to (specific-behavior) I will respond by doing (consequence-behavior).

For example:

When you raise your voice in anger to me I will calmly remind you of my boundary. If you continue to raise your voice in anger to me I will calmly leave the house and go for a walk or drive for between 15 minutes and an hour.

Protective boundary

Protective boundaries are not easy but they are necessary.

Containment boundaries are limits that I put into place to protect others from my poor behavior. You mean that I am not perfect? Containment boundaries typically take the form:

When you do (specific-behavior) I (feel-emotion/think-thought) and I will do (limiting-behavior).

For example:

When you talk on and on I think ‘will he ever shut up’, and I will not interrupt you but rather I will recite the serenity prayer in my head.

Containment boundary

Containment boundaries are also not easy, but they are just as necessary.
I would strongly suggest that for every protective boundary you have in place that you also create the corresponding containment boundary. For instance, if you do not want others to raise their voice in anger to you, then your containment boundary would be that you cannot raise your voice in anger to others.

Five categories of boundaries

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Social
  • Spiritual

Physical Boundaries
Some examples include:

  • Not being touched inappropriately;
  • Having private alone time;
  • Personal items not being used without permission;
  • Personal space;
  • Respecting locked doors to private space;
  • No extremely loud noises;

Emotional Boundaries
Some examples include:

  • Having a right sized emotional response;
  • Not being told we shouldn’t feel a certain way;
  • Denying your feelings;
  • Being given time to process emotions;
  • Having the courage to experience and sense emotions at depth;
  • No blaming others for your emotions which includes no talk of “you made me feel”;
  • Taking ownership and responsibility for your own emotions;

Mental Boundaries
Some examples include:

  • Not being called stupid;
  • Not being told your thoughts don’t matter;
  • Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;
  • Listening with an open mind;
  • Not getting stuck in “stinking thinking” (Ego, Greed, Aversion, Delusion);
  • Holding onto your opinions and beliefs;
  • Respecting another persons opinions and beliefs;
  • If you must disagree with someone, then disagree with their line of thought, but not with them;

Social Boundaries
Some examples include:

  • Not condoning or participating in gossip;
  • Not lying or manipulating;
  • Following through on your commitments;
  • Being respectful of people’s time;
  • Having good manners;
  • Not accepting or condoning toxic behavior. Separating yourself from toxic people;
  • Speak directly to others, no triangulation. An example of triangulation: A has issue with B, A doesn’t talk to B, A talks to C, and A is hoping that C will talk to B on their behalf;
  • Following through with your plans if others don’t show up. Allowing others to go through with their plans if you don’t show up;

Spiritual Boundaries
Some examples include:

  • Not holding blindly on to your beliefs even though evidence points to something different;
  • Respecting the beliefs of others and not preaching at them they are wrong and your way is right;
  • Refusing to betray your moral values;
  • Being open to listen to others sharing their beliefs and looking for the common ground between your belief and theirs;
  • Letting go of the language of good and bad. These carry too much weight and people can take them on that they are inherently bad. Choose instead the language of helpful versus harmful;
  • Let go of judging others. If you must still judge someone then focus on their behavior and the words they speak. We can’t truly know another persons thoughts and emotions. That capability is outside of human hands, but rather in the hands of the Divine;

Boundaries – Parenting your inner child
Many people think of setting boundaries as controlling another person’s behavior. On the surface I would agree with that assessment. However, boundaries have a much deeper context.
Lying within all of us is our own wounded inner child. Face it, we are all broken in one way or another. Boundaries are really about parenting that inner wounded child.
Confronting someone who has violated your boundary sounds like a good thing to do. I would say that this is not always true. In the real world if your child was being bullied by another child you may want to swoop in there and punish the bully. The thing is that even bullies have parents. Confrontation is not always the best solution. Perhaps the best solution is to remove your child from the situation. The same holds true as we set boundaries as an adult. Our mature outer adult is defining what is and is not acceptable behavior and having an action plan that “if you do X” then “I will do Y”.

