Escape the Dungeon of Depression

Posted by on August 19, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads

“I have made a captive of myself and put me into a dungeon, and now I cannot find the key to let myself out.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

“As the lack of sleep wore me down, a sense of hopelessness enveloped me. I knew that nothing I did could change the situation. There was nothing I could do. I was convinced that I was laboring under some kind of curse so that any efforts of my own to fight this situation were foredoomed to failure.”

Percy Knauth

“I am now experiencing myself all the things that as a third party I have witnessed going on in my patients–days when I slink about depressed.”

Sigmund Freud

“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be not one cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible. I must die or be better it appears to me.”

Abraham Lincoln

Have you ever been depressed? In your depression, did you say to those around you, “I can’t help it, it’s just how I feel”? According to the most recent medical journals, one person in five suffers from depression and one in twenty suffers from a depression severe enough to require medical treatment. Depression in its various forms (insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, stress, etc.) is the most common complaint heard in doctors’ offices today. Is there anything we can do about it? I believe there is.

Feelings follow actions. When we spend our time thinking about how we feel, we grow increasingly depressed. But when we spend our energies trying to make others feel better, we become increasingly satisfied and happy with our lives. You want a sure-fire cure for the blues? By an act of your will, find a person who needs help. Focus your mind on helping that person, even though you may not feel like it. Encourage them, even though you may desperately need encouragement yourself. As you become increasingly concerned about the other person, you will become less concerned about yourself and the fog of depression will lift. In the words of Phil Johnson, “When you do not love a person, do what you would do if you did love them. Use the strength of your will to take actions that you do not feel. Your feelings will change soon enough.”

Depression is insidious because it causes us to become fixated on how we feel, and the resulting self-absorption leads to even greater depression. Go back to the quotes at the beginning of this memo and count how often the speakers refer to themselves; the words “I,” “me,” “myself,” and “my” occur twenty-seven times in four short statements. The person who asks, “How am I feeling right now?” is plummeting headfirst into a case of the blues just as certainly as if he had injected them into his arm with a needle. Most people believe they do what they do because of how they feel. In reality, the opposite is true: they feel what they feel because of what they do.

Now what are you going to do?

Roy H. Williams

“Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.”

Virgil Thomson (Advice given at age 93)

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