Journey to a Choice
moment I felt depressed, it never occurred to me to do anything
else but be
depressed. The progression from a feeling of depression to
being a depressed person was a foregone conclusion that I
always ends. Not because of Prozac. Not because of psychotherapy.
Not because of psychoanalysis or shock treatments. Depression
always ends because it is in the very nature of depression
to end. The only question is, how can we get it to end sooner,
the way we want it to, instead of later, which we hate?
is that we have to learn to think about depression in a different
way. But it is not going to be enough to simply consider new
ideas from a safe distance. We have to get down on our hands
and knees with a magnifying glass and crawl around inside
of the beliefs we have for so long relied on. It is not going
to be enough to consider what we think. We have to consider
how we think because the problem of depression lies in the
very gears of our thinking process.
this we must entertain some rather esoteric ideas that we
cannot so easily dismiss with our ready-made answers. There
are wonderful clues in ancient paradoxes, like koans: What
is the sound of one hand clapping? These clues can reach beyond
our normal considerations to some un-invented part of us that
we are not normally in touch with They help us learn to think
sideways, intuitively, restructuredlyall the better
to match wits with our depression
makes us fearful that we will never be truly happy because
we see how our happiness can be blown away in an instant,
like straws in a hurricane, and absolutely nothing remains
to comfort us in our anguish.
not be afraid. We do not need comfort. It is not true that
all our happiness has fled and what we are suffering is the
pain of its loss. Our essential capacity for happiness is
not something we can "get back" or acquire no matter
how hard we try because it is our natural state. What happens
is that depression covers over our natural state and tricks
us into thinking that we dont have it anymore. When
we properly address our depression, it relinquishes its hold
upon us, and we find ourselves once again in the bedrock of
our infinite okayness. Practically speaking, happiness is
happiness is not conditional. Conditional happiness can not
pass for essential happiness anymore than being serially grateful
for disparate things can pass for a state of infinite and
abiding gratitude. Conditional gratitude, where we see something
that causes us to be grateful, is not the same as essential
gratitude, where being grateful causes us to see something.
Conditional happiness, the temporary excitement of having
what we want, is not the same thing as essential happiness,
the transcendent awareness that we can want what we have.
Conditional happiness is a feeling that comes and goes. Essential
happiness is our original state of well-being that is always
available to us. It is not quantitative despite the fact that
we think it depends upon some quantity of things or feelings
we "must have."
is not quantitative either despite the fact that psychiatrists
have labeled it a disease and divided it up into various classifications
and diagnoses. Depression, like essential happiness, is qualitative.
But depression is not our natural state, it is a state of
alarm. When I began my career as a psychotherapist in 1987,
I was as deeply afflicted with depression as anybody else
who walked through my door looking for help. But no more.
I have come to see depression in a revolutionary way that
has totally eliminated the whole idea of it as a disease in
my life. After suffering with it for decades; after watching
my brother struggle with the same ravages of manic depression
that killed my father, I know, now, that it doesnt have
to be that way. There are 17 million people suffering with
depression who are all seeking an answer to their hurt and
pain. Ten years ago, as a result of my work as a cognitive
behavioral therapist, my struggles with my own severe mood
swings and my experiences with patients who came in for therapy,
I discovered the real cause of depression. I havent
"been depressed" since that time.
is not an orthodox book on depression. The trouble with orthodox
books is that we agree with them. We seldom do things we agree
with because agreement makes us feel so comfortable that it
is easy to substitute our knowledge for our action. There
is simply no movement without resistance, as physics tells
us. Thats why we bounce a ball on the hard floor instead
of a pillow. Thats why we do exercises. Because we seldom
agree with them. Exercises make us feel so uncomfortable that
we end up doing them out of some kind of spite, and they take
us galaxies beyond anything we intellectually agree with.
a good chance you wont agree with even the title of
this book. You may find it uncomfortable, annoying, confronting,
outrageous, even dangerous. How can depression be a choice?
