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with A. B. Curtiss
author of


According to your book you became a psychotherapist to cure your own depression? That is certainly how it turned out. I am a board certified cognitive behavioral therapist. I am a board certified hypnotist. I am a licensed marriage family therapist in the State of California; I have earned diplomat status in psychotherapy awarded me by the National Board of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists. Before I opened my own psychotherapy practice I worked in a clinic for seven years under a clinical psychologist. But before I even started to became any of these things about fifteen years ago I already had spent almost 30 years of my life as a raging, raging manic depressive.
Manic depression ran in your family? My father and my brother were both diagnosed with manic-depression, as I was myself as a young woman in my thirties. All three of us were under the care of different psychiatrists on and off over the years. My father and brother opted for drug treatment. My father and my brother were both wonderfully intelligent and interesting. They were creative, writers. I was frightened by the outcome of the drug treatment that my father and my brother underwent. It seemed to me that drugs took the edge off of who they really were as people. Drugs took the edge off of some vital creative energy, drugs took the edge off of some essential spiritual life force that I missed in them and that I was terrified I might lose in myself if I took the same route of treatment. My father ultimately died in a state of catatonic depression. My brother was one of the highest paid journalists in NY City who wrote for Fortune Magazine. But after 20 years of psychoanalysis, ritilin, lithium and the rest and the best of what the psychological community has to offer as an orthodox treatment for those whom they diagnose with manic depression, my brother hasn't been able to work in almost 20 years. So I refused drugs for my own treatment. Then I stopped going to psychotherapists and went back to graduate school and became one.
Okay but how can you say Depression a Choice? Depression is real. Depression is painful. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a biochemically-based physiological reality that exists in the body. But this need not frighten us. If we think the thought lemon, we salivate. Salivation is a also biochemically-based physiological reality that exists in the body. We don't have to cut out or tongue or take Prozac to stop salivating. We just have to stop thinking the thought lemon. The way we stop thinking the thought lemon is to think some other thought. Thoughts cause the chemically-based physiological reality of salivation and thoughts can uncause it. Thoughts cause the chemically-based physiological reality of depression and thoughts can uncause it. Since we can choose what thoughts we think, that makes depression a choice. I wrote this book to teach people how to get out of depression by using a system of mind tricks I call Directed Thinking.
In Your Book you say that Directed Thinking is based upon Neuroscience. All thoughts are bio-electrical but they cause bio-chemical consequences in the brain. Stressful thoughts of which we may or may not be aware trigger the fight-or-flight response which is supposed to lead us to forward action but ends, instead, in itself, a negative feedback-loop of escalating panic, fear and depression. But these feelings only exist in one part of our two part brain the sub-cortex, the seat of all our instincts and feelings. In the neo-cortex, the area of our cognitive faculties, reason, language and math there is no depression because the neo-cortex doesn't have the capacity for any feelings, good or bad. Historically people have survived with brain injuries to the sub-cortex and have totally lost the capacity for any feeling. We can temporarily brain switch out of our depression by functioning from the neo-cortex instead of the sub-cortex and leave our painful feelings of depression behind.
How do we brain switch? Neuroscience has demonstrated that as an electrode can stimulate a part o the brain and elicit a thought, so also can a particular thought elicit neural activity in a particular part of the brain. The brain is essentially a thought-thinking, feelings-feeling machine, different thoughts directly accessing different parts of the brain that contain different strategies that fund different behaviors, feelings, concepts and emotions. The thoughts we think, either thoughts we have chosen on purpose like "I must remember the name of my new neighbor" or thoughts that pop up automatically like "I am so depressed", determine from which part of the brain we function. To concentrate on any kind of neutral or positive thought, even the thought row, row, row your boat, brain shifts us immediately from the sub-cortex to the neo-cortex because this is where we engage in verbal activity as opposed to engaging in feelings. If we think a neutral thought long enough we become cognitively discontinuous with our depression.
