When we think that our lives are not meaningful, we meet with the possibility that our very nature is meaningless. And in some cases, we are correct. We may have reached a certain place where we don't feel good anymore, we can't think of a reason why things should work. That's restrictive reality. It closes in on you and feels like a gasp for air. It's both helpful and necessary to meet with this possibility at some point. Upon deep reflection with our meaninglessness, meaning can bloom to balance.
In my single digits, I believed in people without question. It was dandy until the first person wanted to take advantage of me. In my life, neglect and abuse prefaced the acquisition of skills to protect myself. At the same time, I come from a privileged background. It's almost like the divulsion of privilege means the abuses and neglect don't matter. That would be a black-or-white thought pattern, though, and that type of pathway leads to discontent. I had a tough time coming to terms with my depression because I experienced so much privilege. How could I be so ungrateful for all of the good and feel so bad? What did I have to feel bad about? Those are judgement thoughts that can lead to imbalance. The truth is that neglect and abuses suck, and privilege doesn't obliterate their returns, such as depression. Sometimes it can take time to appreciate our own suffering and treat ourselves with the respect we deserve.
Balance is one of the more difficult challenges with depressed thought patterns. It's a challenge because there truly are a ton of things to feel depressed about in the world. Incredibly sad, unfair, and terrifying situations happen all around us, every second, regardless of our awareness of them. Sometimes those things exist(ed) in our own lives, perhaps things for which we hold ourselves accountable. For me, depressed thoughts, guilt, and anxiety are often in cahoots. Maybe you can relate? A situation occurs, I feel stress or anxiety, and then a thought will trickle through my head multiple times. Often, the thought is one that prefaces a sense of guilt. Given time, the guilt could sway into depressed or angry thoughts. Here lately, I work with the experience cycle to assert a new pattern.
The experience cycle is something I recently discovered with the help of someone else. She drew it out on a sheet of paper, a circle with four ideas around it: situation happens, thoughts manifest, feelings occur, behavior follows. In my experience, sometimes the jump from situation happens to feelings occur is so fast I barely (or don't) recognize it's happening. A situation arises and immediately my body jumps to stress hormone production. I'll want to end things, whatever the things might be. I might want to escape somehow. Dreams might manifest in mid-sentence with someone else. It's taken me a lot of time to be able to both see these moments as they occur and help myself choose another route. Sometimes I fail miserably when I attempt a new practice, and I have to drag myself through what feels like humility and loss of respect for myself. Gradually, as I learn different skills and practice and fail and practice some more, it gets easier to redirect emotion and thoughts.
In an earlier post, I mention Chi Nei Tsang. This modality has really helped me redirect the experience cycle with distinctive visualizations and meditations. For example, I've noticed that I often feel anxiety or anger in my midsection, generally on the left, right, or middle of my abdomen. So when I recognize the anger or anxiety, I scan for its location in my body. Then I either physically touch the area with the tips of my fingers or imagine my breath as it moves directly to its center. I count long, deep breaths. Then I imagine the emotion as it exits, typically in parts: gray smoke, jagged edges, splinters or pain of other variations. For the particularly intrusive thought patterns, I might actually say to them, I hear you; I recognize you; I see you, or a variation therein. I tried this just yesterday and it surprised me how well it worked. If I'm alone, I might say it aloud. In company, I may keep the thought internal. It depends. When I taught a class, I pantomimed the thoughts as I considered how to answer questions. The students appeared to enjoy my gesticulations, and so an external display worked in that environment.
The thing about depression is how solid it feels. Thoughts try to break free, and it's like tar grabs at them, strangles them. It is possible to breathe through the yuck into a different reality. It takes time, effort, failures, belief, and action. Each of us is here of our own will, and it's up to us to make it worth it. Through depressed thoughts, down days, we learn our boundaries, who we're not, what we won't accept. This helps us learn to be the people we want to be. This line between who we're not, who we are -- this line moves with each breath we allow. It can feel like too much, and we can also reach a place with it in balance with other elements. Someone yesterday told me about the Indian New Year and how she cooked a food that included all flavor elements of food. The food elements, in turn, relate with the different elements that make a life whole: sorrow, joy, difficulty, success, courage, etc. The symbolism sparkled as she spoke. Depressed thoughts can be part of a whole life, in balance with all else.
Well hello there.