You may want to argue with this book, fight with it, wrestle
it to the ground. Good. The quickest path to change is through
our resistance to change. And there is nothing we less want
to change than our own long-held opinions, and the process
of how we think. It is human nature. But sometimes the very
act of defending some deeply-held idea causes us to look at
it more closely. We see a flaw. I have sat down at my desk
in a furious rage to write down all the one, two, three points
that "prove I am in the right;" only to find, as
I read over my own words, the surprising clue to my culpability.
problem with orthodox theories about depression, in addition
to the fact that we agree with them, is that at some point
they all depend upon some faulty but hidden premise that no
one thinks to ferret out because everyone is so caught up
in the admiration of the excellent logic employed. We are
all subject to this touch of intellectual arrogance.
premise in psychiatry and psychology, upon which both disciplines
and without which all of their diagnoses and treatments would
disappear in a puff of smoke, is that the persona and the
self ( the mind and the self) are one and the same. This is
based upon Freuds model of the unconscious mind that
has never been scientifically proven but has always been taken
as a "given."
our troubles are due to dogma and deduction," warns historian
Will Durant. "We find no new truth because we take some
venerable but questionable proposition as the indubitable
starting point, and never think of putting this assumption
itself to a test of observation or experiment."
So I do
not depend upon my logic as proof that I am right. I am sure
my ideas work because I have already freed myself from depression,
and I have lived in a calm state of cheerful sanity for more
than ten years. My logic does not proceed from a disease in
search of a possible answer. My theory starts with the answer
I have already found and goes backwards to see how I did it.
at this very moment, be suffering from depression yourself,
or someone you love may be fighting their own terrible battle
with it. What I say in this book does not come from the abstract
notions of some lofty and idealized therapists pulpit.
It comes from my souls-depth experience of the very
pain you may now be suffering. It is a pain that I think I
can help you negotiate because I have learned how to negotiate
my own pain.
you may not so easily follow my thinking, but my intention
in the pages ahead is to be your true companion, trying to
make myself understood not by telling you how you must have
been doing something wrong to be feeling so bad, or to list
all the ABCs of what you should be doing and thinking.
We get depressed not because we are doing something wrong
but because there are a few essential things we have never
been taught how to do at all. Thanks to some new advances
in neuroscience that have pointed out the way, we can all
learn how to do these things.
coming chapters I will illustrate for you the progress of
my own education and how it has served me, my own errors of
thinking and what I have done to correct them. I will pass
on to you precepts rooted in ancient wisdom as well as some
rather esoteric philosophical concepts that I have found helpful.
I will also tell you stories about incidents in my own life,
and then link all of these up with current scientific research.
have the tools I need to handle depression. But they are not
tools you can so easily hand over, ready-made, to someone
else. They are tools that only emerge into being by entertaining
small ideas and applying them to your life. Depression is
essentially a trick of the mind. First, we can learn how this
trick works so that we will not be fooled by it so easily.
Then, we can develop our own tricks to protect us from this
life-disturbing strategy of the mind-gone-wrong.
to depression lies waiting on almost every page of this book.
One person will click with an idea in the first chapter and
think, "I get it." Someone else will read to the
very last chapter before something will spring to life for
them. Another may read the book, put it back on the shelf
and later a situation will occur and they will connect it
with something they have remembered and, click, click, click.
They will get it.
to depression is very much like the secret of learning how
to read. And isnt it simple and easy when we know how?
And isnt it seemingly impossible for those who remain
illiterate? And how many of us could have learned how to read
on our own, without anybody teaching us? And who has ever
tried to teach us about depression?
of us who experience it depression is like living your own
death. As successful as I was in many other aspects of my
life, I was often paralyzed by a chronic despair. I spent
half my life locked in a joyless, painful, coffin-of-the-mind.
I learned about depression from the inside of it, from the
pain, from the helplessness, and from the hopelessness.
when depression began its periodic and pitiless attack upon
me, I decided to fight back, mentally, and found that I had
the power all along to escape from depression, I just didnt
know it. I discovered that I had a choice. I did not have
to meekly give way to my painful feelings. I could battle
them for precedence and win!
three most important things in real estate are location, location
and location; then the three most important things in mental
health are perception, perception and perception. It is our
perception of depression that is the problem more than the
low level of serotonin that seems to cause all the trouble.
