As a Coach over the past 30 years, I have helped many people learn to approach their depression differently. Over 32 million people will suffer from depression sometime in their life (you are not alone). Whether you are suffering with these problems yourself or someone you care about is suffering with depression, the first step is to realize that there is help! I will take you through a series of steps that can help you develop a healthy approach to this problem.
Step 2: Learning the internal patterns within yourself that feed into and fuel your depressive reactions. We all have Perceptual Filters that affect what we experience and how we experience it. Powerful examples of Perceptual Filters that feed and maintain depression are: “The Time Machine”, “If Only…”, “Seeing Half Empty”, and “Shame vs. Regret”. Beginning to clean these filters has a profound impact on your depression. It is also important to realize we have feelings about our feelings – “Second-Order Feelings” – that fan the flames of anxiety/panic. The belief: “That’s Just The Way I Am” adds a powerless, hopeless dimension.
Step 3: Learning about the Adult Child Character. Understanding Self-Esteem is a key to unlocking the mystery of identity. The environment we grow up in has a powerful impact on how we learn our perception of self – Developing Self-Esteem. In all my years of coaching people struggling with depression, I have never found one that didn’t suffer from wounded parts of self that had been rejected and disowned. These wounded parts play an active role in depression.
Step 4: Learning to develop your own “Inner Coach” to approach the healing process. There is a healthy New Program approach to your depression. In my experience, how you approach the process of change is the key to successfully making the healthy changes in your life today. Change is possible in the present! It is a lifetime adventure of becoming, living consciously in the present, looking for Nuggets of wisdom about healthy change. Give yourself the tools needed for making healthy growth in your life today. The Action Plan shares some of the resources that can help you make your desired changes the path of least resistance.
Step 5: Realizing that this material is deep wisdom about the process of change, find someone to discuss and share your reactions with as you go through the material. This is a very important step in the healing of your depression. Select someone you can feel safe being open with in the sharing process, or look into a free support group like CAIR Self-Help Groups, or CAIRing Grace Groups.
Excerpt from: Who’s REALLY Driving Your Bus?
By James O. Henman, Ph.D., Psychological Associates Press, 2003, pp. 215 – 218.
Nugget: It Is Wise To See The Glass Half Full, Rather Than Half Empty
If you see the glass half empty, there are several natural reactions you are likely to have – feeling bad about what is missing, resenting what is missing, getting defensive about what isn’t there. These reactions make it harder to enjoy what is in your glass. On the other hand, when you see your glass half full, there is a natural tendency to value what is in your glass, thus increasing the chances of enjoying it. This reaction naturally enhances your pleasure with what is in your glass.
The extreme of this difference comes when you see the glass that is filled to the half point as if it was totally full or totally empty. Some try so hard to be positive that they deny reality and focus only on the positive. I find most of these people have a strong, underlying fearful child inside, afraid to acknowledge any negative feelings for fear of breaking the dam, and starting a flood that may never end. At the other end of the continuum are those who see the half-filled glass as empty. If it isn’t perfect, forget it! It’s all or nothing for these folks. What feels most familiar to you? Notice deeply and share with me in your journal.
Some people take the stand that to be most realistic, you must adopt the half empty perspective as coming to grips with what has been lost. They say, “Take off your rose colored glasses and face facts!” The truth is that either describing the glass as half full or half empty is equally accurate. The real question is the cost/benefit of each perspective. Which generates contentment? Which works best? Do you recognize either of these patterns as being familiar? Share your reactions with me in your journal.
One subtle but powerful cost of survival mentality is the core feeling of scarcity that comes with this perspective. This core sense of scarcity filters everything. From this survival mentality it is natural to see your glass as half empty. It is also natural to feel anxious when things are going well (Second-Order feeling), because of previous experiences of getting your hopes up, only to be disappointed. It is very difficult to relax into becoming when everything feels like a test. These assumptions are affecting your ability to be chooser in your life.
