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Depression

The Unexpected Gifts of Depression

Having suffered from depression, I’ve come to recognise the many unexpected gifts of this paralysing label.

Experiencing depression, hopelessness or being stuck gives us a choice, unconscious though it is for most. We can subscribe to the label and the idea that we don’t play a part in this very real and debilitating diagnosis; in other words that we are at the effect of and therefore unable to do anything about ‘it’.  

Or, we can acknowledge that we play a part in the process of being depressed or stuck and can therefore choose to do the work necessary to heal the causes of depression (which are undoubtedly within us) so that we can release the feeling of being ‘at effect’ of this terrible affliction.

Those are our choices.  Denial and debilitation, or taking some sort of action.  Of course this raises the questions of what do we do and how to we do it?  Before answering these questions (which by the way are multifaceted and different for each person and partly why it’s often not an easy problem to solve) let’s back up a bit and look at some of the gifts.

1) Learning and growth

One of the gifts that comes with depression is not just the learning, healing and the personal growth that we experience as we process and transform our depression, but how we can then share this wisdom and experience with others who are stuck in life or depressed.  We can help others with our very real gift, of being a little further along the journey of dealing with this ‘dis-ease’.  

Viktor Frankl wrote in his brilliant book Man’s Search for Meaning as he recounted his experience as a Doctor in Auschwitz, that when we find meaning in our suffering and are able to channel that into helping those less fortunate than us, we can find a sense of freedom and deep meaning to our existence.  

“Suffering has a purpose.”  Gene Early

Many people go through their lives never really finding a sense of meaning, purpose or contribution beyond perhaps having a family, a job, gaining material possessions, going on holiday or getting a pension.  There is nothing wrong with these things (they are gifts in and of themselves) but they are what you might call ‘surface level’ and can miss out on deeper levels of fulfilment, experience and wisdom.  Life itself!

This process of healing gives us a deep sense of contribution; of purpose and meaning to our lives where we can help others.  We simply wouldn’t be endowed with this gift, were it not for the fact we have ‘been through the shit’.

2) Sensitivity

Another significant gift is our hyper-sensitivity.  I will  use an analogy here to help explain:

I’m hyper-sensitive to what I put in my body these days.  Whether it’s alcohol, steak or lots of ‘bad foods’ like bread, I feel it!  On the one hand it’s a curse.  I love wine, steak and bread!  Too much however and I really feel the effects – lethargy, being bloated, tired or hungover.  

It can be extremely annoying, especially waking up with a thick head.  I can’t have more than a few beers without feeling the effects and hungover the next day.  I can’t consume much steak, bread or dairy without really feeling its impact.  What a shame!

The other side of this coin however, is that because I’m so hyper-sensitive (in other words I’m so open to the feedback that my body is giving me) that I know what to do in order to feel vibrant and healthy.  So I have a choice, again, to be at effect of this hyper-sensitivity or to embrace it as a gift – and therefore move increasingly towards (and be at cause of) a life of full of health, nutrition and vitality.  I have to say, I don’t always choose this!

To return to depression – our susceptibility or hypersensitivity to being depressed is a gift.  We rarely see it this way, but it’s a signal, a trigger or a message as we notice ourselves going into this stuck state.  

In the same way the effects of putting cheese, or steak or bread into my system is an indicator that I need to do something different, the stuck state or depression is a signal to ‘do the work’.  It’s the signal to change our thinking; to make a change.  As we do ‘the work’ of changing (which for people like me is an on-going process by the way) we become increasingly aware of the different kinds of choices we can make in our lives.

What does it mean?  It means that we become aware that at the deepest level, that we are always choosing.  And as we continue to choose, we create a life of freedom.

This is so far removed from depression it’s almost incomprehensible.  But it’s true.  Feedback and sensitivity are wonderful gifts and ours to resist, or enjoy, grow from and share.

3) The Fundamental Shift

In order to heal from depression, ultimately it requires a fundamental shift in the underlying presupposition or belief that “I’m at effect… I can’t… I’m alone… I’m not enough etc etc”. 