If you continue to speak to me in a loud and sarcastic way then I’m going to excuse myself and take myself (and my wounded inner child) out of harms way.

Confronting bad behavior can backfire. I would posit that perhaps you are trying to teach the inner wounded child of the bully what is and is not acceptable behavior. The thing is the perpetrator’s inner wounded child could be running the show for their outer adult, and that outer adult may have real power that may be able to harm you (physically, emotionally, financially, etc.).

Be a loving parent to your own inner wounded child. Keep them safe. Create an environment that is beneficial for their growth and healing.
Setting clear and mature boundaries will not only parent your own inner wounded child, but it will model good behavior and perhaps influence the inner wounded children of the people in your life. You can’t control other people, but you can influence them. Be the shining light of reason and serenity. Be loving but firm and protect your inner child’s environment.

Depression is a process addiction

Depression is a process addiction, just as alcoholism is a substance addiction.

A process addiction is when a person is addicted to a particular behavior. When we speak about one addiction, like the process addiction of depression, we can include them all. We are learning that the Twelve Step program of recovery can be used to overcome negative thinking and compulsive/addictive behavior for the person who sincerely wants to get emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy.

Our Depressed Anonymous fellowship is based on a hope that no matter how bad we feel, no matter how isolated we are, or how painful we feel, we do recover.

We discover that all our negative thinking, feeling and behaviors will no longer keep us captive, isolated and in the prison of our depression. We gradually begin to change the way we think and feel, learning how to motivate ourselves, using the Spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps, and begin to get active in our own recovery. Motivation follows action!

The main positive effect of making the Steps an integral part of our daily Lives is that people can come together and find the support of their Depressed Anonymous fellowship. They in turn will find the emotional nurturing acceptance of their group and learn the social skills that can help them gradually enter life again; with hope and a heightened spirit. Once people realize that they are not alone and that they hope that they too will feel better. The beauty of a self-help group is that a person feels acceptance from the group. No one is there to tell them to “snap out of it” or that depression is all in your mind.

Finally, we see our closed system of depression, with its negative addictive thinking, feelings of despair, coupled with those behaviors which keep us afraid and anxious, gradually are being dismantled. We discover that we have choices. We don’t have to stay isolated. Our positive thinking begins to show us a way out of a system that has had us bullied into submission. Our minds are now processing hope and possibilities for a new life of freedom.

Hugh S., for the fellowship

Who am I? What do I want? Who is my God?

As we dig  deeper into the  benefits of the Inventory, we want to get started with asking ourselves some  basic questions,

Who am I? What do I want ? Who is my God?

I  recommend  that you spend some time reflecting upon these questions as we continue our discussion of seeking more information on who we are  as a person.  This self-disclosure   process can provide us with  valuable insights as to those areas of our lives which have been responsible for the way  we are today. This includes an examination of the way we think, feel and  live out our daily lives.

In the early days of my own recovery, I  began to put together a workbook where I used  the three questions listed above and  focused on each of the Twelve Steps.   With each step, I listed a number of  questions which I felt would help  me discover  the areas in my life which I had never really examined  in any detail.  An important issue here is that when I was depressed  I didn’t have a clue as to what was happening to me.  I felt like my mind and body were spiraling down a slippery slope.

My first  reaction to this sudden fear was to create even more fear as my mind swirled around,  attempting  to  stop whatever it was that suddenly and without warning, had me locked in  a mental turmoil.  As I was oblivious to the fact that I had unconsciously and  gradually beat myself up over the previous months , creating guilt and shame,   resulting   that I became physically and emotionally immobilized.  Eventually , I discovered that this was called depression.

Back to our inventory. Only with the help of the newly formed Depressed Anonymous group,  a fellowship that was using the Twelve   Steps for their recovery.   It was when  I admitted that I was powerless over my depression, that the real work had  its beginning.

If you want to examine your  own life, with a personal  thumb print of your strengths and weakness,  then today is a good day to get started.

