Situational Depression

Posted Posted in Common Issues

Good and bad are always around the corner on earth; this is true for every human. In other words, sometimes life sucks. That might sound depressing at first, but upon closer inspection, it’s actually a pretty good thing to go ahead and accept. That way when things go south, we don’t resist and make an extra problem out of it. Instead, we just remind ourselves that that’s how it is sometimes and we can only do our best and handle one thing at a time. No big deal – that’s the best we can do.

When things go south in a really big way, it might knock us down for a while. This is known as situational depression. It means that there’s nothing wrong with you, like the chemical imbalance that you might think of when you hear the word “depression.” In fact, what you’re feeling is actually normal under the circumstances. You’re not supposed to jump for joy when tragedy happens. It’s totally normal to feel depressed, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you stick to the plan and do what we talk about here at A Clean Mind, though, then that’s the fastest way out. You’ll drop the story and let those powerful feelings flow through without getting stuck. And you’ll make the decision to go on about your day regardless of how the body feels. Before you know it, you’ll be back to normal.

I started this post after lunch one day and then saw two afternoon clients before returning to finish it. As things would turn out, both of those clients had some situational depression going on. You know by now that I don’t believe in coincidences…

The first client doesn’t like the holiday season, for one thing. And many people don’t like the holidays. Many people find them sad, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Lots of folks are disgusted with the commercialization, and others have an issue with the religious aspect. If any of that describes you, though, then you might want to prep your mind as the holidays approach each year because they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. That’s just a fact. Practicing A Clean Mind is essential in this case, and this is a great opportunity for practice, really, because everywhere you turn you see decorations and hear holiday music.  If that takes you down, then you’re screwed. What a great annual measuring stick for your path to inner peace, though! I’d say bring it on – I’m in charge of my peace and not some decorations or music.

On top of not liking the holidays, this client also has a stressful situation going on at her job, with a change in positions coming up. The change will be for the better, but she’s stuck in her current position for the time being. When you add these things together, you have a formula for not feeling so hot. How nice it is to understand this, though, because that means how you’re feeling isn’t bad but rather normal under the circumstances. That’s a HUGE difference, and the situation hasn’t changed one bit – how we see it has changed. And we’re one step closer to inner peace. Pat your self on the shoulder. Seriously!

My second client that afternoon had something much more extreme happen – her dad had died. Four days prior to our session. Unexpectedly. This is also the first time she’s lost someone major in her life, so she’s had no way of being prepared for this experience. She’s in the beginning of some intense grief, but she’s really good at A Clean Mind. In fact, she was coming in to say she didn’t think she needed to come regularly anymore. And I agreed with that. I’ve said before that I’m always trying to teach people how to not need me, except maybe every now and then when big things happen or just for a tune-up here and there. So my client is handling this as well as it can be handled, but it’s still not exactly fun. As I told her, it’s normal to feel terrible for a while – there’s no avoiding that. It’s situational.

Hearing her talk also reminded me of when my own dad died about ten years ago. It was pretty unexpected, too. Life just felt strange for a while after that, like it was a dream or something. It was the weirdest feeling. Something was different, and it was hard to describe. So I got a bit choked up myself, but that’s fine – it’s just normal feelings flowing through.

Understanding situational depression is a great thing, because it normalizes how we’re feeling when life isn’t so fun. This is a much better plan than thinking there’s something wrong with us! When we do that, we’ve created an extra problem that has to be fixed. In this day and age, that often means prescription drugs. I think that those are fine in many cases, but not as a first resort for situational depression. And it seems that many doctors are irresponsible in this regard. When tough things happen, you’re not supposed to feel great. If you do, then that’s awesome. But if you don’t, that’s simply normal. Just let those feelings be there and don’t hold onto them or resist them. Drop the story and feel, like we always do when there’s something in the body that needs to be felt. Feelings are temporary, even if your dad died and there are a ton of them, and that’s good news. When you’re in the middle of it, it might not seem that way – it might seem like you’ll never be happy again. Keep practicing A Clean Mind, though, and you will.

