When asked who we are, we often reply with listing our common activities such as our job, hobbies, or position in the family, or we may list our physical characteristics such as hair color, stature, or ethnicity. However, this is not who we are just parts of what we are.
In the same and more detrimental manner, we tend to identify ourselves to ourselves by things we see as deficiencies such as being overweight, not smart enough, being a procrastinator or being pessimistic. The issue with this type of thinking is that it perpetuates the problem that lead us to identify ourselves as our struggles rather than seeing our issues as being separate from who we are.
Eckhart Tolle explains how these lead to perpetual cycles of disorder especially when it comes to psychological pain. He notes in his book, “The Power of Now”, that identifying the pain as you, your actual being, allows the pain to not only live as you but feed on this thought of it being your identity. If you think of yourself as a depressed person, you are giving the depression the authority to take over so that no matter what you try to do you do it as a depressed person, not the true self that exists separate from the mood disorder. In other words, you can’t get rid of your depression if you insist on carrying it with you everywhere you go.
The only way to start to heal is to detach your issues from who you are. You do this inside, in the mind. Closely and carefully observe your thoughts and the attachment that you have to “my depression” or “my pain”. Observe the compulsion to talk or think about it and consciously halt those thoughts. Remind yourself that this pain is but an item on your to-do list–probably on the top of the list in big, red letters–but it is something to be worked on, not be.
When you start to dis-identify with your pain and when you become a good “watcher of your thinking”, the depression, anger, etc. can and will eventually cease. It cannot exist without you tending to it and allowing it to take over who you are. A good or great life really is an “inside job” and you are the inside person for it!
In my book “How to Ignite Your Passion for Living”, I touch upon some of the depressive episodes I have been through and some of the ways I have dealt with them. I have a whole list of simple but effective things you can do to combat depression. And although I still believe the items on that list to be important actions, I think Eckhart Tolle, in his book “The Power of Now”, has hit upon the true source and most effective ideas to combat depression as well as other mood disorders.
The first few ideas on his list are some of the most important, at least in my experience. They deal with becoming a watcher of one’s thoughts and redirecting the mind when we start to buy into the idea of “being a depressed person”:
• Vigilance is one of the first concepts he speaks to. Learning to recognize how your mind labels thoughts and sits in judgment so you know what ideas lie at the source of your pain.
• Secondly, Tolle believes that you need to accept whatever the present moment contains as if you had chosen it.
• Thirdly, you need to realize and understand that the pain or depression wants you to unconsciously identify with it, allowing it to survive in your mind. If you are not a careful watcher of your thoughts then you may come to believe that you are a depressed person and then this becomes your identity.
Letting your mind create this depression identity will make it very difficult to get past the dark feelings and the pain because you will then believe this is who you are. But if you start with these first few ideas of Tolle’s, recognizing how your mind is working and seeing the present moment as something under your control, you can avoid the mindset that makes you think of yourself as a “depressed person”.
These ideas are true for any issues of mood. I choose to talk about them in terms of depression because that has been a recent and difficult battle of mine. However, if you are dealing with anger, guilt, low self-esteem, fear, etc. watching your thoughts and taking control can help you with all types of painful moods and attitudes.
While reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle for about the 4th time recently, I found layers of understanding in his comments and thoughts on overcoming “mental pain” such as depression, rage, anger, impatience and bad moods, that I hadn’t seen before. We often don’t quite understand information we are reading if we haven’t had, or are not dealing with, the kind of experiences it speaks to. So why did this information all of a sudden mean more to me than it had the other times I read the book? Because this time, I was dealing with a problem that these words speak directly about.
I’ve been reading, thinking, and studying this book and similar material on a much deeper level because of recent moods I’ve been in, some being a fairly hefty depression. As I mentioned in the last post, being a public speaker and looked to as an expert of sorts, it has been somewhat difficult to admit to others, or even to myself, that I have had this kind of a challenge and problem. I am the one who should have all the answers and live the perfect life, right? Well, it doesn’t matter who you are, you will deal with unwanted and even paralyzing moods sometimes. But you can approach these like any problem or goal—by taking it on step by step.
Finding the steps to get you through a rough time might be the hardest part. Years ago I developed a list of “7 Non-drug Ways to Overcome Depression” but reading Tolle’s book at this time, when the ideas are so poignant are for me, has lead me to a major breakthrough and the power of these ideas have been on my mind.
Although I am no expert in the area of psychological well-being, I think sharing my experiences and the inspirational information I’ve found could be helpful to some of you. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting about what I’ve done that has helped me. If you are dealing with depression, anger or mood swings right now, you may want to pick up a copy of Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and see if what he has to say doesn’t hit home for you as well.
I don’t know if I mentioned this on the blog before, but I grew up Mormon and was seriously involved in the church, even going on a two year mission to England to spread the word. I was a true believer who had certain scriptures pounded into my head over the years including Matt. 5:48 which says “be ye therefore PERFECT even as your father in Heaven.” I tried so hard for many years to be perfect, driving myself nuts in the process. However, I eventually began to think for myself and left the church in my mid-30s. Along the way I realized, to my utter relief, that perfection in ANYTHING is simply not possible.
Even so, the idea that I must be perfect and appear perfect has always been a bit hard to shake. I do consider myself a very successful man, but I have been so very far from perfect. It makes it even more difficult to admit to a lack of perfection when you become a public speaker, write books, and are looked to as an expert. Well, here’s a big news flash: No one, not even so-called experts, do everything perfectly all or most of the time. Experts are as human as the next guy and continue to make wrong decisions, even in their own field when they should know better because it’s always easier to preach a good sermon than to live one.
So, yes, I still have a hard time with the idea that I will never accomplish perfection, that I have and will miss the mark some times and that I’ve ignored my own advice on too many occasions. High expectations come at us from all corners of our lives—from our religious community, families, co-workers, friends and even ourselves and there is no way we can meet them all or even come close. The question is, when we aren’t as successful as we hope to be, do we let it stop us from trying again?
I don’t think there is a problem with reaching for perfection as long as we know it’s about seeing how close we can get, that we are not failures when we don’t meet those high expectations. The problem with reaching perfection is that there is nothing more to reach for after that. So look at those imperfectly completed goals as a blessing. They will always give you something more to strive for and drive the passion that makes life so wonderful an experience.