Doctor Andrew Weil writes: “Depression is often rooted in habitual thoughts of worthlessness and isolation, anxiety in thoughts of being out of control or incapable of responding to the daily challenges that life brings” (Healthy Aging). Weil focuses on the health of the whole person. I have read a number of his books, and I am quite familiar with the experience he mentions in the above quote. I still have days when I hate myself. These “thoughts” are something that we all deal with. Learning not to act on these thoughts seems to change their emotive power.
In one way or another, I believe that our emotions are responsible for our egotistical nature. The result is that we have a distorted perception of reality. We identify with our emotions; we allow them to determine whether we are happy or unhappy. Until we reach a level where we see through these illusions, we cannot be effective with ourselves and others. Most people do not understand what happiness is. Perhaps they think they are happy when they are not suffering. Life is easy and they are happy, if they get their way. If they are busy and active, they have the illusion that they are happy. As long as they are “doing,” they can avoid taking hold of the freedom to reflect on their life. Having to reflect was once quite frightening to me. At first, just being rather than doing was tough for me. It should not be that difficult to sit down and be quiet. One thing is for certain: one has to take the first step. After that it does get easier.
No external thing or person can bring lasting happiness. If it is external, it is a distraction. Observing people is like watching frogs. They jump from lily pad to lily pad not knowing what they are looking for. They are restless. They move from one distraction to another. By doing this, they create an illusion that they are happy. The reality is that this is the behavior of a compulsive person or of an addictive personality. Happiness must be internal for it to be lasting.
George Washington wrote: “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone in bad company” (The Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation). Here are three types of personalities you encounter in your everyday living: (1) the chronic complainers who cannot or will not find anything positive about anybody or anything; (2) the controllers who are simply overbearing, uncompromising, and manipulative; and (3) the instigators who know your triggers and tempt or bait you into doing things that you should not do. It’s difficult to ascertain how much energy to spend with these types. Wisdom and your gut will usually tell you quickly whether you are dealing with reality or illusion.
I have many compliment me for my honesty. I just try to be who I am each day. Integrity and respect come back to you. I have more than not when I accept what I am. There are times when I wish I was younger. Americans have difficulty getting older. With the progression of age and their children moving on, some lose their identity and purpose. As one ages, one cannot compete with youth. We are forced to compete rather than cooperate. What if I was younger and had the wisdom I have now? There is just no point dwelling on it. I did make a half-hearted effort to exercise and lose weight. I hired a personal trainer and i felt some pride in losing fifty pounds. While my blood levels are normal, I still have my compulsions. Rather than delving into the matters of the soul, I still worry about how I look.
At the expense of having less interaction with my family and friends, I probably still watch too much television. This seems to be my pattern of unwinding, although I do not like watching the news anymore. I also read books. I think authors are people a lot like me; they want to put it out there. It takes a certain level of fearlessness to be an author. I like to meditate as I write because I’,m able to tap into a stream of consciousness. These days, I achieve mindfulness sitting on a recliner outside, under a palm tree, near a pool, and getting in the zone. I enjoy experiencing what comes in and out of my consciousness. Slowing down is part of the journey out of the rat race and lifting oneself out of depression.
The bottom line is that when we are free from depression, we are able to help others to get there as well. When we are locked in depression, we need to find a way to resuscitate hope.