It is these kinds of presuppositions or beliefs, often set up in childhood (and certainly in my case) that still run deeply and unconsciously.  And the fundamental shift is that “I can… I’m never alone.. I can be present with myself.. I do have a choice in this moment.”

That’s a profound shift. A life changing one.  What a gift not just for us, but to those others who we can also help to wake up to the truth that we all have a choice; that we are not limited to or destined to live from our limited and distorted belief that we don’t.  

What a gift that depression – of all the curses we could suffer – could bring us to such a profound presence, awareness and joy of life and ourselves.

What do we do and how to we do it?

  1. Stay connected with your support network.  You’d be surprised how many people want to help, when we ask for it.  In the past, the last thing I wanted to do was to share my pain and vulnerability with friends and family.  Over the years however, I’ve found it to be utterly transformational.  For myself, and others.  We are not alone in being stuck or depressed.  It turns out to be a very common human experience.
  2. Get professional help.  There are a plethora of methods such as CBT and NLP which can address the underlying causes of depression.  For me, the vehicle was NLP.  Of course we all have different preferences when it comes to cars and the same is true with our healing journey.  Find your vehicle and get driving!  
  3. Stop being a passenger.  As I’ve said, we often we find ourselves at effect, blaming or resenting others.  This is an indication that the external world is affecting our internal world.  And yet we have a choice.  Stop drinking the poison and expecting the others to die.  When we resent or blame, we’re really getting angry for the mirror that others hold up to those parts of ourselves that we deny or won’t accept.  Do the work!
  4. Do some exercise.  It’s been proven to release chemicals called endorphins and thereby reduce stress, ward off anxiety, feelings of depression and to boost self-esteem.  In fact, Doctors are now prescribing exercise for depression!
  5. Understand that medication is rarely the answer, it’s normally a plaster for the symptom.
  6. Depression is a process, not a thing.  As a result, when we address the process for slipping into depression and change our behaviour (to for example exercising, reaching out for help, expressing truth etc) and things improve, the pattern will almost invariably come back around.  Be prepared for that gift.  It’s a sign for you to do some more work and go to the next level of awareness and freedom in your life.
  7. It’s our gift.  When we find a way to deal with our own pain and suffering, it gives us a unique perspective and experience to share with others.  My greatest pain and suffering now enables me to support others through theirs.  It has given my life direction and purpose and so can yours, for you.

If this blog has touched you, you want to find out more about my personal journey or feel that you could do with some support, then do get in touch.

Love, Tristan

Untying-the-Knot-blog

Untying the Knot

One thing I know for sure is that life is complex.  We are complex.  Of course the paradox is that amidst the complexity and confusion there is simplicity in life.  But just because it’s simple, doesn’t make it easy.

I sometimes liken it to untying a big knot.  At first it can seem overwhelming, hard work or even impossible.  As we persevere however, we find a way.  We can make make sense of, and unravel the complexities of life, which at first can seem daunting.  Ultimately the unravelling bring us great joy.

When you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want. Moshe Feldenkrais

We have strategies for everything we do.  When we understand these strategies, we come to know how we’re doing what we’re doing.  We can then do more of what we want.

One of the strategies I developed as a kid was having a sense of fearlessness in the face of aggression or violence. I unconsciously modelled that from my dad.  He was a violent man.

I learnt to have a fearless sense of adventure and willingness to take risks – some might say to my detriment.  I’ve nearly died on several occasions – while skiing, driving, riding motorbikes and even swimming.  I’ve set up and run numerous businesses, several of which ‘failed’.  I became a risk-taker, a real gift (and skill) I had learnt from my parents.  Thank you guys!

One of the many things that NLP coaching has given me is the capacity to understand and model out the strategies that create things like fear or fearlessness. That’s been life changing.

knot-5As I look back on my youth, more often than not my subjective truth (or experience) was informed by limiting beliefs and coping strategies set up in my childhood.  Along with fearlessness I learnt to be very fearful in certain contexts.  Context creates meaning.  However, from my very first NLP Practitioner course, through to my Master Trainer certification and beyond, what I’ve consistently done is to challenge and unravel those limiting, unconscious behaviours and beliefs. I’ve needed help along the way.

