disclaimer: This article is about understanding negativity / chronic depression caused by conditioning. For some unfortunate people, there are conditions that can cause depression, such as damage to cerebellum.
I was depressed and had severe anxiety for about a decade before I managed to get rid of them.
I was bullied my whole childhood, my family was dysfunctional and I had hard time making and keeping friends.
The worst part was that I didn’t know why. I considered myself smart, so I tried to rationalize everything and made futile plans for the next day in school. I managed to irritate some classmates off and nothing changed.
Every time that I looked back in my life, I saw nothing but shameful events that piled on each other, making every moment worse than the previous.
There were some people in my life that I considered as friends, but I always felt more like I was a third wheel in every way. Objectively looking they were great people, but it didn’t matter: I felt way too bad and insecure to enjoy their company.
I became emotionally dependant of them. If someone said something that hit an insecure spot in me, it haunted me for several weeks.
When I heard that people were doing something without inviting me, it was devastating. It made me incredibly paranoid.
Friends are people in your life who can momentarily lift you mood up and in some cases bring you down. If the underlying problems in you are not fixed, having friends can be like putting a small band-aid on a huge flesh wound.
I’m not denying that for some people getting a couple of good friends can make all the difference. We all have our different mix of conditioning, so it’s perfectly normal.
I can’t tell you how to get friends when you are depressed, but I can tell you how I created a life enabled me to get all the courage and knowledge to figure it out by yourself.
First seek to understand
Before taking the first steps to get rid of negative states such as depression and anxiety, it’s important to understand how and why they arise in our bodies.
Negative states are terrible, because they feel so overwhelming. When you are feeling at your lowest, the right knowledge about your condition is the only thing that can keep your head on surface.
Why what works for someone else doesn’t work for you
Two mentally same kind of people would look like this: they think exactly same thoughts at exactly the same time and at exactly the same environment.
Even a slightly different environment would force those two to have different set of thoughts.
Everyone goes through their own unique environment during their lives that shapes their world of experience, leading to billions of unique sets of thought-patterns.
Every persons magnitude of depression is inherently different.
Someone can classify “heavy depression” what would be only “light” for someone else. This is the reason why people who have had ideal conditions for positive mind patterns can’t understand what people with heavy condition are going through.
Because we have different reactions to different things, advice such as “just start being active“, “go outside” or “get friends” may work for them, but not for a lot of people. If someone had suggested those things to me when I was at my lowest, I’d have gotten seriously mad.
Person A can have depression because of divorce, but he is still able to function in the world, even making friends. This person meets a couple of cool people, starts to hang out with them and realizes that his depression is gone.
Person A suggests that you should go outside and make friends
Person B has been bullied for their whole life, he can’t make any friends because of his social conditioning that’s result of his upbringing and environment. He’s been depressed for a long time and even going outside feels like an impossible thing to do.
Person B hates Person A for suggesting such crap
There are of course lots of variations to this, but the idea should be pretty clear.
Person B needs something entirely else for his condition: he needs to recreate the conditioning himself (because the environment didn’t) that enabled Person A to function in the world.
Why medicalization can fuck you up
The problem is that by giving it a status of an illness it can cause huge misconceptions in some people. When someone has a fever, they know that they have to wait for it to pass. They really can’t do anything else.
They may take some medication for it.
You can’t wait for chronic depression to pass, because of its self-replenishing nature.
As I wrote in the disclaimer, there are cases where it’s caused by damage to brain. If you can’t be sure that you brain is damaged, it probably isn’t.
When someone believes that it is something they can’t do anything about, because “it’s an illness that they have“, it can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They don’t have any reason to do anything because they have the belief that it’s out of their control.
Feeling depressed isn’t objectively different from any other state of feeling that we have. Those feelings are results of how our body interprets our brains.
Our brains must have a system that determines what kind of reactions it will send to the body: this system is the mind.
How many times have you lied in the bed and you’ve gotten an image of something unpleasant to your mind, ruining your chances of sleeping because you started feeling horrible? I was like that every single night.
If someone else had the same mind-patterns like a person with heavy depression, they would feel the same as that person.
The belief systems
I once looked down to people who were deeply religious. I couldn’t understand how they could be so sure of their beliefs and I thought that I was somehow superior to them
The truth was that I was exactly the same. Instead of believing in god, I believed that I was a failure as a human being and that I could never amount to anything.
These are also called limiting beliefs. Simona Rich has written a good article about them.
The reason why I can’t look down to anyone who believes or is religious is simply because believing is part of us all. Until we get applicable knowledge or some other trigger happens, it’s basically out of our hands.
In my case I had “seen the evidence” that I’m a failure and started believing that – it was part of my upbringing just like religion can be someone elses.
There are positive, neutral and negative beliefs: those that have positive effect on your life you should embrace and negative ones you should identify and condition yourself out of. Neutral ones are of course harmless and rarely even noticeable.
The first step is always to recognize them: they’re basically your current world view. Recognize things that you associate negative feelings with or sense of “impossibility” – those are most likely your belief systems (Or BS, to be short :)) that you should get rid of.
Usually they are excuses that you say – for example, “I can’t because of x“.
Common limiting beliefs / resources:
- Overcome 8 Common Limiting Beliefs (Tiny Buddha)
- The Five Limiting Beliefs that Hinder Your Success… and How to Overcome Them
- 7 Limiting Beliefs of Unhappy People (Dumb Little Man)
Lack of applicable knowledge
Now that I look back, one of the biggest reasons why I couldn’t make my life better earlier was the lack of applicable knowledge. The irony was that I thought that I “had it all figured out” and that reality seemed way too shitty for me to want to live in it.
While feeling heavy and foggy I couldn’t understand why some things were easier for some people and why some seem to be so talented at what they do. The only thing I knew for sure that I was feeling like crap.