When we are born, our perceptions are very limited. We have
not even differentiated our own self from the world that surrounds
us. As newborn infants we must learn to distinguish our own
legs from the ceiling!
transcend this first enmeshment when we learn to distinguish
our body from the universe at large, as well as from other
bodies. For many of us, this is as separated as we get. Our
soul remains merged with the self, and our self remains merged
with the mind. I cannot yet see through that "one-way
mirror" of the soul that enlightened ones such as Buddha
describe. I keep company with that larger part of humanity;
those of us who, like moons in a cosmic midnight, know not
the sun to which we owe our luminous existence. But I have
transcended my enmeshment with my mind enough to be able to
free myself from depression as an act of will.
note that I say "free myself from" depression. Yes,
the feeling of depression is caused by a chemical imbalance
in the brain, but "disease" or "medical illness"
is not the name of the situation. Depression is not a mental
illness. It is not even a cultural illness, though that might
be closer to the mark. Depression is a mind set. We dont
need to cure the mind. We need to cure the set. It is neither
necessary nor possible to "cure" the primal impulses
of depression or mania, which are merely extensions of the
fight-or-flight response--our most basic defense mechanism.
What we need to cure is our reaction to them.
think we cant do that. Most people think that what creates
our perceptions and the behavior of depression and manic depression
lies within the workings of our "unconscious mind"
and is therefore not accessible to will. I found this to be
incorrect. We simply have to learn how to use our mind, instead
of thinking we are our mind. This is the meaning of that old
maxim: The mind makes a wonderful servant but a terrible master.
push from the New Age spiritual movement, we now understand
the body-mind connection; that the mind can have a powerful
effect over illness and healing in ways we once didnt
think were possible. But we have not yet grasped the mind-self
connection; that the self is supposed to direct the mind to
manage our health, thinking, feelings and behavior. The mind-self
connection is the key to depression. If the self does not
choose to direct the mind, the mind may bury the self in all
sorts of varieties of negative thinking and mood disorders.
In the absence of any conscious direction by the self, the
mind can direct itself right into mental illness.
was clearly referring to this same idea when he wrote, "Where
a man has a passion for meditation without the capacity for
thinking, a particular idea fixes itself fast, and soon creates
a mental disease." Yes, depression is strong and painful,
and we can get very focused on it when we get into that downward
spiral. But we dont have to. We can cure our easy habitual
reaction to depression, which is to succumb to it, and as
an act of will regain our lost equanimity.
because we can improve the mind. We dont improve the
self. Rather, we more or less uncover the self or dont
uncover the self, use the self or dont use it. Human
beings dont just know something, we also know that we
know it. What we know (mind) may change as to improvement,
but the awareness that we know (self) is not a matter of improvement
or gradation, it is a matter of "either/or;" it
is a matter of "asleep to it or awake to it."
that the understanding that we are painfully depressed can
awaken us to the hidden point of choice; it need not abandon
us at the edge of despair. Where is choice hidden? Choice
is hidden between the awareness of the self and the use of
the mind. Choice lies eternally and changelessly between the
"I am" and whatever else may follow it to complete
any sentence (such as "I am" depressed).
to exercise this choice we must learn to split the atom psychologically.
That is, we must be able to separate out the "I am"
from the "I am angry" or the "I am" from
the "I am depressed" so that we can understand we
are not those things; and in fact, we are much more powerful
than depression or anger. It is simply a matter of educating
and training our minds so that anger and depression are no
longer in charge of us. We are in charge of them.
of us depression is the fight of our lives. We can win that
fight. We can do whatever we have to do to win. We can read
anything that can help us. If we dont understand it
at first, we can study it. We can encourage ourselves into
a belief that we can get better which is just a little bit
stronger than our belief that we cant. All that we need
to begin is our earnest desire to understand. It is the strongest
force in world because understanding is not just a possibility,
it is our destiny.
still struggle with the chemically-based impulse to depression.
But I no longer "get depressed." I may still be
momentarily overtaken by depression, but I can no longer be
taken over by it. My struggle with depression is different
now, and on a more conscious level. The battle is not limited
to the lower brain states of emotional pain and my reactive
behavior to that pain, for I have learned to call upon the
higher brain functions of reasoning, intelligence, and creativity
that now come to my aid.
game rules, boundary lines, and acquired skills for play,
such as there must be in any endeavor where we find our creature
selves pitted against nature for survival. The end result
is that I have domesticated "the Beast" which I
had once thought must forever feed upon me at will. And like
an old sea-captain whose experiences have toughened him into
a worthy adversary of the mighty ocean he sails, at times,
and from a respectful distance, I, too, regard my own unfathomable
"deep" with an awe not unmixed with affection. Depression,
well encountered, has many virtues.
no longer has the authority to intrude itself upon my daily
life. I am not claiming, however, that I control depression.