Untangling a big knot is very difficult, if not impossible to do instantaneously.  Over time however, if you pick a little here and a little there, it can become an easy process, even rewarding if we take it (and make it!) easy. This has been my NLP journey.

While I’ve had amazing and instantaneous breakthroughs and life changing experiences; while I’ve come away from courses and NLP coaching sessions with a profoundly different sense of what is possible and how I can make changes in my life – actually over time – many of the changes have happened at an unconscious level; easily, naturally, without having to even think about them or try.

That’s pretty amazing.  To think, that the human experience or evolutionary process has been designed to enable progress, learning and change.  In a way – less is more!  So the big knot has been untied over time with a lot of effort at certain points and much less so and more enjoyably at others.  As I look back and see how radically different my life is now, I can begin to understand and truly appreciate that the journey is significantly more important than any destination.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs

I still have that capacity to slip back into depression or play the victim from time to time.  However, I recognise these patterns and address them much sooner than I used to.  I now know how I create these states, so I can do something different.

As Robert Dilts said – having multiple options is flexibility and having multiple perspectives is wisdom. This is accessible to all of us.

That’s our knot to untie – in a way to let go of the effort and our way of doing things and wake up to new possibilities, options and perspectives that free us to be fully ourselves; to be who we were born to be.

Most of us are not who we think we are. We are so much more that we could ever imagine. Yet who we think we are dictates our behaviour and how we show up in the world. Behaviour is an expression of identity.

The fullness of who we are stretches far into the past, the present, and our future. It ripples out into eternity without us ever really being able to fathom.

I’m still unravelling and accepting the mystery of who I am. Despite (and perhaps in part because of) the many challenges, it’s a pretty cool journey!

Will you join me on it?

If you’d like to, why not click the help button in the bottom right of your screen and we can have a chat…

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A-way-out-at-last-blog

A Way Out At Last

When I was a kid, like many people I had dreams of a life well lived – a life of possibility, freedom and unlimited joy. However, as I grew up I discovered that life was often harsh, people couldn’t be trusted and feelings of joy were often fleeting.

As children we tend not to be aware of what’s ‘normal’ or dysfunctional.  The older I got however, the more I realised that my dad beating my mum or me up for that matter, was not right or normal; that my dad being a con-artist, drug dealer and in and out of prison was not normal; that living with my grandparents (who were both Colonels in the army) from the age of seven and being sent off to boarding school – was not normal.  As a result, I grew up with a ton of limiting beliefs. I became angry, scared and violent.

“Action will furnish belief, but will that belief be the true one? That’s the point you know.”  Arthur Hugh Clough

Over time, I came to learn that beliefs are nothing but a feeling of certainty about what something means.  They are not truth.  However, we operate from these ‘truths’ – from the limiting beliefs we grow up with – as if they are truths. These beliefs are like glue holding our internal worlds together, often very shakily, or unhealthily in my case.  And because we act as if our outdated and limiting beliefs are true, they often become self-fulfilling prophecies.  The world is dangerous.  People can’t be trusted.  I’m not lovable.  These become true because we believe them to be true.  As we mature however, we all come to realise a deeper truth – that the world is both safe and dangerous.

When I entered my twenties and begun to hear of ‘depression’ it dawned on me that I was depressed.  I realised that I had been depressed for much of my life.  That’s not to say I didn’t have fun and adventurous times with my parents, at school or University.  I did.  But I had this creeping sense of unhappiness; like a dark storm brewing in the distance, covering the sun and never quite passing.  Beneath the mask of being ok, was a sense – that all was not ok.  I’m sure that many people read through it.

When I discovered NLP techniques, I began to see that ‘depression’ wasn’t a thing.  It was a process. In other words, we have to do very specific things in order to feel depressed.  Yes, it’s a label.  But depression is more than a label, an idea or a disease.  We ‘play’ a part in it.  And if I played a part in creating my depressive states, then I must have some control over this ‘thing’ that had controlled me for most of my life.