As an exercise in recovery,  write down your own responses to the three  questions listed in the   title of today’s blog .  Take your time, this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Again , we  are  taking  time out to find out who we are…not who people said we were.  It will not surprise you that what others said you were   in your early life, favorable or not,  stays with you into your teen years,  adult  life.

As we move along in our recovery, answering the questions in the workbook, gradually our examined life will provide you with information that you may  never have thought about.

So,  next time I meet with you  at our  blog, I hope you will have made a start in discovering something about yourself.  The inventory is about making progress–not being perfect.

The Depressed  Anonymous Workbook.  (Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville , Ky.

If  you have questions please let me know. My email address is: [email protected]

The unexamined life

“The unexamined life may not be  worth living, but the unlived life is sure not worth living.”

As the publisher of books,  the taking of inventory of my product , is critical  for the success of my business.   When I got started in my  production of books I wasn’t  sure  of how  many books I would need for immediate sale on the market.  I decided x number of books would  be needed for immediate sale and would purchase more from the printer as needed.

I knew that as an order came in for the purchase of our books, I could get them to the customer in one week. The turn-around was quick. As more books were  sold, and my inventory became depleted, I had to rush to get more books printed (the turn-around  from the printer  was two weeks or more , and our shipping to the customer turned out to be three to four weeks). For us, that was unacceptable.  We made sure from that experience, to always have  an inventory available  to meet the growing demands for our books.

In our recovery program, Depressed Anonymous, in the Fourth Step, we  are asked to make an inventory. This inventory will help us meet the daily  demands of  our lives  as we begin to  examine  those  negative thoughts,  feelings,  with their crippling  behaviors, which have kept us imprisoned in  that  loop of helplessness and  hopelessness, spiraling us downward into the  pit  where we lost all hope,

In our ongoing posts on Step Four, we  will continue to examine Step F our, which states that  we have “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”   

In the next days we will post reflections on our  own inventory and how our examinations will lead us to a life filled with hope.

Please join with me as we travel this road together.

Hugh., for the fellowship

The Recovery Waltz

When I find myself drifting back into the pit (which is where I am at the moment) I need to go back to the beginning of recovery. Steps 1, 2, 3 and repeat. One, two, three like the waltz. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The first 3 steps can be summed up as follows:

  1. I can’t.
  2. He can.
  3. Trust Him.

A great many things, including my depression, are beyond my direct control. I don’t control the outcome – that is in God’s hands. I am responsible for the legwork. I need to do the work of recovery. I want to do the work of recovery. I don’t want to drift closer to the pit because if I don’t stop the backslide it will be that much harder to get out of it.

  1. I admit that I am powerless over depression. When I am on autopilot my life becomes unmanageable.
  2. I believe that a Higher Power exists and they can restore me to sanity. I have to work on my feelings of being unworthy of being saved.
  3. I turn my life over to the care of my Higher Power. This is not one and done. I’m human and I will take my will back. That is only a problem if I don’t surrender once again. To surrender is to win.

Practice the recovery waltz. Become so accustomed to it that it becomes a good habit. You are worthy of love and healing, but you must do the work of the steps to feel that love and healing. I wish you well.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Am I a victim?

The topic of victim hood has come up several times in different meetings I’ve attended. There is some toxic self help out there that states that no one is a victim. I firmly do not believe that statement.

Do people inflict pain upon one another? Yes they do, sometimes that hurt is intentional, and sometimes it is not intentional. So I believe that victims exist in the world.

The problem for us as depressed people is not that we have been victimized – the problem is when we identify as being a victim. A better question to ask is:

Have I been victimized? (notice past tense here)

It’s when we make being a victim as our main identity that it becomes a problem.

I choose NOT to say “I suffer from depression” because then I identify with suffering from depression. I’m not denying that I’m often visited by the symptoms of depression. What I choose to do is instead focus on healing and recovery. “I am recovering from depression” is a much better and healthier statement for me. It points me in the direction of healing and hope.

Focus on hope and healing as that is the way out of depression.

Yours in recovery, Bill R