Healing depression, preconceived beliefs, and dog’s fears?

Written by Amie on October 15, 2009 – 1:15 am -

New trashcans!

I have a dog that is pretty fearful. We aren’t really sure why, or what happened to him as a puppy, but something made him become very fearful. He is afraid of new people, new surroundings, new trashcans, new everything. I had to add the trashcans, because honestly, he is afraid of new trashcans, or just old ones he has never seen before!  He has been quite a challenge in our family, but at heart, he is very sweet. So, anyway, we are trying to see life through his eyes. I was taking him for a walk yesterday, and while I was observing the trees, the grass, the blacktop, etc., I thought about how interesting it would be to look at my surroundings and my experiences all as they are brand new.

Story vs. Helpful Information

I took this a step further and decided that for the day, I would drop any preconceived stories, beliefs, or feelings I have about things that I experienced for the day. I think this post ties in with my last one about added commentary. I realized how I have a story for just about everything! I think it was in Eckhart Tolle’s book  A New Earth, that he talks about putting labels on everything. We call a tree a tree, a bird a bird, etc. I noticed that I even make up stories, or had preconceived beliefs about why someone is driving too fast, why a neighbor is cutting down a tree, what my reaction will be if a dog runs out of a house and scares my dog etc. I do realize that some of these stories are needed. It is helpful to know which houses the dogs are that will run down the driveway, as it is helpful to know other information from experience.

A continuous loop

However, I realized what a habit it is to tell ourselves stories. I know I have talked about this before, but since I did this little experiment, I thought it was worth sharing. I know that I have come a very long way in terms of having stories playing in a continuous loop in my head. I really thought they were almost non-existent! Ha! Many of them are alive and well! I will say that most of the negative commentary about myself is gone, but I do have many stories playing in my head. I see that many of the stories are about my needs. I do have a strong need to feel safe, which is tied to so many other things going on with me. I don’t like surprise, such as a dog running down a driveway out of nowhere that scares me to death! I like to know what to expect in most situations, I am one that needs to ease into change, I don’t transition quickly!

Guideposts

So, anyway, back to my experiment. Hopefully this isn’t jumping around too much! It was such a wake-up call to me to see how many stories I make up as I go along. Also, if I have experienced something just one time before, I have a story about it. I know this is how we figure out our world, like a baby does. We have to have some guideposts, so to speak. But, wow, it would be so nice to be able to erase some of these stories, and just start fresh whenever we want to. Which, come to find out, is possible!

Short term memory?

Here I am pondering again. I am thinking how my dog can go for a walk, come back, and if I offered him another walk 5 minutes later, he is ready to go as if he has never gone. I guess his short term memory is not so great? I don’t know. But then, something that happened to him as a puppy stays with him and creates a habit of reacting the same way to certain stimuli. Not that humans are like dogs, but I can see how patterns set early on, can be tricky to change. Tricky, but not impossible.

The Abyss

I never thought I would ever feel “recovered”, so to speak from depression, but I do. I still have some bad days, but I don’t fall into the deep abyss that sucked me up in the past. I look at my dog, and I realize that he deserves compassion. He gives me compassion and unconditional love, no questions asked. We all deserve this. We have been conditioned, just like my dog was, but we have the capacity to heal. Just like I am helping Owen (my dog) become more accustomed to new ways of looking at things, we can all do the same.  By becoming aware of the stories we create, we can change our beliefs and thoughts. I promise you, you can do it.  I did this “questioning of my stories” early on in my healing from depression journey. Each time I became aware of a negative story, I had to say the story out loud, and then I made the decision as to whether it was still true in my life. If I answered “yes”, it is still true, I made myself show proof. I would use Byron Katie’s process of “the work”. I would ask myself Is it true? If yes,”how do I know it is true”? I would challenge myself to prove it. Most of the time, I couldn’t. Therefore, even though I still “thought” the negative story about myself was true, I decided that it doesn’t fit who I want to be anymore. So, I made up a new story, and I repeated it many times a day for as long as I needed to. Yes, it took work, but it is worth it! We are all worth it!

Byron Katie’s “Unconditional love happens in a questioned mind”

Where did this story come from?