Grief And Loss

Posted Posted in Common Issues

A friend in her twenties is about to lose her step-mother, with whom she is very close, to cancer. The news of the cancer first came about several months ago, so it hasn’t been very long. Then yesterday the doctors said she only had a few days to live. My friend is having a tough time.

She is experiencing what is called “grief” or “loss.” Grief is already pretty rough, and this situation is compounded due to the suddenness of the situation. Her grandfather died within the last year, but he was in his eighties and had lived a long, full life. It seemed more normal. Sudden cancer for someone who would normally live a good bit longer isn’t so normal, though, so it can be much tougher to deal with. And the grief from her grandfather’s passing, while more expected, is still in the mix. It all adds up.

Grief is a very strange thing. It’s like a roller coaster that works differently for everyone. People experience every feeling you can think of, with no rhyme or reason. They come at you in varying levels of intensity and duration. Some people have trouble sleeping or have very little appetite. Other people think they’re going crazy, too, being absent-minded and doing things they’ve never done before like putting their keys in the refrigerator. Some people experience all of the above, plus more. That’s grief. The only rule is that there are no rules.

Actually, there’s another rule, and it’s pretty good news, especially under the circumstances. A huge portion of grief is in the feelings department, and feelings are still temporary. They can be incredibly strong and they last a very long time, but permanent they are not. That’s the law of feelings, and it will never change. You usually don’t want to tell a person this, though, if it’s in the heat of the moment and you’re supporting them by listening to them and being a good friend. This might make them upset, because at that moment they’re not able to see beyond the intensity of their feelings and thoughts. This intensity will eventually subside, though, if they let it.

Another aspect to my friend’s situation that has complicated it has to do with her religious/spiritual beliefs. She comes from a Christian background and is pretty mad at God now. She might even be doubting God’s existence. All I can say is that’s a pretty normal way to feel under the circumstances. This just isn’t easy. If it’s possible to put any decision about God on hold for the time being, that would be the best plan. Let the intense feelings subside some. Let the rapid thoughts slow down. Give your self six months or a year or an indefinite amount of time before you revisit this. Keep being as good a person as you can in the meantime, and you’ll have nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. That I can promise. It’s perfectly okay to have these thoughts. Just let them be and put them aside for now.

My friend is also sick of people saying, “It’ll be okay.” She says, “No it won’t be okay, because my step-mom is about to be dead.” And she’s right. Life will move on, though, as it always does. My own dad died about ten years ago, and he’s no longer here. That’s just the truth. Grief counselors talk about how things will never be exactly the same, but eventually you find “the new normal.” That’s simply the best you can do. We can’t be in denial and get stuck, though. And we have to be willing to let those roller coaster feelings be there when they’re there without holding onto them. Let them pass when they’re ready to pass.

Some people find relief just by learning that what they’re experiencing is normal. It doesn’t mean it’s fun, but it’s normal – that roller coaster is what it looks like. The best thing to do is just keep life simple, remind yourself that this is what grief looks like, and try to take as much care of yourself as you can. Be gentle with yourself. Keep life simple if you can. Try to get some air, to exercise, to eat something even if you have no appetite. Get as much rest as you can. Avoid stressful situations as best you can. Slow down. This lets that roller coast ride run its course. If we do these things as best we can, it will run its course eventually. Eventually.

Arguing

Posted Posted in Common Issues

Do you like to argue? If so, then that’s fine. This post might not be for you, though – it’s for people who don’t like to argue and who don’t want to argue. When you’re tired of it, there’s definitely another way.

When you thoroughly understand feelings (see Feelings 101The Sedona Method), you realize that arguing is nothing more than a way of expressing emotion. Usually that emotion is anger, but it’s not so important to pinpoint that. Simply understanding that arguing is a way of expressing is the important thing. When you know this, and you know that expressing doesn’t work (because the emotion doesn’t go away permanently – read those links above), then you can see arguing in a different light. You see that it’s pretty much useless.