The truth is that you can learn to develop a more constructive perspective by consciously attending to positive aspects of your daily experience. Think of it as building a muscle. Habits form from repeated experience, so practice, practice and more practice. Savoring what is in your glass not only allows you to increase your pleasure, others will tend to be drawn to you. This is not about faking it or wearing masks! It is about applying the Fundamental Principle of New Program: A growing commitment to the acceptance (acknowledgement) of Reality in the present. By giving yourself the permission to start where you are starting in the present, you can relax into enjoying the adventure of learning and growing. You can have fun with the clumsy, awkward feelings that are natural when learning something new, living consciously with your glass half full.
As you practice this perspective it comes more easily and feels more natural. Don’t fall for the trap of believing the filter “That’s Just How I Am” (See Chapter Two). Some people are more naturally positive while others are more naturally negative. Both physiology and early conditioning play a part in where you are starting regarding your “normal” perspective of half full or half empty. Practice and a willingness to develop this perspective determine your future. It is not written in ink, but in pencil. What do you choose for your future?
People suffering from depression often develop a half-empty perspective toward life. They focus on what they don’t have, sure that things will turn out badly. They concentrate on the flaws in themselves and others, feeling robbed by life and resentful for what is missing in their lives. This attitude/perspective tends to be a turn-off to others, and damages their relationships. It actually keeps them from risking and taking chances to make healthy changes in their lives. Imagine what it would be like to come home from school with a report card of five “A’s” and one “B.” Many clients suffering from debilitating perfectionism share the experience of bringing such a report card home and having a parent say, “Why do you have this B,” with no acknowledgment of the A’s.
Although life experiences have affected your perspective up until now, from this point forward, you get to choose which elements you are going to notice. This is just like working any muscle to get it into shape. It is the process of developing a habit. The truth is that you can choose to begin noticing what is in your glass, and can choose to feel good about what you have at this moment.
This is not a denial of what is missing or painful about this moment, but rather a chance to apply the Serenity Prayer to the unwanted things, at the same time, appreciating and valuing the positive things. In the Serenity Prayer you are asking for the serenity to change what you can change, the freedom to release what you can’t change, and a growing wisdom to know the difference. This is where spirituality really comes alive. What is important and what is not? What are needs and what are wants? What assumptions are you bringing into your life? Reflect deeply on your ability to learn to see your glass half full, and share what you notice with me in your journal.
Excerpt from: Who’s REALLY Driving Your Bus?
By James O. Henman, Ph.D., Psychological Associates Press, 2003.
There is a significant difference between these three emotional reactions. Guilt about past events and shame reactions can actually prevent healthy change in the present. Which feeling reactions feel most familiar to you?
Guilt – Can be a healthy, useful signal (conviction) when we are going the “wrong direction” in the present. It is a feeling signal to an action, rather than a statement about self. We need to feel good about noticing guilt in the present, and turn toward a healthy direction, releasing the feelings of guilt. God only wants us to feel guilty as a motivation for change; guilt is not a goal in itself. Guilt about past events or actions, no longer present, tend to transform into shame over time, feeding into anxiety and depression.
Shame - A destructive, condemning judgment about self. It is a feeling and perception of self-rejection and self-hatred. Shame says: “I am bad and wrong.” “It’s just who I am.” “I am a mistake.” “I am a failure.” Shame is a statement of identity rather than a statement about specific actions. Shame is very common in Depression.
Regret - A healthy grieving reaction. It can be experienced as a variety of different feelings that come with experiencing the honest acceptance of past and present events. Acceptance does not mean agree with or like what happened, it is simply a nonjudgmental acknowledging of the present. It says, “I feel badly that this happened and wish things had been different. Regret draws us toward healing and healthiness. If it is a present situation, Regret helps motivate healthy change in the present. If it is a past situation, Regret helps create a desire to learn and grow from that painful past difficulty.