There was a way out at last!  What I’ve learnt to do since (and this is the essence of NLP) is to understand HOW I do what I do (in other words how I got depressed) so that I could do more of what I wanted.

As Mosche Feldenkrais said “when you know how you do what you do, you can do what you want”.

I now understand how I get depressed, despondent or un-resourceful, so I go there much less often.  We have to do very specific things in order to get stuck.  In fact we are never really stuck.  We only ever think we’re stuck.

It is our thinking that creates stuck, unhappy or depressed states, just as it’s our thinking that creates joy and happiness.

We have to believe untruths in order to get into and stay in these kind of unresourceful states. I still have that capacity and to be honest, I still find myself in un-resourceful states more than I’d like to.  I’d like to live in perfect joy and harmony.  But if we’re human that’s a pretty tall order.

That said, I now have so many ways out of stuck states. I have choice.  We have choice.  The starting point is truth – that’s the difference between our distorted version of reality and reality in actuality.

This is the beauty of NLP.  It gives us a framework where there is always somewhere to go in our thinking.  And it is our thinking that creates how we feel, which drives our behaviour and ultimately the results we get in life.

As Michael Neil said, we feel our thinking.

This has profound implications. If there is always a way out of our stuck state, limiting beliefs or emotions, what then becomes possible?

Continue the journey… Untying the Knot

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As they say.. there’s nowhere quite like home

Spring Shoots

Beyond The Clouds

 

 

I’ve been supporting some people through very challenging times recently. At the same time, I have also been experiencing some very real challenges; more emotional and psychological than anything else.

Sometimes, no matter the process or the theory, the challenges just keep mounting. The clouds just keep descending and so I, or we, have to take a new perspective in order to make sense of our experience in the world.

Yesterday, as I was walking back to my hotel room, I was reflecting on the seemingly unavoidable suffering in the human experience, of how remarkable, but how scary and unsettling life can be at times, and then I thought of it in another way:

Just as there are seasons in nature, we also have seasons in life.

Some of us are in winter right now. It can be a dark, cold and unforgiving place. A place of confusion and seemingly eternal suffering. It can appear that there is no end to the darkness. Even when we have one of those beautiful crisp clear days we get in the UK, in a flash we can be plunged back into the gloom and depths of winter; the sun hidden from sight again for days on end.

Spring ShootsHowever, just because we can’t see the sun doesn’t mean it’s not there. And the clouds do come and go, eventually. This is the truth. Eventually, as surely as autumn turns to winter, winter in turn releases its grasp on us and we find new shoots and life in the hardened and seemingly desolate ground beneath us.

In the old days (and perhaps still today) people used to pray for protection and guidance through the seasons, especially the long dark winters. They’d build fires, gather with others for love and support, or hunker down and hibernate until the inevitable thaw returned and their job of planting for a new season and harvest was upon them.

They would light fires, tell stories of hope, come closer to one another to share physical and emotional warmth through the challenging times. Squirrels would have buried nuts to keep them going through the winter; bears would be underground sleeping through the worst of it and all around, nature would find a way to survive and make it through to the new season.

We all have our winters. It can seem like it drags on, indeed we can make it drag on ourselves, but ‘this too shall pass’. I know there is a great deal more to my winter. In fact, there’s a great deal more to life than we can ever imagine.  It’s there for all of us – beyond our thoughts – no matter what season we are in.

It can help to see past the seasons, beyond the clouds and up into the unfathomable reaches of the Universe. Thinking about how vast the Universe is and how small I am, how small we are, I find it humbling and somehow comforting to know where I live. I sometimes have this experience of zooming back in from the beauty and enormity of space.  All of a sudden I have a very different sense of myself and my connectedness to the cosmos. I can trust  the clouds in my thinking will pass in time, and gain a whole new perspective and sense of purpose in my life.  I hope you can too!

Universe beyond the clouds