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Unread 10-08-2014, 10:00 AM   #1
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Default How I understood and then escaped

Dear friends,

Here is how I understood and finally escaped from my own depression. It worked so well, that I really think it could help others too. Please respond if this rings true in your experience.

I'm impressed by the many insightful, kind and courageous posts at this site.

Regards, - vital

=================================

How to Understand and then Escape from Depression

September 23, 2014

I have been depressed for most of my life, and, at various times, I have tried most of the recommended treatments for depression. I have tried Saint John’s Wort, exercise, Yoga, talk therapy, SSRIs, thyroid supplements and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In my case, I would say that thyroid supplements, exercise and Yoga helped the most and all of them helped at least a little bit. Unfortunately, none of these treatments helped dramatically. Then, however, in late 2013 and early 2014, I finally figured it out. I came to understand what was happening in my own head and why it was causing my own depression and I was able to figure out a way to escape. I don’t mean that I am now successfully managing my depression. I mean it’s gone. I am writing up what I think is going on and what I did to escape because I don’t think that my case is unusual. I think that exactly the same thing will work for many people.

THE ROOT CAUSE OF DEPRESSION

I have no medical training, but the people who do will tell you that depression can be caused by a number of specific problems including vitamin B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, exposure to traumatic events, heavy metal toxicity and probably more things that I don’t know about. That is why, if you think you have depression, you should see a medical doctor. Depression is known to run in families and, so, it is thought that there is at least a genetic predisposition to depression. Depressives have chronic stress and may have changes in their brain chemistry such as reduced serotonin levels and may accumulate damage to their hippocampus. Depressives have more health problems and cognitive difficulties and are at greater risk of suicide than the general population. That’s what they say in popular books and in Wikipedia, anyway. I believe it, too. However, I also think that the popular and medical understanding of depression has missed an essential point. I believe that there is, after all, a simple, single, psychological root cause of depression.

• Depression is caused by an unconscious withdrawal of participation in a person’s own internal decision making processes.

Note the qualifier unconscious. A depressed person does not choose it or realize it, but they have unconsciously turned away from the internal process that determines what happens in their life. A depressed person continues to live, but they do not continue to decide. What happens in a depressed person’s life is dominantly determined by subconscious thoughts and feelings, which arise, uncontrolled, as reactions to current events and to the thoughts and feelings from the moment before. A depressed person is mainly on autopilot without realizing that they are mainly on autopilot. A depressed person will do what they always do, say what they always say, feel what they always feel and think what they always think. A depressed person “thinks without thinking.” A depressed person thinks without deciding to think.

If this is correct, what happens to someone when they unconsciously give up deciding what they do?

1. CHRONIC STRESS. If a depressed person actually has to do something, and they don’t decide anything, how do they do it? The answer is that they wait until an unconscious process forces them to do it. If a depressed person has to do their taxes, for instance, they will not decide at some moment to do their taxes. Instead, they will wait until the fear of the consequences of not doing their taxes forces them into doing their taxes. Depressed people will procrastinate about almost anything that they do not habitually do. The process of doing almost any necessary task is then necessarily emotional, stressful and unpleasant, because each necessity of life brings with it a rising tide of negative emotions, which only recede when the action is eventually forced. That is why, I believe, depressives almost automatically have chronic stress. As is well known, chronic stress can be quite physically harmful and surely leads to many of the negative consequences of depression. From my point of view, however, chronic stress is only a symptom of the underlying problem.

2. BEING HARMED BY ONES OWN THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS. It has often been observed that a depressed person will suffer from compulsive, self-defeating negative thoughts and feelings. In Richard O’Connor’s excellent book Undoing Depression, for example, negative thoughts are classified as Overgeneralizing, Selective abstraction, Excessive responsibility, Self-reference, Catastrophizing and Dichotomous thinking. Depressives are said to have “depressogenic assumptions” – false beliefs that set one up for depression. As explained by O’Connor, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to collaborate with the patient in changing these habits of faulty thinking. I am not surprised that this sort of treatment can be helpful. However, I see a minor and a major problem. The minor problem is that the negative thoughts and beliefs of depressives are often actually insightful and correct, even if they are also sometimes self-fulfilling. The correctness of ones own thoughts makes it difficult to talk oneself into not thinking them. That is, however, only the minor problem. The major problem is that negative thoughts, beliefs and “depressogenic assumptions” are, once again, only symptoms of the underlying problem. The actual content of these thoughts, beliefs and assumptions is incidental. It does not matter if they are true or if they are false. What matters is that a depressed person has such thoughts and beliefs and feelings without deciding to have such thoughts and beliefs and feelings.

3. THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL. Many of the problems that come from 1 and 2 above make a depressive’s life vulnerable to an unstable downward spiral. Being under stress, for example, makes it hard to think and function, which then leads to disapproval from others or loss of status and, thus, to more stress and so on, repeating. Humans share with other animals the charming instinct to attack someone who shows fear or weakness. Thus, if you are fearful, you may be attacked and will have even more reason to be fearful. For a depressed person this is all too familiar.

Actually, I suspect that many people have “pre-depression”. They are in the state as I have described it, but they will only run into the kind of overt major symptoms that cause people to seek help if a traumatic event triggers the above mentioned downward spiral. For example,

QUIZ: What do the following hypothetical people have in common?

1. A severely depressed person who gets little pleasure out of life and can barely function.
2. A highly functioning compulsive workaholic.
3. A video game addict who plays a video game for 16 hours a day for days at a time.

ANSWER: They all have the same underlying problem. They have all unconsciously let go of the reins and they are all doing what they do without actually deciding to do what they do. They may or may not have the usual overt symptoms of depression, but they are all vulnerable to the downward spiral.

ESCAPE

Depression is often described as a complex multi-faceted syndrome with no single cause and no simple treatment. If I am correct (and I must admit that this is a very big if), then this sort of statement is just wrong. I am claiming that depression does have a single, fairly simple, root cause. The only real difficulty in solving the problem is that the process of slipping into the state where you are not deciding things is an unconscious process. It is hard to stop it by an act of will or out of understanding because you just don’t notice it when it happens. That’s why, I believe, depression is a hard problem to fix with talk therapy. You can have lots of realizations and insights about yourself, but understanding why you have a particular set of dysfunctional thoughts and feelings is not really the point. The point is to not have thoughts and feelings in general in an uncontrolled unconscious manner. At some point, then, it occurred to me that directly training my unconscious might be an interesting try. I am not an expert on depression, but, after all, it is happening in my own head and who knows more about what’s happening in my own head than I do? I will now describe what I did and predict what will happen to you if you follow along.

THE RULES OF SNAP CLUB

This game is simple and fun and easy to do. I am rashly claiming that it will fix your depression. It’s easy enough to try.

The rules are as follows:

1. DO ANYTHING YOU WANT ANYTIME YOU WANT.

I think that you will agree that Rule #1 is easy to follow. For example, if you are feeling terrible and you just want to lie in bed all weekend, go ahead and do that. You are still obeying Rule #1.

2. IF YOU DECIDE TO DO SOMETHING, JUST AT THE MOMENT WHEN YOU DECIDE, SNAP YOUR FINGERS.

A word about Rule #2. I don’t mean that you should decide to do something in the future like “I’m going to exercise more.” I am talking about deciding to do something immediately before you physically do it. For instance, if you are sitting, you might or might not decide to stand up at some point. If you decide to stand up, at the moment when you actually decide to stand up, SNAP YOUR FINGERS and then stand up. Notice that no will power is involved. If you don’t feel like standing up, then don’t. But, by definition, the SNAP will immediately precede an action on your part because I’m telling you to just wait until you’re about to do it and then SNAP at that moment. Suppose, for example, that you are feeling terrible as described above. No matter how terrible you are feeling, you will occasionally turn your head, roll over, go to the bathroom to pee or do something. To play the game, you just have to precede turning your head with a decision to turn your head and SNAP just before you turn your head. You are then obeying Rule #1 and Rule #2.

Based on what happened in my case, I am predicting that the following will also happen to you if you play SNAP CLUB. This all happened to me.

• You will find that there is a big qualitative difference between doing a thing and deciding to do a thing and then doing that same thing.

• You will be shocked to discover that very little of what you do during the day is preceded by any conscious decision at all. In my case, I could go for days or even weeks without deciding anything.

• You will find that the SNAP is quite enjoyable, no matter how tiny a thing it is you are deciding to do. In my case, I snap hundreds of times a day or more. I often pick out nonsense things to do just to have the experience of deciding and then doing them.