So what can you do instead of argue? Talk! If you remove the expression of emotion from arguing, it’s called talking. What do we do with that emotion, though? We feel it and release it, of course! When we recognize something like anger in our bodies, we definitely don’t want to do much interacting with others if we can avoid it. It’s much better to stop, go inward, check it out, allow it to be there, and make sure you’re not holding. Then it can pass when it’s ready. Once it has decreased some and you feel like it’s no longer in control, then it’s a much better time to talk about whatever it was you needed to talk about. So you’re not running away from an important conversation – you’re taking a timeout to cool off. Then you can return and be much more effective in calmly resolving the issue at hand. Arguing generally isn’t the best way of solving problems. And it might give you high blood pressure, too…

People tend to get tripped up because the anger can rise very quickly, and before they know it there’s a full-blown argument or they’re yelling instead of talking. It’s all about catching it early – it’s much easier to release a little anger (or any other feeling) than a lot. The same rules of feeling and releasing always apply, though, no matter how much there is.

If you want to stop arguing and there’s someone in your life with whom you tend to argue, it might help to explain all of this so s/he knows what’s going on. Some clients have reported that when they start to argue and then try to go into a different room to cool off, the other person follows them, yelling about how they’re running away. And this makes the person even angrier, so now the situation is worse. Not a good plan! Instead, let’s get the other person on the same page so s/he can endorse the new plan and have an attitude of, “Yes, please go cool off! That way we can find a solution much more quickly.”

After that, it’s all about practice. You’ll catch the anger earlier and earlier until you notice that it just doesn’t have as much power over you. You can keep your tone calm. And since current anger taps into any unfelt anger you’re holding from the past, as you continue to let this stuff go there’s less and less of it in your body. You notice you’re walking lighter. The same things don’t make you as angry. When you see this, you know you’re making pretty massive progress. Keep it up, and let me know if I can help!

Anxiety Attack Unplugged

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, Common Issues

A client was telling me how she hasn’t been going to the gym very often in the last couple of months. I had been seeing her for about that amount of time, and she had told me in our first session that she had been drugged and raped by a bunch of muscle-bound guys about ten years ago. She said that ever since that happened, she has had anxiety attacks when she sees the gym where those guys worked out, sees big muscle-bound guys, or hears the word “rape” or “gym.” These are triggers that tell her body to go into a certain mode in which she gets tense, she sweats, her hearts races, and her breathing speeds up. This is the anxiety attack, or panic attack.

A good analogy is that the mind is the software and the body is the hardware. When she was raped, her mind basically got programmed to freak out at the triggers mentioned above. When any of these things happen, her body follows her mind’s instructions and in only a split second it starts to react with the panic attack. She has a prescription for Xanax, which relaxes her body. It does a great job at treating the symptoms. If a person is really tired of this game, though, then it might be time to treat the cause. Let’s go right to the source, the mind, and change the software. And that’s what we started to do that day.

So we’re sitting in my office, and she mentions that she hasn’t been going to the gym very often recently. I replied that I thought she said could not even drive by gyms, much less go inside to work out. My asking that question is all it took and her body started freaking out. She got tense and started to sweat, and she said she was having an anxiety attack. “Here it comes,” she said. Her heart was racing and her breathing was quick and shallow. She began to reach for her purse to take a Xanax. I asked her if she would be willing, since she was in a safe place, to hold off for a few moments and just surrender to the panic attack. Breathe and feel and let go. She could always take the medication.

She wasn’t thrilled at the idea, but she agreed. So she just sat there and let it be there, breathing and feeling, and she experienced it directly without a story. I reminded her that she was in a very safe place, and the Xanax would still be there anytime she wanted to take it. Let’s just try it another way, the opposite way, this one time. Let’s just sit still and surrender to it.

