We recognize that our minds control our reality and that if we want to improve ourselves, we must discipline our minds to practice growth instead of destruction.
The following principles outline my approach to battling anxiety and depression.
Principle 1: Everyone Has a Legacy of Insecurity
There is no such thing as a perfect childhood. Life is messy, complex, and complicated. As children, we all developed our own way of emotionally dealing with this. When children feel out of control and vulnerable, they resort to any strategy that provides relief: tantrums, whining, sulking, hiding, and misbehaving…these are primitive tactics designed to reduce vulnerability by gaining more control. Feeling out of control and vulnerable is a natural part of life. We all experience it in different ways. The more we want to run away from the fact, the more difficult our lives will become.
Principle 2: Thoughts Precede Feelings, Anxieties, and Depression
You’ve probably heard the phrase “your thoughts make your reality”. In a way this is true. Say you get passed up for a promotion. If your underlying thoughts about yourself are that you are a victim, you will either sulk, lash out, make excuses, or a combination of all. But if your thoughts are that you are whole and complete, you can engage this in a totally different, more appropriate way. This principle defines the greatest power we as humans have – the power of choice. We actively or passively choose the thoughts that underline the way we view both ourselves and the world. Because we have the power of choice, we have the power to change.
Principle 3: Anxiety and Depression are Misguided Attempts to Control Life
This is my favorite because it is by far the one that society needs to wrap its head around most. Anxiety and depression are (generally speaking) a habitual response. They are an attempt to control life. Those who are depressed typically want to control and change the past. This is impossible, so they get depressed. Those who suffer from anxiety, typically want to control and protect themselves against the unforeseen future. This also is impossible, so they get anxious. Feeling anxious or having low moods does not mean you suffer from a mental disorder. Yes, there are those who have severe chemical issues that cause these disorders. But for most people, responding with anxiety and depression is something that was learned. Most likely they learned it from their parents or caregivers or developed it as a coping mechanism to difficult situations growing up. We can and should have compassion for ourselves and our anxiety and depression. There’s no need or place for shame! We can change our responses. We can face situations of stress, and instead of going into a cycle of anxiety or depression, we can create a fresh path for doing something else. Neural Re-wiring is especially effective in treating these habitual patterns because it does just that; it creates space for thinking, believing, and acting contrary to the old models that have not served us well.
Principle 4: Control is an Illusion, Not an Answer
Control is an illusion. One of the best ways to view this concept is to understand that if we truly felt like we could handle whatever came our way, we wouldn’t feel the need for control. Therefore, the problem of insecurity is really a problem of self-trust. If we can learn to trust in our innate strength to overcome anything, we will be fine.
Principle 5: Insecurity Is a Habit, and Any Habit Can Be Broken
As I incessantly remind people, if you can train yourself to brush your teeth each night, you can train yourself out of anxiety and depression. Think about what you do when you feel weak. What is your habitual response to that feeling? By gaining greater self-awareness and emotional space to remain stable in emotional situations, you can choose differently and create new habits.
Principle 6: Healthy Thinking Is a Choice
Choice is our greatest superpower. One of the powerful truths is the realization that our suffering will only continue for as long we choose. It’s up to us.
Principle 7: A Good Outcome Is a Good Motivator
You need to have two things to make this work: the right attitude and proper motivation. Once you commit fully to changing a behavior or thinking pattern, and once you see you can do it, each time thereafter becomes easier and feels more natural. At the end of the day, it’s up to you. You must have the intrinsic desire to change and employ the mental fortitude to persevere.
Principle 8: Our Worth Is Our Birthright
You are of unconditional worth. You were of worth before you were born, you’re of worth now, and you’ll be of worth when you die. In my experience, it all comes down to our own SELF WORTH. Yet when we really dig at why we are anxious, why we want control, the answer is always the same. Our worth is on the line. We must at least look good, sound smart, perform well, in order to gain love and support from those around us, right? This is not good. Yes, we have our rules as a society for what is “good” and “bad” in order to keep some measure of control and order. But we have somehow trained ourselves to believe that our worth lies in our external lives. It lies in our achievements and what we think others think of us. Therefore, it’s always at risk. The anxiety is palpable. We are constantly in jeopardy of losing it all. But what about what we think about ourselves? At the end of the day, when we lay our head on the pillow, what matters is what WE think of ourselves. It is the only constant! Everything and everyone are just variables.
Over the past two decades, I have worked with individuals who have spent years in therapy to no avail and are finally making progress by viewing anxiety and depression as a habitual response instead of chronic disease. It’s something they can change, something they can control. I have seen this realization change people’s lives for the better over and over.