When I looked for help, people only gave bullshit explanations: “you haven’t slept enough” and so on (good sleep does affect our state of being, but it’s not the “fix” that is needed). I remember thinking that other people who did fine had it all figured out, but weren’t just willing to share it with me.
People don’t necessarily understand what really made them different from anyone else. All they can do is to look back at their lives and see what they did. What they ignore is that the whole environment they were raised in was massively different from everyone elses.
I thought I knew that my misery was caused by other people because I felt so bad about everything they did. It’s so obvious now that I say it, but when you truly believe that and think that you have “the evidence” to support it, it’s next to impossible wake up from it.
No one has it all figured out, but there are lots of people who understand some things better than others. Coincidentally those are the ones who write books of their field of specialization. (in other words, they are the ones you should listen to)
The turning point was when I started looking for recommendations of great non-fiction books. The more I understood how beliefs, our state of mind and how life works, the more I realized how stupid I had really been.
The more I saw how much I didn’t know, the faster I started to grow as a human being.
This began the cycle where I really understood that I have to keep reading and engulf great applicable knowledge to my consciousness.
The train station of mind
Everything leads back to our own mind (instead of outer circumstances).
Imagine that your mind is a huge train station and there are thousands of rails leading to it. Every single rail is a belief / thought-structure you have.
Your current beliefs and thought-patterns are the most used rails in the station. The others are rusty and basically never used.
There’s also plenty of room to build new rails or replace the old ones.
Every single thought that you have is a train that travels on certain rail (thought-pattern).
The rails that are used the most are kept in best shape, because they handle the most traffic. Old rails that are never used are just forgotten and it would take tremendous work to make them active again.
You are the CEO (consciousness) of this station, but obviously you don’t know what hell you are doing so you’ve just given the controls to lower management (the subconscious) that act depending on what happens outside the station.
The upkeep of the most active rails represents how what you usually think, will get stronger and stronger. In other words, the most active rails are habits that have formed over time and are hard to replace.
This creates a vicious cycle that will be next to impossible to get out of unless you as the director step out of the office, figure out what the fuck is going on and start taking conscious steps to fix the situation.
Of course there could be a miracle done by the lower management, but I wouldn’t count on that.
There’s big strength in the negative
There are two kinds of positive people:
- Those, whose upbringing and positive life experiences have snowballed, enabling them to create great lives for themselves.
- Those, who have been predominantly negative, but there has been some trigger (knowledge, religion, some other condition) that has enabled them to change their beliefs and mind-patterns over time, creating life that they want.
By glance it would seem that positive people have it better, but in my opinion it’s a double-edged sword. Just like in a negative persons life there can be a trigger that enables them to turn positive, there can be a trigger that turns a positive person to negative.
Look at several stars who have made it in young age: they got everything when they were young, but to me it looks like they didn’t have the humility and backbone to deal with it.
This is why there’s such a big strength in overcoming negativity – if you do it once, you can do it over and over again. It will make you more resilient to negative influences in your life, because it ultimately makes you trust in yourself.
Why it’s so hard to change
People are creatures of habits. When there are enough negative influences in your life, including people you hang around with, your own mind-patterns and other things, it creates a downward spiral that keeps going lower and lower.
I remember that I had several small “phases” in my life where everything seemed to go well, but after a minor setback I was put back into the old state of negative consciousness.
My old habits pulled me back to the negative, where I had spent most of my time and I couldn’t do anything about it. I thought that nothing could help me if my outer circumstances don’t change.
It’s hard for exactly the same reason why someone can’t stop over-eating or someone can’t stop drinking alcohol. Same pattern, different habit. They don’t know better than to succumb to their desires.
Lack of knowledge is one thing, but the other thing why it’s next to impossible to change those people is their degree of receptiveness.
They may have beliefs that other people are just trying to take advantage of them or something else so they refuse to even want to make a change.
Even though people are suffering due to their negativity, most of the time they won’t be receptive to anything that could remotely help them. Nothing wrong with that – I was like that too.
They are sure that they are right, so change isn’t possible until they start to doubt themselves and their choices. This is exactly what happened to me: I started thinking how it’s possible that other people had so much emotional control over me and how I couldn’t do things that other people did.
I wanted to take that power back, because giving responsibility for my wellbeingness to someone else hadn’t worked for me so far.
There were few conditions that I recognized from my own process of change that made it possible:
- The doubt – I started doubting my choices and all the negative things that I did. I remember thinking that there had to be other way to live and that I would have to start making myself happy.
- The snap – I made radical changes in my daily patterns in short time: I stopped playing games and truly tried to do something else. I didn’t do anything special – I went outside by myself, walked and rode bicycle, discovering new places in my town. Breaking the pattern gave me enough energy on the short-term to make an impact.
- The applicable knowledge – I remember someone recommending Eckhart Tolle and Anthony De Mello, so I uploaded their books to my mp3-player and listened to them daily. I was in a position where I would try anything. This is where everything started to snowball in the right direction.
Everything started from a single thought that made me doubt my choices and start assuming responsibility. I had some motivation to break my daily pattern, which combined with everything else enabled me to make the change.
The first two steps (the doubt & the snap) I had encountered several times before in my life, but if I hadn’t had the applicable knowledge to my disposal, I would have fallen back to my old negative thought-patterns. In that way it was the most important step, even though it was the whole entirety that made change possible.
For clarification: it wasn’t a magic bullet. At first I did feel good just because I had broken my daily patterns, but the old thought-patterns were still stuck strong. There were times where I would fall back to the old negative habits, but I always managed to come back stronger.
It took me 6-12 months to see permanent changes, though there was huge progress going on all the time.
In the next article, How I got rid of negative thoughts.. permanently I’ll be diving more in-depth what I did during those 12 months.