This would be a foolish attempt, like trying to control electricity,
or the ocean, or nature. We do not seek to control these great
imponderables. We do not dare to grab them by the throat and
throttle them until they do what we want. We observe them,
and respectfully learn their principles so that we can have
a safe and proper relationship to them, and make good use
of what they have to offer us.
depression in this manner, I have learned to control my response
to it based upon my understanding of its principles, and the
discovery and exercise of what precautions I must take in
order to "command" it. There is no other way. Cutting,
shocking, or drugging depression out of our brain is like
wrestling with lightning; we will only harm ourselves. The
right way is not to gain complete control over depression
but rather to gain complete control over our reaction to depression.
It is a very simple solution. Unfortunately, in the beginning,
for those of us who have a habit of going deep into depression,
it is also very difficult to do.
the difficulty of managing their terrible pain of depression
that most often brought people into my counseling office in
search of some common-sense therapy for a failed relationship
with their spouse, or their boss, or their child. Slowly I
began to sense a pattern in the unconstructive, almost passive,
way in which we were all living our lives.
to me that my problem, and everybody elses, lay in the
lack of clarity and directedness in our everyday thinking,
especially when depression hit. We all had an extreme dependence
on a very vague reality, thinking things and doing things
in a certain way, not based upon any clear, conscious investigation
or choice, but simply because we have always thought it or
done it that way.
if I were at a party and a feeling of depression came over
me, I always excused myself as soon as possible, went home,
and crawled into bed. The moment I felt depressed, it never
occurred to me to do anything else but be depressed. The progression
from a feeling of depression to being a depressed person was
a foregone conclusion that I never questioned. But a dedicated
long-term, systematic study of my habits, especially those
habits that I employed automatically whenever I got depressed,
opened my eyes to some entirely new possibilities.
thing I discovered was that I had never clearly understood
that sleeping in my clothes, staying in bed for days, sighing
a lot, and talking in a weak, sad voice were habits, choices.
I thought they were reality, my life, the behavioral necessities
that came automatically with the paralyzing pain of depression.
The psychiatrist I went to as a young woman in my thirties
also believed that. He suggested drugs. But drugs had not
greatly helped my brother or my father with their manic depression,
so I refused drugs, hoping something better would come along.
I was not to find that "something better" for fifteen
years, not until after I became a psychotherapist myself.
like to say I had a brilliant theory that transformed my life.
But it was not like that at all. Looking back I can pretty
much piece everything together, how one thing led to another
and how, therefore, it all came about. But it wasnt
so much a matter of creating fundamental ideas. It was more
like fundamental ideas kept coming and dragging me along by
the scruff of the neck. And when I still didnt "get
it," since there is nothing more patient than potentiality,
they would come around in another disguise so I could "discover"
them all over again in a different and hopefully more promising
context. Sometimes I was not a quick student, but anyone who
ever knew me could see that I was tooth-and-claw tenacious.
seem that I was always quick because I relate to you, in the
coming chapters, incidents of "instant" success.
But I know that any such instant was the shining victory to
a great siege of unknowingness that went before, much of it
so unknowing that it would be difficult for me to reconstruct
it. There will always be connections between my breakthroughs
and my awareness of unknowingness, but they are not always
easy to catch. Most breakthroughs are not so much a case of
truth being revealed as ignorance being dissolved. This is
a level of experience about which one can say nothing, and
yet something of meaning has nevertheless being conveyed.
it has been a help to me, as well as a scourge, that even
as a child I was often introspective. When I was ten I had
an experience that started out as a kind of playacting that
all children turn to when they are bored and lonely, but it
transformed into something much more significant than that;
a deep awareness that I was alone in my ultimate responsibility
for myself. Even though I denied it for years as an adult,
I was always being pulled back to this essential core.
remember staring dreamily and intently at myself in the full
length mirror on the back of the bathroom door, a little girl
in white cotton underpants, hair still damp from a summer
bath. I realized that I could not really see myself in the
mirror all at once, the way I could see other people when
I looked at them. I could see any one of my features clearly
but I somehow couldnt focus on my complete image in
the mirror or carry it in my mind like I could carry the complete
images of other people. I could recognize myself when I looked
at the mirror, but when I turned away I could not reconstruct
myself in my mind. This did not frighten me, but it started
me thinking some rather odd thoughts.
that my image would disappear when I stared intently into
my own eyes for a long time. At a certain point, only the
staring would be left to stare back at itself. Then I began
trying to see through the eyes in the mirror that were looking
back at myself so I wouldnt disappear, and this is what
I thought: I am going to remember this exact moment forever.