"What If…?" and "If Only…" are perceptual filters that functions like a black hole in space. In astronomy, a black hole is created when a star collapses in on itself, creating such an intense gravitational pull that nothing can escape, not even light. When you fall for the trap of “what if…,” you enter the Twilight Zone of endless possibilities. This filter feeds powerfully into feelings of anxiety and insecurity. It interacts with the Time Machine, causing you to experience these endless possibilities over and over, as if they were actually happening in the present. When you shift from the Time Machine to looking at possibilities from the perspective of being in the present, it greatly reduces your anxiety.
The truth is that you can not do more than apply the Serenity Prayer in any given situation: “Lord, grant me the serenity to change what I can change, the freedom to release to You what I can’t change, and a growing wisdom to know the difference.” If the answer to the first part is that you have done what you can do up until now, then the second part guides you to release what is left that you can’t change. This allows you to put your focus and energy on becoming in the present. We all have limitations; that is part of being human. Jot down in your journal any examples of “what if…” in your life today. Notice what happens as you practice shifting time perspectives back to the present. Remember that it will get easier with practice.
“If Only…” allows you to punish yourself (or others) for choices not taken. The truth is that you “can’t go to the party I gave yesterday.” It may have been a wonderful party, and you may be very sad about missing it, and feel a lot of regret. No matter how badly you feel, it is impossible to go back in time in order to attend my party. There is a dramatic difference between feeling healthy regret for missed opportunities, and torturing yourself (or others) for having missed that opportunity. If this filter feels familiar, take a few deep breaths, feeling good about noticing this pattern. Begin to experience shifting from shame to regret in these situations. Notice what happens as you learn to respect and feel healthy regret. Share what you notice in your journal.
- Depressed mood most of the day. You're feeling sad and blue.
- Marked diminished interest or pleasure in most activities. Things that used to give pleasure don’t seem to have the same impact. Everything seems kind of gray.
- Significant unintended weight loss or gain. Depression can show as uncharacteristic increases or decreases in appetite.
- Insomnia (Can’t sleep) or hypersomnia (Excessive sleeping).
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation (can’t sit still or can’t get moving).
- Fatigue or loss of energy. Everything seems like an overwhelming effort.
- Feelings of worthlessness, excessive or inappropriate guilt. Can’t stop thinking about the guilty situation.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
- Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, plan or attempt. If this is true for you, please contact your medical doctor for further evaluation immediately.
These symptoms are from the DSM-IV, used by Mental Health Professionals to diagnose depression. When many of these symptoms continue for weeks at a time, you are probably experiencing depression and need help to deal more constructively with these problems. The first step is contacting your family physician for an evaluation.
Life can be very different when you get the help you need to cope with depression in healthy ways. The tools in this Web site can help you begin to learn a different way.
There are three primary types of depressive disorder:
1. Major depression manifests a combination of symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, eat, sleep, study, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Disabling episodes of depression may occur only once but more commonly they occur several times in a lifetime.This information is from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
2. Dysthymia is a less severe type of depression that involves chronic symptoms that do not disabling but keep a person from functioning at their best or from feeling good. It becomes a part of their daily life. Many persons with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes.
3. Bipolar disorders are a third type of depressive disorder. They are less common than other types of depression. It is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs, or “mania”, and fluctuating periods of depression. At times, the mood switches are dramatic and frequent (rapid circlers), but the cycles usually occur more gradually.
When in the depressed cycle, a person can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic cycle, a person may be overactive, with a pressured quality to their speech, and a flight of ideas. They often have a great deal of energy, needing little or no sleep for extended periods of time. Mania often affects thinking, judgment, impulse control and social behavior resulting in embarrassment and repercussions. These manic perceptions can become psychotic in their nature. Emotional liability is common in the manic phase.
Bipolar Disorders need to be treated by a medical doctor for possible medications, as well as building your own inner coach.
The causes of depression are complex and difficult to understand. Research has shown that three significant contributors to the cause of the disorder include:
1. Environmental (stressors)
2. Genetic (family history of depression)
3. An imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters - serotonin and norepinephrine).
Read more about the specific perceptual filters that support and maintain depression.