• After a while, you will notice a growing sense of power and vitality. Your brain will begin to subconsciously learn that every time you snap your fingers, something happens. You may, for example, see a sink full of dishes to wash and then have the feeling that this is no problem because all you have to do is snap your fingers and it will get done! Although this makes no sense, it appears to work anyway. That’s the subconscious for you.

• After some time, you will find yourself thinking negative thoughts in response to some event in your life. You will notice that you are having unpleasant thoughts and it will occur to you that you might decide not to have these unpleasant thoughts and to precede this decision with a SNAP. You will discover that this works.

• After some time, you will find yourself feeling an unpleasant emotion like fear or anger or resentment in response to some event in your life. It will occur to you that you might decide not to feel these unpleasant emotions and to precede this decision with a SNAP. You will discover that this works.

• After a longer time, an event will happen in your life that used to cause you prolonged trauma and internal suffering. You will realize that you are now reacting differently than you would have before. You will realize that you are recovering from depression.

As ridiculous as it seems, I believe that SNAP CLUB has a profound effect on the root process of depression. I believe that it trains your brain to actively participate and enjoy making decisions, no matter how small the decisions are. Also, as I have described it, each SNAP is for an action that you take at the moment of the SNAP, so it’s possible that there is a beneficial effect in automatically causing present moment awareness as in Buddhist or Zen mindfulness practices. As I write these words, the only evidence I have for my rather strong claims is my own experience. On the plus side, this is very easy and safe to try. In my experience, the positive effects came within the first day and seem to continue to increase even ten months after I started. From the scientific point of view, of course, this all needs to be confirmed.

Did this work for you? If it did, I have to mention that there are three more rules of SNAP CLUB. The third rule of snap club is:

3. YOU MUST TALK ABOUT SNAP CLUB.

The fourth rule of SNAP CLUB is:

4. YOU MUST TALK ABOUT SNAP CLUB.

The fifth rule of SNAP CLUB is:

5. YOU MUST TALK ABOUT SNAP CLUB.

That’s the last rule of SNAP CLUB.

THE MAGIC OF SNAPPING

Some people can’t snap their fingers. That’s OK. I think that any emphatic gesture would actually work well as a substitute in SNAP CLUB. Snapping is not magic in that sense. It might even be that inventing your own emphatic gesture would be even more empowering and an improvement over what I am saying. On the other hand, snapping your fingers is a gesture of impressive potency. It almost automatically brings up positive feelings of power and vitality. SNAPPING seems to say:

I am here.
I am not afraid.
I am in charge.
I am deciding.

as well as occasionally saying: Oh no you didn’t!

I hope that this works for you as it did for me. The advice to “snap out of it” is famously not at all a helpful thing to say to a depressed person. The strange and ironic thing is that this crude advice has a grain of truth to it. You have to, however, take the advice extremely literally, in Forrest Gump style. You have to keep snapping.

WHY DOES DEPRESSION HAPPEN?

If what I am saying here is correct, the main prediction is that SNAP CLUB will dramatically help depression for many depressives, particularly when there is not a known underlying physical problem. In a way, if this works, many people can use SNAP club to get better and maybe nothing else really matters compared to that. Even so, if it does work, it does suggest a question: What causes the depressive transition to passivity in the first place? I do have a guess about that. It is well known that when a person is afraid, there is a “fight or flight” instinct and constantly being in this state causes chronic stress. But another, familiar, and easy to understand survival strategy is to freeze in place and not move a muscle. My guess is that in a depressive, it is the survival instinct to freeze which causes the transition from deciding and vitality to internal subconscious passivity. Depressives, perhaps, are vulnerable to being unconsciously pushed into a “half frozen” passive state where the survival instinct to not do anything keeps them from actively and vitally participating in their own lives.

I have a pdf version of this paper where I end with randomly chosen images of people snapping their fingers from the internet. You may have fun searching for such images. You can see for yourself whether these people are feeling vitality and empowerment or depression and helplessness.
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Unread 10-09-2014, 07:14 PM   #2
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

Thanks for sharing. You have obviously put a lot of thought into this issue, and I am glad it worked.
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Unread 10-13-2014, 12:43 PM   #3
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

Thanks. Ive just started to try this last night. Still feel the same but i guess we will see what happens over time.
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Unread 10-13-2014, 03:08 PM   #4
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

Quote:
Originally Posted by cryingontheinside View Post
Thanks. Ive just started to try this last night. Still feel the same but i guess we will see what happens over time.
I'm really hoping that it works for you too, cryingontheinside.

