STEP TWO — Believing that it is possible to achieve what you want (having hope).
Question to ask: Do I believe that a complete recovery is possible?
While the first step is absolutely essential to your recovery, believing that it is possible – not just for you, but also for others – can open doors and create opportunities you would have otherwise missed. Once you believe that what you want is possible, your brain would look for ways to do it. But if you believe the opposite, all you notice are the reasons why it is not possible.
Sometimes it is hard to know what we believe. But watch your reaction to someone who either recovered or believes that it is possible. Do you feel hopeful and more positive or do they make you angry? Do you dismiss what they say and insist it could never be true or possible for you? Or do you feel uplifted by positive evidence?
Positive belief greatly increases your chances of recovery. But if you believe it is NOT possible for you, you may build obstacles that would stop you from getting there.
If you seriously doubt, I invite you to examine this belief. Maybe you are drawing on the past experience as a ‘proof’ that things were always that way and therefore nothing could ever change? Or maybe change seems threatening? Are there any possible negative outcomes of your full recovery? There may not be any rational reasons stopping you, but there may be some fear of taking control that you experience.
Notice if such fears arise?
Such fears are not uncommon and they simply come form a place of complete exhaustion. After battling for years, people with anxiety and depression are so emotionally, mentally and physically drained that a thought of living a different life (like getting a job or doing things differently) feels unbearable.
And so, you may be resisting change because you are simply too depleted already to be able to exert yourself in any way. Do not worry. Remember there is no need to rush. And once you start feeling more peaceful, you will gradually start feeling more energetic and willing to do things.
STEP THREE — Believing that that there are ways to do it (capacities and strategies).
Question to ask: Do I have the know-how or a way to find it/gain it?
Once you convince yourself that your emotional health is important and that recovery is possible, the question that you need to ask is HOW. How do i create the change, where do i find the answer that would help me?
A good place to start is with some general understandings about what depression is and where it comes from. There is lots and lots of generic information on line, mostly meaningless and confusing. However, there is one thing we are starting to recognize more easily today, any emotional condition starts with your thoughts.
There are many articles that you could read that could be helpful in deepening your understanding of how we create our emotional conditions. How do we manage to evoke emotions by thinking certain thoughts and holding specific beliefs (which are also thought, albeit less obvious) about ourselves, our life, what is happening around us and what others are doing. A simple linear progression, ‘we think —> we feel —> we experience’, helps to simplify reasons behind the conditions.
To find specific thoughts may take a while, depending on what is your capacity and the support you may engage, but even knowing that the ‘stories in the head’ are behind the condition, can be quite empowering. After all, while you may not may not access to them straight away, they are your thoughts and your stories. And so YOU are in charge after all.
In fact, if you are like everyone else, at the beginning you have no idea what beliefs or thoughts are at the base of your depression. What’s more, you can’t even ‘hear’ or ‘observe’ them as they are no longer presented to you as words or sentences. Most often the most dis-empowering thoughts come instantly, as images, memories or sensations in the body, or a strong emotion gripping you suddenly. And they all feel very true at the beginning.
But you can start writing your thoughts and question then. Are they really true? Is it really the only way to see it? How do you know? And as you question them, a different stories and different ways of looking at things will start emerging.
STEP FOUR — Belief that you can access the resources necessary (tools and techniques).
Question to ask: Do I have access to tools and techniques that can assist me?
So now, you firmly believe that it is good to take care of your mental health, and that it is possible to find ways to get better, and that you can develop capacities for change. You may now be intereted in finding ways to more actively shift your thoughts and perceptions. Maybe its time to start looking for someone to work with, for some more techniques of self-reflection, for ways to soften the emotional load or to make your thoughts more ‘visible’. Maybe you use techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing to help and assist you, while re-writing the mental ‘stories’ you tell.
Now you are truly on the way to recovery; growing your own strength by developing capacity and tools for positive change. The wholehearted change, not just intellectual ‘knowing it all’ while still feeling lousy. The wholehearted change that doesn’t create gaps between what you know and what you do and experience.
And now you are working more consciously at accessing resources and tools necessary for deep, real change. Now a possibility that you could develop control over your thoughts and emotions becomes more real. Your hope is high and you are already seeing some glimpses of clarity. Clarity about how much more power you actually have had all along.
The biggest obstacle at this stage – something that if not addressed would hold you back – is a belief that the reasons for your condition lie in the past. For example, you may believe that what happened to you when you were younger somehow ‘damaged’ you permanently. Or made it impossible for you to ever be fully functioning and happy.
You would be surprised how many of us carry these kind of beliefs, about ourselves and others, including our children. There is much guilt and fear created by these beliefs. As a society, we are so therapeutically inclined, that even without an interference of therapists, we tend to believe we are somewhat ‘broken’.
The way to overcome this last obstacle is to understand firmly that it is not the past experience that affects you today, but the thoughts and judgments you constantly re-produce in your mind about what happened. What you think about the past is the only thing hurting you and creating a sense of emotional imbalance.
And while pervasive, this belief is also open to being challenged. Here you could remember that you are only existing in the now, here and now, and all your choices and all your power lies in this very moment. And that you can choose how you think, what you believe and therefore how you operate in this world. Even more, you can choose to create a life you want. Provided you are open to change. Provided you believe it is good, possible and worthy, and that you can find the steps towards positive expansion. One step at a time.