I am going to remember always that I am now ten years old.
I am always going to remember myself. I am going to grow up
and, when I do, I am going to remember this time and come
back and keep myself company so I wont be so lonely.
reason this thought was a great comfort to me, beginning at
that exact instant, and continuing for all of my life. I might
forget it for years at a time and then it would come back
to me. There was something very important and solid and real
about this thought. Even today it gives me a sense of being
ageless and timeless.
lost this sense of core self in the busyness of growing up
and mixing-it-up with life, I found two remarkable teachers
to help me salvage my ship of self-responsibility when it
foundered. Osho was an Indian guru who is now widely published.
Dr. Allan Anderson was the sage I encountered in graduate
school at San Diego State University. And I must credit all
those books that jumped off the shelf as I rummaged through
old book stores or foraged through garage sales.
sensed Dr. Anderson was no ordinary teacher when I found that
two students in one of his courses were quantum physicists
who had driven from Los Angeles to San Diego three days a
week for ten years to audit his classes! Sometimes the physicists
were able to illustrate some small point for the class such
as the "myth of continuity" with descriptions of
their experiments on quarks.
is one book incident: Just before I entered graduate school
we moved to a new house from the rented quarters we had been
in since our big move from New Jersey to California in 1983.
I got lost trying to meet with a real estate agent and found
myself at a small psychic community book sale where I proceeded
to buy the whole lot, whatever wasnt a Harlequin romance
or a Louis LAmour western. I took a chance on everything
else, even Greek history, feathery handwritten journals of
"sidereal theory" (whatever the heck that is, I
thought), Chang Tsu, Sankaracharya, and Karl Menninger.
were only 25 cents each, and I had been supplying myself with
what often turned out to be disappointing paperbacks from
the drugstore at four or five dollars per to feed my long-term
reading habit during the year and a half my own books were
in storage. You can well imagine the metaphysical treasure
trove I thus came by.
included some volumes on The Metaphysical System of Hobbes,
a various assortment of Yogananda, Krishnamurti, Rudolf Steiner,
L. Ron Hubbard, Edgar Cayce, Mary Baker Eddy, Martin Heidegger,
and George Gurdjieff. For one dollar per hardback I grabbed
up an odd accumulation of Carl Jung, Max Picard, Erich Fromm,
R. D. Laing, Alfred Adler, Lugwig Wittgenstein, and Alan Watts.
There were a couple of anthropology and astrology text books.
There were also some wonderful old 1890s to 1930s books on
hypnotism, astronomy and "scientific studies" of
Mind, not the human mind per se but what the various authors
referred to as the "cosmic Mind "of which the human
mind was "but the reflection."
on hypnosis were especially interesting to me. One little
gem called The Practice of Autosuggestion was dedicated "to
all in conflict with their own imperfections." I loved
that! Another, Hypnotism: Laws and Phenomena acknowledged
Agassiz who said, "Every great scientific truth goes
through three stages: First, people say it conflicts with
the Bible. Next, they say it has been discovered before. Lastly,
they say they have always believed it."
school I took the courses required for my Masters degree
in the departments of Psychology and Counseling Education
that were quite politically correct for the liberal-minded
1980s, with the emphasis on multiversity, personal freedom,
self-actualization and the various Freud-derivative psychotherapies.
At the same time I also indulged myself in courses from the
more traditional Department of Humanities that expanded my
interest in classical literature and philosophy. It was here
that I was introduced to Tarot, The I Ching, Tao Te Ching;
and the writings of Nisargadatta Maharaj, Heraclitus and Meister
interest in hypnosis led me to study the latest research in
neuroscience and brain mapping. There have been remarkable
advances in just the last few years in the knowledge of the
architecture of the brain by neuroscientists such as V. S.
