When we begin exploring the possibilities of healing from depression, trauma, anxiety, or addiction, sometimes we can get up in our heads about what it means to “recover.”
One of the things we discover when we begin really investigating the subject is that there are things we can do to feel better.
Maybe not totally better; maybe not better all the time in every way; but there are techniques, habits, and rituals that we can develop that can make our lives easier and results in feeling better and more stable every day.
We discover that the possibility of recovery is, at least partially, in our own hands.
The thing is, when we discover that, our brains often try take a leap ahead of us— and cut us down before we get too far down that path.
“Ah HA!” our brain will try to tell us. “So how we feel IS in our control! See, I TOLD you it was ALL YOUR FAULT that you feel terrible! I KNEW we were just doing this to ourselves!”
That is to say: sometimes, when we learn that the way we feel can be responsive to things we do or don’t do, we often turn back around and blame ourselves for feeling bad in the first place.
This is a trap.
This is your depression trying to twist the facts around to unfairly shame and blame you.
It is NOT the case that “we create our own misery” when we are depressed. NO ONE asks to be depressed.
No one wants to feel this way. No secondary benefit— attention, sympathy, whatever— is worth this hell.
The fact that we can influence how we feel does NOT mean that we must have been “choosing’ to feel depressed.
We need to be very careful to avoid this kind of self-blame…because if we don’t it can really lead us down a rabbit hole.
Let’s be clear: yes, of course we can influence how we feel, in numerous ways.
If we couldn’t influence and change the way we feel—if the way we feel is just the way we feel, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it— then therapy itself would be pointless.
(In fact, many of the people who DO think that therapy is pointless take exactly this position— that they just feel the way they feel, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, so why bother?)
But we know we CAN change the way we feel.
Why does any form of entertainment exist? To change the way we feel.
Why do we ever get into relationships? To change the way we feel.
Why do we crave and seek out certain foods or use certain substances? To change the way we feel.
We can change the way we feel. We’re not “stuck” feeling this way.
But that doesn’t mean we’ve “chosen” to feel depressed or anxious in the past.
What has ACTUALLY happened has been, we’ve been exposed, over time, to external circumstances that have literally shaped our brains, and made it very easy to feel depressed and anxious.
Those circumstances have interacted with our already-existing brain structure and chemistry.
By the time we’re self-aware, we have no real awareness of all the factors that conspired to make us feel the way we do on a daily basis— we just think this is how it is. We feel how we feel. We are how we are.
You didn’t “choose” to feel depressed any more than you “chose” your genetics, your brain structured chemistry, or your environment growing up.
You didn’t “choose” how to interpret the world growing up. We have no idea what’s happening to us as our brains are being shaped by experience after experience.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing you “chose” to feel the way you do.
Recovery is not about self-blame.
It’s about identifying what, realistically, we CAN change, now, about our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors, and changing them…one by one, on purpose.
Subscribe to the Doc’s free weekly email newsletter, and never miss a blog or social media post!