She was shaking and sweating. I had her breathe and relax into it as much as possible, just feeling it without any words. Don’t call it anything, and definitely don’t tell a story about how it happened, why it happened, whose fault it was, etc. She said she really felt embarrassed that it had happened. I told her to just let herself be totally, completely embarrassed in that moment. Be embarrassment itself. Just surrender to it and feel it all the way through.

After about five minutes, she smiled and said it was passing. She literally could not believe it. She said this was the first time she had had one of these anxiety attacks without taking Xanax. She didn’t know that she could weather this type of storm. I told her about the hardware/software analogy and told her that in only five minutes, we had gone to the cause of the problem and had essentially told the body that it didn’t have to freak out anymore at these triggers. There’s nothing wrong with taking the Xanax, unless of course you want these attacks to finally lose their power. If this is what you want, the irony is that you have to go there and let it be. Go into it. Let it consume you. Invite it and meet it head on, face to face. The trick is to do this and only this, though. No story, no reasons, no victims, no good, no bad. No words or language at all. Just feel it. In that feeling, you might learn that it can’t really touch you. This is true acceptance, and it’s very powerful.

NOTE: Be very careful if you experiment with this. My client was in a safe place in my office when she did this. Also, there’s a time and place for medication. I am in no way saying that medication is bad or that you shouldn’t take it. I’m also not saying that panic attacks are no big deal. They’re very scary and powerful. But this post is meant to show you that they might not be as powerful as we think if we take a deeper look.

Anger Management… check!

Posted Posted in Client/Friend Stories, Common Issues

A client “got it” after just our fourth weekly session, reporting the good news in our fifth. That’s one month of his life of learning a new way to live, practicing it, returning to discuss, practicing more, returning to discuss more, etc. Wash Rinse Repeat. And he was forever changed now – he had simply come too far to go back. He had turned the corner so much that I felt like crying tears of joy. It was awesome.

He had come in just over a month earlier because of fairly severe issues with anger – severe enough that his wife was prepared to leave the marriage. He had to fix it or she was done. And it seemed like there wasn’t a huge amount of time.

I began like I usually do, teaching him about how feelings, including anger, work in the body. The mechanism is always the same; his flavor just happened to be anger. No big deal. I talked about the importance of stopping as soon as you notice even a hint anger in your body. And close your eyes, stop thinking, breathe, and feel. Take note of what you’re carrying at that moment and then let it go. It might stay for a while, but the doors are open whenever it is ready to leave. And in checking the anger out directly like this, without a story, you might notice that it’s really just physical sensations or energy in the body. Not a problem. We don’t even need to call it anger at that point. And we certainly don’t need to listen to the voice in the head that tells a very believable story about why it’s there, whose fault it is, etc.

I also talked about the other major component of human life besides feelings: thoughts. The voice in the head is not to be believed. Just stop and let go of it when you notice it. If you need to be thinking about something, then feel free to engage in some conscious, active thought. But that chatterbox voice in the head that has useless conversations with itself all the time isn’t real thinking.

Note: the voice in the head really isn’t as bad as it seems – as long as you don’t believe it. Just stop when you notice it. Over time, and it might take some time, it’ll lose its power. Mine still talks to itself all the time, but it’s literally nothing like it was before I started stopping (yes, you read that right). Stopping means you let go of it when you notice it. You don’t feed it. You just stop, take a breath, and listen to the sounds around you. You continue with what you were doing. And the voice in the head just lost a little bit of its power. Do this for a while and you might notice that it’s not an issue in your life anymore. It just doesn’t carry much weight anymore.

Finally, I told my client to start reading a book called The Sedona Method as soon as he could – this was the game changer. This is how you really release what you’re carrying. I told him he was ready to start practicing a new way of living when he walked out that door and into the rest of his life. He could expect to still express anger, but catch it when you notice it and practice what we’ve talked about. You’ll catch it earlier and earlier until you catch it before you act on that anger. Inner peace, here we come…

One week later was session two. He was enjoying The Sedona Method. He was having success already with traffic. Many people experience anger while driving, so this is a great practice area. He was reacting less and less to other drivers. He had small successes at home, but that was it.

