Saturday, January 5, 2013

Depression: Changing your Mind in The Quiet Place

The darkness of prolonged depression is palpable. It is like a heavy obsidian cloak, that burdens the soul, and feeds upon it parasitically. It is different for everyone, yet each person experiencing it, has an uncanny kinship with those who also suffer this painful silent pilgrimage.

It happens over a long period of time. Like walking on the beach in a misty fog, eventually one becomes saturated and soaked to the skin. So it is with finding oneself stuck in the crippling repressive Cycle of Depression. Unlike biochemically enhanced clinical depression, this depression has its psychogenic roots in the mind. It can be labeled depression and it certainly feels like depression, but it has a different pathology. 

The person entrapped in the bondage of depression, knows that this melancholy and malaise reaches deep inside of the very soul of the individual. It feels like it is at a cellular level of the mind, and nothing seems to shake its hold upon one's thoughts and consequently, their moods. Medication seems to help for a time, yet eventually the dark shadow returns, over and over again.

The development of the mindset of depression is just that, a mindset. A way of thinking about life with cognitively infused beliefs that reside deep within the individual. Most often this mindset finds its roots in a progressive pattern of childhood experiences of painful disappointment. Not just a singular event, but a series of repeated losses, broken promises, and relational abuses from those closest to the heart. 

Such early life experiences in a child, sets in motion a way of thinking about life that is rooted in woundedness. Rather than an optimistic development of hope, that gives one confidence and courage to face the challenges of life, there develops instead,  a belief that nothing will ever work out, so why hope.

The Eeyore Syndrome

The seed germinates over time, and reproduces itself into doubts about oneself, doubts in trusting others, and even doubts about God, and whether He cares about the losses, and disappointments in our lives. The seed grows into a kind of Eeyore Syndrome. Always think the worst will happen in every situation.

“When stuck in the river, it is best to dive and swim to the bank yourself before someone drops a large stone on your chest in an attempt to hoosh you there.”

Eeyore's Gloomy Little Instruction Book

The Cycle of Disappointment

Without realizing it, one begins to reinforce situational predictions over and over, and before the day even begins,  the belief sets in that this day is a write off. Disappointment and failure are looming so just get it over with.
When continuous disappointments in our lives overlap each other, they act as a chain of emotionally charged memories that fuel the progressive development of The Cycle of Depression.

The links of reinforced thinking in the chain of memories subtly forms a belief that life will always turn out to be disappointing, no matter what you do to prevent it. The perception begins to form, "Prayer and faith doesn’t seem to change anything, so why should I get my hopes up. If I hope for more, I will only become disappointed and more discouragement will happen."

The Formation of an Attitude of Despair

A Belief Pattern becomes established in the mind that “When a day starts badly it always ends badly.” Each time a thought, feeling, perception or circumstance happen that is perceived to reinforce this erroneous belief, it gets stronger and then becomes an automatic way of thinking. 

When a person sits on the edge of the bed to start his day, his thinking begins with, “Well, I wonder what kind of trouble is just waiting to ambush me today?”  The attitude of despair becomes a belief that leads a person on the leash of unbelief, reinforced by his actions and his feelings of pessimism and negativity. A person often feels trapped by this cycle as the muscle of his own will becomes atrophied, and conforms to the attitude of despair. 

Challenging our Thought Patterns

The patterns in our thinking that undermine our peace and tempt us to take our eyes off of the Lord Jesus Christ are reinforced over a lifetime. We all have subtle beliefs about our needs, our wants and our dreams that need to be examined in the light of the Scriptures.

Developing a Truth Oriented Mind

When the Apostle Paul mentored Timothy, he often reinforced that the Scriptures were the key to a vibrant faith, and a godly life of obedience. So often we measure the value and worth of a person to serve in leadership, based upon their degrees, their social status, how they exude confidence, and authority, or their fame, and popularity. 

Christ wisely walked right past those outward worldly values when He chose His disciples. He selected men who had potential, moldable hearts and minds, and those who had little else to stand upon, but their confidence in Him, and His Word.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of Truth.”  II Timothy 2:15

Suffering and a Truth Oriented Mind

Transforming our thinking and beliefs has to become a daily discipline for each of us. This is especially crucial when hardships, and continuous pain and suffering have become a regular part of our lives. Solomon wrote words that would later define his life choices as the King of Israel when he wrote: 

"...For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7

The Opposite of a Truth Oriented Mind

When trouble comes our way, it will come as a challenge for us to overcome, and not a circumstance to become upset by. Challenging our feelings and examining our choices starts with an honest exploration of what we depend upon to help us when trouble comes our way. An example of this pattern can be seen in the life of Pharaoh during the time when Joseph was in prison. He awoke with a troubling dream of an upcoming famine:

“…Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream….In the morning his mind was troubled…”  Genesis 41:7-9
When Pharaoh was troubled he turned to where he always sought help when he needed advice or direction.  

“…so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams…”

Pharaoh discovered that he could not solve his problem

“…but no one could interpret them for him.”

Breaking Free from The Cycle of Despair

The long term development of The Cycle Of Despair, comes from a habitual pattern of turning to resources, other than God, to solve our troubles, rather than examining how we should respond to them from the Scriptures.  

Often times our thoughts have a way of ruminating over and over as to how we are seeing ourselves or our circumstances.

“It really doesn’t matter what I try, things will never change.”

“There is no hope for me. I will always be this way so I have to accept it.”

“I might as well give up. Why go on living with this dark cloud of depression over my life.”

Healing Negative Thinking by Renewing the Mind

These are actually beliefs we have formed that act like signposts to our feelings and our choices. Take a 3x5 card and write out a sentence on one side that describes a thought that keeps continually recycling in your mind. On the other side, list a few Promises from the Scriptures that challenge that pessimistic thought with the Truth.   

Make a personal set of several of these patterns of thinking, and tuck them in your pocket. Each time you are ruminating depressive beliefs, reject it outright and take your stand on the promises that address this pattern of thinking. You are now in the process of renewing your mind in The Quiet Place where you can truly begin to Change you Mind.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:1-2