The Time Machine is a perceptual filter that takes you out of the present, which is the only place you can actually make changes in your life. Do you find yourself living in the past, hanging on to past negative experiences, allowing them to influence you in the present; or living in the future, anticipating and dreading the unpleasant things that might happen, rather than living in the present? When you relive past or future scenes, experiencing these scenes as if they were happening in the present, the original feelings and conclusions are reactivated.
When you come out of your Time Machine travel, you will bring back into the present these painful feelings as a hangover. With traumatic events, the Time Machine allows you to experience the same painful scene over and over. When you project yourself into a future situation, experiencing that scene as if it were happening in the present, you bring your current resources into that future scene. This denies your ability to gain resources in the present to help deal with this future situation – feeding the anxiety.
The truth is that you add greatly to your current pain by using your Time Machine. The truth is that you can learn to notice when you begin firing up your Time Machine, and choose to use New Program tools to change this destructive process. Gaining “frequent flyer miles” in your Time Machine allows you to feed your depression and anxiety. Travel into the past feeds your feelings of depression; travel into the future feeds your anxiety.
You can start to ask the key questions: “Who am I?” (Who’s driving your bus in the present), “Where am I?” (What is the actual situation in the present), and “What time is it?” (Is it past, future or present time)? These questions help you orient out of the time machine and into the present.
The Time Machine is very different than allowing yourself to reflect on a past or future scene, while staying in the present. You are free to remember who you are becoming, and bring an attitude of nonjudgmental curiosity and caring into the scene. The difference has a lot to do with perspective.
When the camera angle is coming from your New Program Adult eyes in the present, looking at yourself in the scene, you can rally useful resources to help nurture yourself in the scene. When the camera angle is coming from your eyes in the scene, you tend to experience regression and a flood of painful feelings. Does this pattern feel familiar to you? Feel good about noticing this and shift your camera angle so you can begin seeing yourself in the scene, while being in the present. Jot down in your journal examples of time machine travel.
Excerpt from: Who’s REALLY Driving Your Bus?
By James O. Henman, Ph.D., Psychological Associates Press, 2003, p. 55.
Adult Children are like the Wizard of Oz. Their outer facade may seem powerful and competent, but inside it is as if a little child is pulling the strings and driving their emotional bus. Does this feel familiar to you? Do you often feel like a “fake” when relating to important people in your life? Do you often see yourself as a “phony” going through life in fear of being “discovered?” Does life feel like one unending drama of trying to survive to the next scene, trying to avoid the inevitable disappointments and rejections that you just know are coming? Do you often have significant difficulties in your personal relationships? Do you often ask, “Why Me?”
There are six qualities that seem to be present in most Adult Children prior to entering recovery. How many of these qualities do you recognize in yourself?
1. Reacting to life with a “survival” mentality.
2. Feeling that we are different from “normal” people and spending a lifetime trying to “pretend” that we are normal.
3. Looking at life through a “Black” or “White” filter.
4. Going through life judging very harshly. This judgment may be directed at ourselves, at others, or both.
5. Constantly looking for approval and validation from outside of ourselves.
6. Having great difficulty with intimate relationships.
The natural reaction of blocking painful feelings and experiences is what creates the Adult Child characteristics, dynamically like the frozen scenes that continue to break through for trauma survivors when certain triggers are activated.
We have learned a great deal about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from work with Viet Nam Vets and survivors of traumatic events. Blocking an emotionally charged experience can cause the memory/experience mechanism in the brain to freeze that moment with the emotions fully charged. The memory leaves the limbic portion of the brain experiencing the fullness of the original emotions for the remembered scene, locked in the “on” position emotionally.
When the memory is activated, even subliminally, the emotions come flooding back into consciousness, so that you perceive yourself back in the original experience. I call this dynamic the Time Machine (see Power Of Mind distortions in Chapter Two). Blocking unwanted feelings causes part of your “self-perception” to be stuck in a timeless state, as if in Tupperware and hidden away, frozen in the original scenes.
