Why is it that we’re smart enough to say “that cheese smells bad” (rather than “my life smells bad”), but when it comes to emotional content, we easily get overwhelmed and say “my life sucks”, rather than “my *insert specific problem here* sucks”?
Depression is partly a case of poor mental habits.
Sadly, our education system (and perhaps our whole western society) is geared towards improving IQ (intellectual intelligence), but terrible at EQ (emotional intelligence). And it’s often something that is sadly lacking at home too.
I’m a parent, and so I can understand why… It’s very frustrating (and, at the time, seemingly pointless) trying to teach a toddler about emotional intelligence and being specific — partly because they often don’t have the vocabulary to speak in such specifics, but also because the concepts are difficult to simplify.
Pretty soon, the kids are off to school and we (parents) sometimes wrongly assume the teachers now have the responsibility of teaching our children everything else they need to know. And so our children never learn about emotional intelligence… I certainly didn’t learn about EQ in my childhood.
I think I was about 28 before I started learning emotional intelligence. And I was learning the hard way — because everything was going very, very badly for me emotionally and I felt I had no choice except to either find out why and change it, or just put an end to my miserable mess of a life.
But that mess could have all been avoided if I had known what I know now…
Here’s the key issue: I was never told how important it is to ISOLATE the problem.
We can’t expect to feel good about our life when we make statements (either internally or out loud) about how “life sucks” and “I can’t cope with life” etc. This may actually be how we feel — it may actually feel like the “truth” — but that’s only because we haven’t isolated the problem.
To overcome depression, we have to make our problems seem like a drop in the ocean of personal content.
Initially this may seem difficult. But that’s because we’re too “close” to the problem. We’ve used the magnifying glass of our mental focus upon the problem and blown it up to giant size in our minds until we can’t see or think about anything else. Whatever we focus on will grow in our minds (and therefore in our experience) — particularly when it’s something that has an emotional element to it.
For some of us it’s money issues that get blown out of proportion, for others it’s relationships, or our body weight/type etc. There are many areas of life that can evoke a strong emotional reaction in us.
Unfortunately we tend to use the wrong “labels” for things…
We often use labels that generalise our issues and make it completely ambiguous. For example, we might say that we have poor self-esteem. What the hell does that mean? Seriously! We have to break it down to what is the real cause of these generalized feelings… Often, when we do this, we find that the solution is something very simple (and even non-emotional in many cases), like [a] exercise more to lose weight and feel healthier, or [b] get a tutor to catch up on the maths lessons you didn’t understand, or [c] find a new friend that likes what you like so you don’t feel so “different”, or [d] work out a savings plan to pay off your credit card … etc.
There’s no solution to “my life sucks”. But there are many solutions to something like “I’m earning less than I spend”. There’s no real hope in “I’m depressed and hate my life”. But there is plenty of hope in “I seem to have no energy but everything else is basically okay”… Those specifics give you the starting point to look for solutions.
How to overcome depression:
Get pedantic with your semantics.
Simply put: when we get specific, we get solutions!