Here are some hints based on my experience.

Don't start off trying to change your thoughts and feelings, just make lots and lots of micro decisions where you're doing something *immediately*.

Also, keep in mind that no will power is involved. If you're using will power, you're doing it wrong! You can think of it like this: Just before you do anything, you must have decided to do that thing, right? You job is to catch that moment and SNAP when it happens.

Here are some things I do:

o When I get out of bed in the morning: SNAP
o Getting dressed requires many decisions: SNAP, SNAP, SNAP
o When I decide to stand up?: SNAP
o Walk, drive or take the bus?: SNAP
o Walking down the street, I often make random decisions like
......a) I'm going to touch that stop sign as I pass SNAP
......b) I'm going to not step on cracks for a while SNAP
......c) When I get to the corner, I'm going to stop for 5 seconds and just look around SNAP
......d) I'm going to grab that fall leaf and carry it with me on my walk SNAP
o Doing any kind of shopping requires lots of decisions: SNAP SNAP SNAP
o When to exercise and what kind? SNAP SNAP
o Which shoe to tie first, left or right? SNAP
o What to eat first, string beans or rice? SNAP
o Time for my morning coffee? SNAP
o Going through double doors: left or right? SNAP
o Go up the stairs left foot first or right? SNAP
o Go up the stairs two at a time? SNAP
o Do the dishes? Vacuum? Clean up? SNAP SNAP SNAP

If you enjoy the SNAP, I think that's a good sign. If you're making up your own things to SNAP to, that's a good sign. SNAP loudly and boldly. The magic of snapping is a beautiful thing.

https://www.google.com/search?q=fing...ed=0CAYQ_AUoAQ
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Unread 10-13-2014, 03:25 PM   #5
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

Thank you for your support. And thanks for explaining it to me, it really means alot. I'm really glad it worked for you and if it works for me ill be passing it on to others too. Its a really good thing that you are doing. You found something that works for you and are now sharing it with us. I am very greatful.
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Unread 10-15-2014, 10:12 AM   #6
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

I will feel just wonderful if it's helpful for you crying...

I'm repeating an answer to PianoGirlPlay's post about anger
http://forums.psychcentral.com/copin...-so-angry.html

...as I think I learned something more about this.

There is something very much the same about being angry all the time, being afraid all the time, feeling guilty all the time, behaving or thinking or feeling automatically or compulsively, then subconsciously dealing with this by procrastinating, avoiding people or experiences and ending up feeling sad, trapped, and joyless and not knowing how to escape.

I personally think that this is all a consequence of subconsciously turning away from your own inner decision making processes - your own inner self. This is almost the same as "not being in the moment" as they say. I think that this is the key to escape.
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Unread 10-15-2014, 11:59 AM   #7
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

Update.
So as well as depression and feeling suicidal i also have bpd.
Ive being participating in this game for a few days and of course im not cured as the process has just began.
I would like to share that in just a few days, i have noticed a slight improvment and i am optomistic that things will continue to improve as i continue this process
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Unread 10-15-2014, 12:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

1 I no nonger to feel guilty if i stay in bed too long as i know im still within the rules of the game.

2. For someone who has absalutely no motivation, i managed to do some basic exercises yesterday, which is a small miracle for me

3 I feel empowered and am beginning to very slowly regain control over the discisions that i make.

I reccomend others to follow this process explained by vital. What can we loose? Nothing. What can we gain? Who knows.
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Unread 10-15-2014, 02:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cryingontheinside View Post
1 I no nonger to feel guilty if i stay in bed too long as i know im still within the rules of the game.

2. For someone who has absalutely no motivation, i managed to do some basic exercises yesterday, which is a small miracle for me

3 I feel empowered and am beginning to very slowly regain control over the discisions that i make.

I reccomend others to follow this process explained by vital. What can we loose? Nothing. What can we gain? Who knows.
That is w o n d e r f u l news cryingontheinside!

For me, things are still getting better and better even after doing it for 10 months. Realizing that you can get better and you really are getting better is in itself very empowering.
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Unread 10-17-2014, 11:42 PM   #10
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Default Re: How I understood and then escaped

I feel very optomistic about this. Cant remember the last time i felt optomistic. Thanks again for sharing this with us.
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