Ramachandran and Antonio Damasio, knowledge that was not available
to Freud and William James at the time these respective fathers
of psychoanalysis and psychology formulated their theories.
familiarity with neuroscience, hypnosis and the more esoteric
philosophies slowly began to color some of my attitudes about
psychiatry, psychology and the practice of psychotherapy.
I began to see that the stronger a therapy emphasized feelings,
self-esteem and self-confidence, the more dependent the therapist
was upon his providing for the patient ongoing unconditional
positive regard. The more self-esteem was the end, the more
the means, in the form of the patients efforts, had
to appear blameless in the face of failure. In this paradigm,
accuracy and comparison must continually be sacrificed to
acceptance and compassion; which often results in the escalation
of bizarre behavior and bizarre diagnoses.
behavior results from us taking credit for everything that
is positive and assigning blame elsewhere for anything negative.
Because of this skewed positive-feedback loop between our
judged actions and our beliefs, we systematically become more
and more adapted to ourselves, our feelings and our inaccurate
solitary thinking; and less and less adapted to the environment
that we share with our fellows. The resultant behavior, such
as crying, depression, displays of temper, high-risk business
or romantic ventures, or abandonment of personal responsibilities,
that seem either compulsory, necessary or intelligent to us,
will begin to appear more and more irrational to others.
diagnoses occur because, in some cases, if a "cause disease"
(excuse from blame) does not exist, it has to be "discovered"
(invented). Psychiatry has expanded its diagnoses of mental
disease every year to include "illnesses" like kleptomania
and frotteurism. (Do you know what frotteurism is? It is a
mental disorder that causes people, usually men, to surreptitiously
fondle womens breasts or genitals in crowded situations
such as elevators and subways.)
with the escalation of these kinds of diagnoses is that either
we can become so adapted to our thinking and feelings instead
of our environment that we will become dissociated from the
whole idea that we have a problem at all; or at the least,
the more we become blameless, the more we become helpless
in the face of our problems, thinking our problems need to
be "fixed" by outside help before we can move forward
on our own.
years of Western culture our problems existed in the human
power struggle constantly being waged between our principles
and our primal impulses. In the last 50 years we have un-principled
ourselves and become what I call "psychologized."
Now the power struggle is between the "expert" and
the "disorder." Since the rise of psychiatry and
psychology as the moral compass, we dont talk about
moral imperatives anymore, we talk about coping mechanisms.
We are not living our lives by principles so much as we are
living our lives by mental health diagnoses. This is not working
because it very subtly undermines our solid sense of self.
unconditional positive regard is powerful; it is called love.
However, in order to gain their power of authority as an agent
of change, the psychotherapist and the psychiatrist must first
pay unwitting homage to the "Great Dread Disorder."
If the disorder is not more powerful than the patient, there
is no need for a psychiatrist to cure it. So the disorder
is what really gets the regard, not us. The unconditional
positive regard for the patient is necessarily shallow because
this hidden loyalty to the disorder relegates the patient
to second class in power and importance not only to the psychiatrist
but to the patients own anguish. Our whole society is
now in a state of learned helplessness that psychology has
to the undue reverence for mental illness as a prime determinant
of behavior, that I found in the psychological sciences, was
a denial of dignity and authority to disease that I found
in the work of Emil Coue in the 1890s. Coue was a French pharmacist
who introduced a psychotherapy based upon hypnosis, which
in those days was called "suggestion."
teased some of his patients, giving them an idea that their
ailment was absurd, and a little unworthy; that to be ill
was a quaint but reprehensible weakness that they should quickly
get rid of." Here was the idea that it was our ignorance
and weakness causing our problems, not some overwhelming,
powerful outside force. The solution was that we were to become
informed and strong. And the implication was that it was doable.
thinkers like Coue who seemed to point solidly in the same
direction I had tentatively begun to travel in my determined
effort to "cure" my depression. I did, at first,
hope to cure depression, thinking it was an affliction. Later,
I saw the goal more clearly as coming to a "right relationship"
with my depression. What proved correct was my initial decision
that heroic effort and self-responsibility was the proper
way to head. Perhaps I chose this way because I had already
begun to give up on my existing idea of happiness as being
either not achievable or a bad bargain, I wasnt sure
encouraged to this understanding about "happiness"
by the ancient mystics who warn us to beware of "all
desire," of wanting something else other than reality;
of wanting something else other than "what is."