This post kind of feels like it is skipping around, but, well, I have said that many times, haven’t I? I just want you to know that just because we have been using the same stories about ourselves for many years, DOES NOT make them true! It was not simple to change my story, but once I realized that I didn’t know where most of my stories came from, it became easier to release them. I even went as far as writing them down, and then burning the piece of paper as a release of the stories. Did they creep back in? Sure, sometimes, but I became like a gatekeeper to my mind. As I mentioned above, I still have stories, but the difference now is that I am actually aware of them. They used to play on autopilot in my mind, and I never noticed. I just felt horrible most of the time. I couldn’t verbalize the messages and stories for quite awhile. It really does take vigilance and awareness.

Seeing through new eyes

My experiment was helpful because it allowed me to step back and just let my mind take a quiet rest. I allowed myself to look at things like they were fresh and new. I tried really hard to look at old situations with new eyes. People I “know” and have seen many times became new to me. It was really fun to just look at people, and try to just see past their “stories”, my stories, and whatever circumstances were present, and just be there with them. I didn’t let anyone know I was doing this. And, I made sure that I told the inner judge to take the day off. If it tried to chime in, I gently reminded it that it had the day off. Not resisting it, but gently acknowledging it, and then letting it go. It is a practice to be with my fearful dog without getting frustrated at every turn, but I am going to treat myself the same way I want to treat him. I want to be compassionate, non-judgmental, and very present.

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The added commentary

Written by Amie on October 12, 2009 – 12:41 am -

You had me going!

When I am present, I am able to laugh about the many times my mind tries to tell me stories about the experiences that are happening in my life. If I have more than one or two things that I absolutely have to get done within a few hours, the stories begin…..”Oh my gosh, I will never get all of this done…..I hate days like this…..I feel like I am running all over the place…..why can’t someone else do this”……then I catch myself and laugh. I say to myself, “wow, you really had me going there for a few minutes, I almost fell into the victim role again….a victim to…? oh, that would be to myself! Then, I calmly remind myself of the facts…..”I always have a choice (very important reminder), I can finish these things easily, at 4:00 these things will be behind me, I can make this enjoyable if I change my perspective!” And, usually, within a few minutes I have shifted my mood. There are a few ways of looking at this, but I will share my experience because it is what I know for sure.

All about needs

When I was in this mode I am now able to see without a doubt that it was all about needs. When I felt overwhelmed and like a victim, it was because I was not getting my needs met. My stories would set up the tone of “oh poor me”, and then I would be convinced that my world was falling apart around me. The voices that were telling me stories were also telling me, “don’t bother trying to get your needs met, you will never get them met.” Once we learn that our needs will not be met, we get in the habit even as adults, not to bother asking. Therefore, we unconsciously put ourselves in the role of the victim, hoping someone will notice and then maybe we will get our needs met. This is a passive aggressive way of trying to get our needs met, and may be the only way we have known to try to get our needs met.  It took me a long time to really see this pattern in myself. I am able to see how this pattern was set early on however, and this made a big difference in my healing.  Once I could see what I was doing, it helped me to become more present and aware of the patterns so that I could change them. Identifying our patterns is so helpful in the process of healing.

Healing from depression

When needs are not being met, it is understandable as to why we act the way we do. All humans have needs. It is essential when healing from depression to get in touch with your needs. This is something I still work on because I had no idea how to name my needs. Most of us haven’t learned how to get our needs met. Instead, we make up stories as to why we feel certain ways. We make up stories about why “I have so much to do”, and “I always have to do everything”. A lot of our stress comes from the stories we tell ourselves about our situation. When I first started learning about needs and learning about how to express them, I had no idea that my stories were really the expression of unmet needs.

Stay present with myself

Things feel so much easier when I stay present with myself, and check in with myself many times per day. I check in with myself to make sure there are no stories taking me over like an alien! It takes awhile for the habit of listening to the stories to die down, but it does as long as you are present and aware. When I check in with myself, and the stories are running rampant, I simply ask myself, “what do I need?” I may not always get a quick, clear, answer, but just stopping to ask the question beings me into awareness. It allows me to consider what it is I am needing. Many times I just need understanding. I need someone to hear me and just validate what they hear me saying. Amazing how simple this sounds, but yet most of us have no experience with it. I learned about it when my kids were younger and I have been practicing it for years now. However, it still doesn’t always come easy. But, at least, I am aware of what is going on in my noggin now, so I can call it on the carpet, so to speak!

 

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