My current project is to eliminate the cycle of negative thoughts from my mind. Or more precisely, I don’t wish to be controlled by these negative thoughts and emotions any longer. I began this process back in April when I had my moment of clarity. I realize then that much of my depression and anger was due to painful events in my past that I never addressed. I didn’t even realize how much of my past I carried with me every day. I started to see that many of my friends were going through a similar experience and working through them in various ways – some more successful than others. But I read an article by Johann Hari in the Huffington Post that triggered me, The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And They’re Not What You Think. I cried when I read this article. I realized that many of my behaviors that were keeping me from living a more productive, healthy life were tied to bullying and abuse during my adolescent and teen years. And much of that stemmed from earlier childhood health problems (a duration from age 3 to 5 years old) which made me stand out more as a target. I developed learning disabilities and had severe coordination issues from that illness. I was also an introvert. I don’t know if I would have been so introverted had I not had such serious health issues, but I do not remember a time when I wasn’t an introvert.
I was in the second grade when I started to notice there was a problem. My best friend in school stopped talking to me regularly. She began hanging out with the cooler girls and would barely acknowledge me. Most of the boys made fun of me. I didn’t understand why. My best guess is that I must have behaved awkwardly. Or at least I gave the impression that I did. Enough for it to have social consequences. Though a few years ago, my sister, who is three years older than me, told me that she had some of the same issues because we didn’t live in the same neighborhood as most of the kids in our class. We lived in the suburbs and they in the city. Part of it may have been due to lack of proximity and that they viewed us as snobs (or perhaps their parents did and that perception transferred to the kids). My mother confirmed this was a problem she ran into at the school as well. Whatever the actual reason was, I was bullied from the age of 7 to 14. I was thrilled when I left that school behind and went to an all-girls high school. I remember those three years with much love, because I was finally able to have peace away from that abuse. Unfortunately, the school closed and I had to serve out my senior year with some of the same grade school kids that bullied me. One in particular was so bad that I occasionally still find myself thinking of ways to humiliate him.
I didn’t connect all of the negative behaviors I developed to this time in my past until I read the article. Now I see it as obvious. Little things I do to sabotage myself from breaking out of the cycle I am in are very clear to me now. This year on my birthday, the universe gave me a powerful download that made me realize that I’m carrying around painful baggage and I don’t have to do that. I never had to do it. The coping strategies that I developed to survive bad situations are no longer needed. I can let those go and choose something different now.
So, I set about changing my thoughts and ending the negativity cycle that I often get trapped in because of inertia. It’s easier to live on autopilot, but there are great consequences to that way of life. Growth doesn’t come out of that. The first step I took was to embrace my past and to start connecting parts of it with behaviors I developed. I needed to visualize the negative situation, the behavior I developed to cope with it, and then to see how the behavior was specialized to that situation. I could then see that today, that situation was no longer an active part in my life, so the behavior no longer served me.
I started to meditate daily and question everything that I said and did. I actually started to see some of the positive things that came out of my past in shaping who I am today. That was the real breakthrough step. As difficult as my life has been emotionally and physically, I cannot deny that much of it lead me on my path to discovery. My work in philosophy and religious studies is a direct result of my turn inward. My ability to think critically and to question the world and authority around me came out of a dissatisfaction with the mainstream world. And it is because of my spiritual journey that I can now pull myself out of the mental rut I’ve been in for decades.
It’s also clear to me now that I developed a lot of insensitive and hypocritical tendencies that were rather self-serving and dismissive of others. I believe this is because I was so nullified as a child. So now, when I’m annoyed or find the actions of someone questionable, I first ask myself how I would act in the same situation. Do I do this myself? Are they being reasonable and am I annoyed or angry because it’s an inconvenience to me? Am I being unreasonable because my hormones are in flux? I run through a complex series of questions in my head. But here is the most important thing – if my answer is no, I listen to my inner voice now. I don’t make the assumption that I am wrong or invalidate my own experience, but rather I make room for the possibility that I am wrong and then I assess the situation.
Daily meditation allows me to be an observer of my thoughts. I can see them. I can see the little buggers that cause problems and I can opt to follow a different line of thinking. This has given me the ability to start the process of removing what no longer serves me.
Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that my depression is lifting. My interactions with my partner are far more positive and less contentious. I can actually see a positive future ahead of me with so much more to discover. It is early in the game. I do realize that it’s only been four months. But I also feel that my spiritual quest to eliminate the cycle of negative thoughts has given me new tools to cope with what life throws at me.