By the third weekly session, he and his wife were still arguing about small stuff, but the duration had been cut in half. That’s huge! He was really enjoying The Sedona Method and finally felt like there was hope for his situation. He had also caught himself in the middle of an argument and noticed that his forehead was all scrunched up. What a great sign! Relax your forehead and then try to express anger. I’m not sure that it’s possible.

By the fourth weekly session, his wife had said that the “scary” fights were pretty much done. I was quite happy to hear this. He still had to work on the smaller stuff, though, like his tone with his wife. I suggested that he catch himself as soon as he said something with a nasty tone and stop immediately, laugh at himself, and then tell his wife something like, “That tone was terrible! Let me try that again…” Then continue like nothing had happened. This brings us to the fifth session. He reported that something had shifted. He was so vigilant looking out for that nasty tone that it took several days for it to slip out (which was huge progress in and of itself, by the way). Finally one day, his wife called to him asking him to do something. He was busy, so he snapped back at her, “What?” in a terrible tone. This was not the tone you’d want to use to address the love of your life. That word, in that tone, basically said, “Shut the hell up and leave me alone – I’m busy doing something more important!” He instantly caught it, though, and he was happy, because this is what he had been waiting for! He stopped what he was doing, walked in the other room to where she was, laughed at himself, and said something like, “I’m sorry – that tone was awful. What was it you wanted?” Yes! Do you know how his wife reacted? She was in disbelief, and she immediately hugged him out of joy.

He had experienced success right away with larger bursts of anger, and now he finally had tasted success with the more subtle stuff. He was very happy about this, as he should be. He wants to stay on top of this, so he’s still coming for the time being, but he’s definitely come too far to be that same angry person again. He learned what was going on and then he started paying attention and busting himself. He practiced and has gotten better and better. This has possibly saved his marriage. He’s starting school while working, and he now knows how to handle stress. And this all happened in about a month. He was ready, though, and we’re all on our own time frame. But this shows that it doesn’t have to take forever to start developing A Clean Mind and to start seeing major results. It’s pretty incredible, and it’s such an honor for me to be a part of it all.

NOTE: All of these client stories are told with no identifying information and of course with permission from the clients. My only interest in sharing these stories is to help more and more people find peace, and these clients are interested in the same thing. There is no pressure on the clients to allow their story to be told. Finally, note that these stories are always told at a certain point in time.

When they are told, it is unknown how the future will unfold. Feelings are powerful, thoughts are powerful, and the past is powerful. New and old issues might emerge after progress is made. If that happens, though, we know how to deal with it. In these cases, I’ll write up the rest of the story if and when appropriate. As said before, it’s all about helping more and more people find peace.

Shame

Posted Posted in Common Issues

Shame is something that you feel – it’s a feeling. All you can do is feel it, with no story, no thinking, no words even. Just feeling. Where in the body is it? Just roast in it – this is the fastest way out. So that pretty much takes care of feelings. It doesn’t mean the shame goes right away, but when it’s there, just remember to feel it (read Feelings 101).

The next step is the big one, and it involves your thoughts. What are you believing regarding this shame? It’s time to turn the lights on and see what’s living in your head. The thoughts are what allow feelings like shame to continue and to be intense. Search your mind to see what thoughts are there, and make sure to keep it very simple. There’s no need to get overwhelmed, because you can only examine one thought at a time. How refreshing! Just start the process and it’ll go where it needs to go.

For example, a person who has a pattern of feeling shame might realize that he believes he is not worthy of love. He might believe he is small and insignificant. She might believe she is inferior to others or that she fails in everything she does. When we search our mind and find one of these thoughts, it’s time to test it for truth, a la the great teacher Byron Katie (see Resources). Is it true? Many people would answer, “Yes.” Let’s take it a step further, then. Can we absolutely know that it’s 100% true? Uhhh… It’s usually hard to answer this one in the affirmative. Note that even 99.999% true isn’t good enough to be worthy of living in our heads. So pitch it. This takes care of the thought aspect, which is huge. Then the feeling will usually linger for a while longer. So you feel it and directly experience it without a story, without language, like we described above. This is the fastest way out.