I thought depression was caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Depression is really a mind trick. It's a very complicated little trick. Of course if it weren't so complicated it wouldn't have confused all the doctors and psychiatrists for centuries. Because the mind can only think one thought at a time, we have only one attention. Since the pain of depression is so insistent, we give it our one attention. And since all our feelings are located in a separate part of the brain from our cognitive abilities, we are temporarily disconnected from the totality of our learning and experience. We feel lost, helpless and powerless but in reality we are not helpless and powerless, it is a mind trick. As for the chemical imbalance in the brain, there are toxic chemical consequences to the brain of thinking any stressful thought. It is anxious thoughts like "I'm depressed" "I can't get out of bed" "Life is terrible" which power up our chemical factory causing the brain to turn out buckets of stress chemicals in the brain called neural transmitters which cause the brain to become more and more chemically imbalanced and the sub-cortex sinks deeper and deeper into anxiety, panic and depression.
So tell me again, how is depression a choice? We don't have to think a thought merely because it pops up in our brain. Anxious thoughts are compelling by nature, that is what makes our psychological defense system so efficient. But nothing is actually forcing us to think them. We can force ourselves to think neutral thoughts long enough for the chemical factory to power down and the chemical balance in the brain to right itself. This is what my book is about. Directed Thinking re-engineers the brain away from it's habitual depressive mind-set. This is my very message of hope. Depression is not really a terrible illness. Depression is a really terrible mind-set. We don't have to cure the mind with drugs. We have to cure the set with Directed Thinking. Directed Thinking creates new neuronal pathways in the brain that we can take to get out of depression. Directed Thinking shows us how to change our thinking patterns in order to change our brain chemistry. The basic principle that allows us to do this is the fact that as a human being we can only think one thought at a time; and we can think any thought we want. This principle is the basis for Transcendental Meditation and hypnosis. The principle is based upon neuroscience. If this principle were not true there could be no such thing as medical hypnosis for brain surgery or forming anew habit. We are not forced to feel painful feelings like depression.
Are you suggesting we ignore our feelings? We don't have to. But we don't have to suffer them needlessly either. When we brain switch out of depression, new thoughts and new behavior cause new feelings, less stressful feelings. Now, when our stressful thoughts stop and our chemical factory powers down, the sub-cortex is no longer in a state of alarm and good feelings can once more arise there. At that point we can slide back down into our feelings any time we want simply by simply paying attention to them again. And then later when this part of our brain again gets in a state of alarm, stressed, compulsive, we can slip right out by brain shifting back into the reasoning part for a while. And give ourselves a rest from the stress. We have always played a game of psychic see-saw with our emotions and our reason anyway, it is human nature. But some of us have let depression be in charge of this natural process. We can be in charge. We can make the choice. Of course if we don't make a choice, depression will make it for us-what part of our brain we are functioning from.
But why should we let our brain decide on its own? We can decide whether we want up-feelings or down-feelings by deciding whether we want to be up-brain or lower-brain, neo-cortex or sub-cortex. We don't have to let our depression bully us and decide for us. So basically you are saying we can think our way out of depression? Thinking about our depression maintains our direct neuronal connection to depression. Directing our thinking to something else besides our depression breaks our direct neuronal connection to our depression. Anybody who is depressed could think of a single thought, like "elephant" for instance that takes only a second to do. Directed thinking can teach you how to expand a short instantaneous break with depression into a neuronal pathway out of it. When we cease to pay attention to our depression, it fades because it is our attention to depression that directly connects us, neurologically speaking with the sub-cortex. Depression is totally dependent upon our rapt attention to it. If we ignore our depression and think about something else it goes away. The trouble is that depression is hard to ignore. We have to train ourselves how to do that.
If depression is a further extension of the fight-or-flight response which all of us have, how come some people don't suffer from depression? People who say they never suffer from depression do automatically what the rest of us have to learn how to do. Like some people teach themselves how to read or how to swim. After my lectures different people have come up to me and said that they didn't think they ever suffered from depression but after they heard me speak they realized that whenever they start to feel depressed they have always started to sing songs in their mind, or repeated some Bible verse over and over. One man said he imagines favorite football or basketball plays in which he carries the ball. But these people never realized that they did automatically what I was suggesting we train ourselves to do with Directed Thinking exercises. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not our fault if we get depressed but when we do get depressed it is our choice to function from the part of our mind that does not contain depression. And I wrote this book to show people how to do that.