St. George Slaying the Dragon
The Sunny Side of Your Mind
This is obviously a takeoff on the song, “The Sunny Side of the Street.” This is the second installment on the theme of Victimhood and how and why one should resist the temptation to go there because it is so destructive to one’s life. Unfortunately, I speak from personal experience. It’s not that I have been a true victim in life or really considered myself one, but I must admit that I have entered in that pond from time to time in an effort to soothe my “inner child” by wallowing in self pity. Unfortunately, it never works. Thinking dark unhappy thoughts, regardless of your intent, still and always will create dark unhappy feelings and moods; it is a simple case of cause and effect. Your mood does not take sides; it just does what it is told. Thus sad thoughts create sad feelings every time. In other words, you can’t win by being a victim; life just doesn’t work that way and it only leads one into a vicious cycle of anger, sadness and negativity (not a good formula for a happy life.).
Please don’t misunderstand my intent here, unfortunately life does create some actual victims and I am not in any way trying to minimize the suffering of these brave souls. In fact, I am saying just the opposite, there are true victims and those who just want to wear that mantle. And then there are those people of superior character and courage who are true victims but transcend it all the same.
The realization that I have finally come to after living more decades than I enjoy admitting to is that “mood conquers all.” I used to think, believe and accept that a bad or dark mood was the direct result of my circumstances and until and unless this was changed, I had no choice but to suffer the consequence of my current life situation. This lead me, in my younger days, to seeking out venues where I could drink and party to boost my mood or think of the “magic scheme” that would free me from my rollercoaster like emotional ride.
Then one day, when my partying days were over, I learned the truth about ones mood. That truth is that mood, for the most part, is not so much controlled by ones circumstances, which we cannot often control, but by ones thoughts, which we can.
As the song goes, “I used to walk in the shade with my blues on parade,” but “Life can be so sweet on the sunny side of the street,” the same holds true with your thinking. So now that we know what not to do here is my formula for a lifetime stroll down the “sunny side of your mind.”
Five Steps Towards Improving Your Mood
1) Make it your Intention to be a Happier Person: This may sound simplistic and even a bit Pollyannaish, but it is nothing of the sort. I hereby give you permission to feel okay or even good even when things aren’t going your way. Those of us who wait for everything to be just right to feel good have a long wait indeed. Believe it or not but feeling good and having a good experience can be mutually exclusive, in an overall sense. Like having a positive attitude even when things don’t go your way.
2) Maintain Awareness: Be aware of your negative thinking and nip it in the bud
3) Make Your Happy List: Write down a list of the things in life that make you feel happy when you think about them, preferably things that you have actually experienced and carry positive emotions. Both see and feel these experiences in your mind.
4) Daily Practice: Go over your “List’ in your mind on a daily basis, as many times as possible especially upon rising and before sleeping. Do this at least three times a day for the first two weeks and then as often as possible.
5) Going Forward: Then revert to your Happy List whenever you catch yourself feeling bad or in a dark mood.
What I have written here is not just a theory, it is a simple and practical way of feeling “Happier,” which I use myself and teach to my clients with excellent results.
So give it a try, the only thing you have to lose is the blues!
Why Feeling Like a Victim Encourages and Perpetuates Depressive Moods
Let’s get something straight right up front before I am accused of “blaming the victim,” because this is not the case at all. First of all, I feel comfortable speaking about Depression because I have been a sufferer all of my life. Although that alone does not qualify me as an expert, I have cured myself of this horrible affliction, which is to say I have turned off the switch that began it, healed myself of the Emotional Trauma that activated it and changed the negative thinking habit that perpetuated it. In addition, I have helped others to heal and cast off this insidious affliction. Therefore, I have only great compassion and understanding for those who suffer from this dark and relentless foe.
To begin with, those who suffer from Depression are truly victims in every sense of the word, and this is not just a platitude. True Depression comes from being rejected on or about the time of birth by one or both parents, which clearly qualifies these individuals as victims. But regardless of this fact, dwelling in ones victimhood is not at all beneficial to any individual who desires a positive and fruitful life. And in particular, for those suffering from Depression, perpetuating this negative behavior sentences them to a life of continual darkness, low level sadness and depressive episodes.
So how exactly does “feeling like a victim” especially work against Depressives? From the book, “Psycho-Cybernetics,” June 1960 by Maxwell Maltz, MD, Dr. Maltz explains an important way that our brain functions. Paraphrasing the explanation, there are two distinct functions in our brain, which are the conscious and unconscious (or subconscious) minds. The conscious mind serves as the controller by making the value judgments and thus runs the show. The subconscious mind is indifferent and carries out instructions like that of a computer system or any other unconscious machine. Thus, we can think of the conscious mind as the operator of a computer and the subconscious mind as the computer itself, blindly carrying out its instructions.
Thus when any individual, especially a depressive, starts feeling “sorry for themselves,” they necessarily think of the sad, gloomy and hurtful things that have happened to them in the past which directs the subconscious mind to go to that dark place in their psyche. As understandable as it is to do this and as soothing as this enticement absolutely seems to be, it is but a sirens call which lures the unsuspecting sufferer to an even darker, gloomier and more sorrowful mood than where it began.
Therefore, this syndrome of feeling like a victim by reliving all the experiences that serve as a justification for feeling that way and thus validating ones victimhood is simple a trap that locks the individual into a downward spiral which is nothing more than a vicious cycle of unhappiness.
The good news is that there can be a happy ending for all of us by resisting the temptation to be a victim by endeavoring to stay in the present moment and catching ourselves when we slip on the banana peel of victimhood.
Understanding and Overcoming Depression