When we do this work, we only have to feel what’s there and then look for any thoughts we’re believing that are not true. Start with one thought at a time. More will come as needed, so don’t worry about that – just start with one and test it for truth. If it’s not true, pitch it. Always continue to feel what’s there. Wash, rinse, repeat. You can apply this to any feeling. It’s not necessarily instant magic (although sometimes it really is), but after a while you might notice that you’re carrying a lighter load, and this feels good. It means you have a system that’s working and that’s taking you to more peace.

Stress

Posted Posted in Common Issues

Stress is something you feel, so it works just like other feelings. You feel it (read Feelings 101, The Sedona Method). When you get even a little stressed out, at that moment close your eyes, take a breath, and just feel the stress in your body. Don’t think, though, which means that you don’t want to think about why you are stressed or any of that. Don’t even label it beyond acknowledging that it is stress. Just close your eyes, take a breath, and thoroughly feel it.

When you get good at this, it can take only a few seconds to really make a difference. It keeps you on “reset” – it keeps you centered. When you don’t check in with your body when little stresses happen, the stress builds up until you are totally stressed out. This is when you might snap at someone or do something else that you don’t really want to do.

So when you see that phone call or email that you don’t want to see or the bill in the mail or the light turns red when you’re running late, catch it right away. Close your eyes, take a breath, and just let go. Remember where you are and what you are doing. Check in with what you are thinking. Is it true? (We always ask this about our thoughts.) And remind yourself that it’s okay and normal to feel stress in your body under these circumstances – no big deal – and you can proceed and handle the situation in a quality way. Stay centered – from my experience, it’s is much better than letting it build up.

Guilt

Posted Posted in Common Issues

Guilt can be pretty nasty. It’s one of the nastier things in the feelings department, in fact. Here’s the thing about guilt – there’s legitimate guilt and illegitimate guilt. Legitimate guilt basically means that you screwed up and you have to accept it and deal with the consequences. You have to deal with the situation. The situation can be huge, too.

One young mother left a burner on the stove and caused a fire, killing her infant child. I’ve left a burner on the stove before and no child was killed, no house burned down. Many people have left a burner on. This is nothing more than an accident. This mother was torn to pieces, and she beat herself up badly for leaving that burner on. This is legitimate guilt, because she did it. It was still an accident, though – that’s a fact. So it really doesn’t make sense to beat herself up. What’s done is done. This sounds cruel and harsh, but it’s true – the baby will not come back to life (unless, of course, you believe in reincarnation, in which case it’ll be in a different body). The mother will have her hands full processing this incredibly powerful event, but she can do it in time and with help if necessary.

Illegitimate guilt, on the other hand, means that you’re innocent – you really didn’t do anything wrong. A client was vacationing on an island that only had a flight out every other day. He heard that a loved one had fallen ill and took the next flight home. He had to wait a day, though, because of the sparse flight schedule. When he got home, the loved one had died. The man felt very guilty. The thought he had was, “I should’ve gotten there sooner.” I asked if he had taken the first available flight, and he replied that he had. So without a pilot’s license and a plane, none of which he had, he literally could not have gotten home any earlier. He did his absolute best. So for him to believe the thought “I should’ve gotten there sooner” is like him believing the thought “1 + 1 = 3.” Neither is true; both have to be thrown out with the trash. This is illegitimate guilt.

One thing to note is that that man’s false thought regarding getting home sooner was born out of love. He loved his relative so much that he desperately wanted to get home. Still, he has to admit that he did his best. He aced the test. He was on the next flight home. The fact that it was too late was not in his control. So beating himself up about this particular thing is not okay. It makes no sense. It’s a pattern, and patterns can be changed.