I found I was now willing to commit myself to that old Victorian
adage "Be good, my child, and let who will be clever"
by changing it ever so slightly: "Be good, my child,
and let who will be happy." When we are able to question
our frantic search for our skewed idea of happiness, we turn
away from the complications of wanting something other than
what we have now got; and then there is only the one and simple
path I encountered Ovid who claimed, "The most potent
thing in life is habit;" and Wellington who maintained,
"Habit is ten times nature;" and Dryden who warned,
"First we make our habits, then our habits make us."
My subsequent experience coincided with these philosophers
rather than contemporary psychologists and psychiatrists.
I found that the positive habits that I formed consciously
as an act of will could override the bad habits that I had
formed autonomically as coping mechanisms.
it was the foundation on which I developed the counseling
techniques I was now using to help others, I found I needed
something beyond traditional cognitive behavioral therapy
in order to help myself. So when I worried that my life was
becoming so complicated I couldnt see where to begin
to make changes, I consulted The I Ching that counseled: "If
you wish to be rid of something, it is sufficient to simply
withdraw from it in your heart."
to explore pertinent relationships, relative to depression,
among the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, psychology,
hypnosis, neuroscience, philosophy and ancient wisdom. I was
drawn especially to a salient connection between psychology,
neuroscience and moral principle. The insights that came from
making this connection so transformed my perception of reality
that when I applied this new thinking to my life, I was able
to cure myself of 30 years worth of manic depression. Not
immediately of course, but over a period of two or three years.
by the linking principles of all these disciplines, the now
more open-eyed observations of my own behavior, and subsequent
theory and practice, a new way of managing depression began
to take shape. I started calling my ongoing developmental
process "Directed Thinking" when it was so aptly
nicknamed by one of my patients.
Directed Thinking can be learned, it is not a system easily
encapsulated, like a twelve-step program. It is a description
of my own personal quest to a cure, and the insights that
led me, indirectly, to a different relationship with my mind.
I do not know how to give you the truth about depression,
but I can describe for you exactly the journey I took where
the truth about depression found me.
not necessarily a journey from point A to point B because
many important insights were the hindsights of experience
before they became the foresights of theory. Thus my journey
was sometimes from point G to point B, so it lacks the linear
continuity that is generally the stuff of a learn-step-one-then-go-on-to-step-two-self-help
text. But this is good. We dont learn psychological
lessons deductively, in a linear way. They generally sneak
in the back door when were least expecting them. I love
this story about accidental learning that Susan F. told me.
an elementary school music teacher who was demonstrating for
her first grade class the notes of the scale by letting them
tap on glasses filled to different levels with different colored
water. She ran out of colors and mixed the blue and red to
differentiate the last glass. At the end of the class, when
she asked the children what they had learned about music,
one child raised his hand and said, "l learned that red
and blue makes purple."
Directed Thinking is basically an inductive process, there
is still the temptation to impose standards of deductive reasoning
in the reporting of it, which can result in a "foolish
consistency;" that old "hobgoblin of little minds,"
about which Emerson warned us.
I might say at one time that pain may not be as real as it
seems and another time that pain may be our most trenchant
reality, two inconsistent ideas when compared to one another.
But these two ideas are less truths to be disputed than they
are different-colored lenses through which to see ourselves.
In the same sense I may refer to happiness as our original
givenness, or a will-o-the-wisp that is dangerous to pursue.
An Eastern guru would say it this way: If you want to see
the moon, do not debate directions with the finger pointing
to the moon, simply look where the finger is pointing.
the truth about depression. The problem is that the horizon
of any truth may be seen differently from a north or a south
view. Truth itself may not be "one way" but we can
only apprehend truth one way, from one direction, from where
we stand at the moment. Anais Nin said, "We dont
see things as they are, we see them as we are." The old
sages understood this. The reason their sayings often seem
meaningless is due to their penchant for answering the questioner
instead of his question. Instead of directly answering our
question, real wisdom indirectly gets us to change our stand
and then we see that it was our question that had been meaningless.
pages to come I present to you the kaleidoscope of my own
journey. At any point some idea may become so clear to you
that it could totally change your stand, the way you look
at things. This is what happened to me. I was given an "answer"
to depression that lies beyond any medical cure for it. As
a result of this new understanding, although I still experience
the same wide mood swings that used to devastate me, I now
remain a calm, stable, sober and cheerful person.