Adult Children were often forced to become “adults” as children, and often function as “little children” in aspects of their adult lives. Others never grew up because of the lack of safety and healthy models. They had a lack of support to risk becoming an adult with healthy self-esteem. They learned to survive by blocking out painful experiences and adapting to the demands of their environment.
Our wounds grow out of our decisions, perceptions of who we believe ourselves to be at our core, how we perceive the outside world, and how we choose to survive. This can vary greatly depending on whether regression is taking place at the moment. Do you notice any significant fluctuations in your perceptions of self and others?
It does not require “war stories” to create wounds in our character. Rejecting and hating yourself, trying to block painful feelings, and hating someone else can all create a frozen scene. This frozen scene can develop into a wounded part of self, forming its unique perceptions and sense of self. I am not talking about the pathological condition of Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly Multiple Personality Disorder. I am talking about the sometimes subtle filtering of your perceptions without you realizing it is happening.
You need to be living consciously to recognize most of your regressions. What you may notice first is the old, survival feelings beginning to seep or flood into your current experience. A Second-Order feeling reacting to these feelings compounds the intensity and complexity of your feelings in the present. Feel good about noticing where you are starting at this moment. This cuts off the flood of Second-Order feelings that normally come with judging.
Are you feeling guilty because you come from a normal family with no particular problems, feeling you have no right to be an Adult Child? The truth is that we all grew up in fallible families that came from fallible families, etc. We all learned who we are and what the world is going to be like in our childhood. This is not about blaming; it is about being accurate. Notice what you decided from these early experiences. Take several deep breaths and notice the reactions you have to this “Nugget.” Share your reactions with me in your journal.
Normal life produces wounds! This concept of wounding is not about blame, it is about change! This book is an opportunity for you and me to discuss and reflect on your “Old Program” filters that support your current problems. You can learn to unblock your feelings in a healthy way that allows healing of your core self-esteem, using a “New Program” set of tools and resources to develop healthy esteem. I am a recovering Adult Child myself and will share glimpses into my own “inner kids” as the book unfolds.
Appreciating this Adult Child concept is central in the change process! The way I explain it to my clients is that I believe most people have some degree of Adult Child qualities. I believe that this is a normal part of being human. I coach them, and I will coach you to learn how to “parent” the wounded parts of yourself that are involved in the dysfunctional patterns in your life today. It is important to realize that the rejected parts of yourself retain their original perceptual filters, developmental resources, and the cognitive/thinking styles that were present at the time of disconnection.
The CAIR Handbook explains: “Our perceptions are filtered through our beliefs and assumptions, our internal dialogue (thoughts) and images, our physiological and behavioral responses, and our emotions. All of these interact to form a filter through which we experience the world. In the process of growing up in an unsafe environment, we make many decisions about ourselves, and the world outside of us.
These decisions form the filter of our Old Program. Over time we become addicted to this way of looking at the world, and the decisions that underly our filters become unconscious. If our filter sees us as inadequate and unlovable, positive feedback from those around us cannot get through. Keeping our internal view and rejecting the external information usually resolves the mismatch between how we see ourselves, and how others react to us. (Stop and discuss.)”
Your windshield filters what you see as you drive your bus. Imagine driving west into the sun in the afternoon, with bugs, grime, and dirt covering your windshield. What are you feeling as you drive along? What if you assumed that your poor vision was “just how you are” and there was nothing you could do about your poor visibility.
Someone sitting in the passenger seat would probably demand that you pull off at a gas station and clean your windshield, whether you thought it would help or not. They wouldn’t want to risk their lives as you drive blindly.
Are you ready to begin cleaning your windshield of the many distortions and filters that color everything you perceive? You may enjoy driving a lot more when you can see clearly to choose healthy driving. This concept of perceptual filters is key in the recovery process.
© Copyright 2008 Psychological Asssociates James O. Henman Phone: 209.765.9528