The blues, feeling bummed out, depression... Where does it come from?
Well, it turns out these days we know exactly where it comes from.
I woman I know—not young—was majorly bummed out because she was feeling, “I should have done more with my life.” Those words were truly tying a weight to her spirit, dragging it down to the pit of the sea.
Now, of course, those words are true to some extent for all of us. We ALL could do and could have done more with our lives. Einstein too, and Picasso, and the Beatles, and Barack Obama, and Taylor Swift. Done more and/or done better. So, hey, let’s all kill ourselves!
But here’s the thing. Whether it’s being temporarily bummed out—and people actually do kill themselves from being temporarily bummed out!—to being truly depressed,
depression comes from these things we say to ourselves.
“I should have done more with my life.”
“Life just isn’t worth living.”
“I have nothing to offer.”
“I have no more reason to live.”
“I have nothing to look forward to.”
“It’s just over for me.”
I could go on and on, but you get the point. If you’ve ever been in this state, statements like these feel like the hard-core, bottom-line truth. Feeling as compelling as a loud gong going off.
And here’s the key: we’re depressed BECAUSE we say things like this to ourselves. It’s not that we’re blue and then we sing the blues.
First we sing the blues, then we get blue.
So here’s the therapy part of this.
Why in the world would you ever say something to yourself that, if another person said it to you, would make you feel that they were an evil, stupid, ignorant enemy? Who BUT your worst enemy would wake up one day and tell you, “Oh, by the way, you could have done more with your life. Think about it!”
Who would say that to someone!
Yeah, to encourage someone you might say, “You can do more with your life, and here’s how...” But that depression-making comment refers to a closed past that even God can’t change.
ALL depression talk is words that only someone who wanted to bring you down would say to you. So why would you say them to yourself.
This points to a way out of feeling down.
You know your mood. Now think about the words in your head. What you’re saying to yourself. It’s going to be things like the sentences in the list above. Discouraging, demeaning things. And yes they feel true in the moment.
But you know how they’d enrage you if someone else said them to you or to someone you cared about. Not only because they’re not true. But also because they’re so destructive and useless. They’re focused on your deficits or on how life sucks. But all the good things that are possible become possible by focusing on your strengths and assets, and on all the possibilities that life holds. You may have a hard time seeing that now, but only because the noise of depression talk is drowning out your ability to talk to yourself in a constructive way.
So do this. Whatever your depression talk is saying to you, spend time saying the opposite to yourself. If you’ve found yourself saying to yourself, “I should have done more with my life,” give the other side equal time. Spend that time talking to yourself about the things you have done with your life and the things you still can do. That’s a way you really CAN talk to yourself about things that are true and useful.
And that’s how to dig yourself out of the blues.
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