Part Eight of the Series: Exploring Options for the Treatment of Depression
This is the eighth part in an on-going series on depression. Click the links to read earlier articles in this series-
Darla notes- “Of all the concepts Peggy and I have written about, this one spotlights the arena of my greatest struggles. I’ve written a lot about “the battleground of the mind” and how life’s greatest battles are won or lost on that field. Agency hands us moment-by- moment vital choices that all begin in our minds; in our minds the adversary works day and night to have his lies prevail over truth. Our thoughts, no matter how distorted, take on great power when we choose to believe them, including the power to discourage, dishearten, and depress us. Consequently, the most important therapeutic skill I’ve learned is to question my thoughts and ask the Lord’s help to align them with light and truth. Over and over as I do this, I’m grateful for His direction and appalled at how many of my thoughts are not true but are linked to false beliefs I’ve picked up along the way!”
Where do these thought come from, in addition to the obvious prodding of the adversary? Peggy explains-
“We are a “Palace of Possibilities!” Metaphorically, our “palace” is filled with many rooms and in each room there is “writing on the walls.” We constantly consult the writing on our walls, which was written through experiences with parents, extended family, teachers and leaders, peers, media, and cultural influences. As stated by Gary Craig, the founder of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and originator of the Palace of Possibilities concept, “The ‘writing’ on our ‘palace walls’ contains our ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’; our ‘can and can’t dos,’ and all of our ‘how-tos’. ”[i] Our beliefs and self-talk, or the “writing on our walls,” influences our emotions, behaviors, and life outcomes. Ironically, both the writing on our walls and the experiences which form it are largely unconscious. Gaining awareness of the beliefs which direct our lives is a powerful tool for healing depression.”
Beliefs are powerful! As Gary Craig says, “Our consistent thoughts become our reality.” Let’s review a concept we shared in Part 5 of our series
Science is now proving what eminent psychologist Albert Bandura explained back in the 1960s, that a person’s beliefs “influence the types of scenarios they construct and rehearse.” This is a powerful discovery! If beliefs are powerful enough to create negative realities, then shifting belief systems can empower us, not only to change our emotions and behaviors, but to create more positive realities in our bodies and our environment. As Dr. David Feinstein explains, “If you can shift these energies, you can influence your health, emotions, and state of mind.”[ii]
In this article we will discuss thought patterns that contribute to depression as well as offer ideas for changing or “reframing” these patterns. Peggy says, “I remember many years ago when I was a young mother adjusting to the demands of small children, I attended a Relief Society Homemaking Class on depression. We received a handout that listed the most common thought patterns of people who are depressed. That list helped me to recognize and change some thought patterns that were causing real discouragement in my daily activities.”
The Power to Attract More Light into Our Lives
In the paradigm of light and energy, negative or “low vibration” belief systems weigh down our mind-body system. Based upon the law of attraction, negativity cleaveth to more negativity (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:40). Negative thoughts create negative emotions, which lead to negative behaviors. A common negative behavior that stems from “low-vibration” thinking is eating junk food. When we are feeling negative, we may be attracted to “low vibration” television programs, such as contentious reality shows or programs that revel in criminal behavior. We may be more likely to criticize or fight with our loved ones. More and more, we find ourselves stuck in cycles of negativity that are fueled by self-defeating thought patterns. On the other hand, when our thought patterns are more positive, we feel better emotionally and we are more able to solve problems, more able to resist and uninspiring entertainment, and more able to resist unhealthy junk food. Recognizing destructive beliefs is a powerful way to regain control of our lives when we are struggling with depression!
More On Where Our Thoughts Come From
It is important not to judge ourselves harshly for thoughts that come into our minds. Some thought patterns are established and reinforced by early life experiences that may have been out of our control, such as chronic verbal criticism from parents or bullying from peers. Thought patterns, like depression, can be passed on from one generation to the next; they can be learned and reinforced in our family relationships.
We don’t go through mortality in a vacuum either—Satan’s best tool is putting thoughts into our minds. Darla shares: “A Meridian reader, Charles, who lives in Paris, France, told me of an experience with an Armenian American woman, who was set apart by the General Authorities to gather genealogical and historical data concerning the Armenian people. She would travel across the world and meet prominent people of the Armenian community to solicit their support. Charles said, “This woman confided to me that any time she was about to go on a trip, she was invaded by depressing thoughts, including voices that would tell her something like, ‘you are no good and do not deserve to live, etc.’ Then, as soon as the plane had taken off, those dark thoughts/feelings would simply vanish! I’ve noticed that anytime I’m on the brink of something really good, I too am especially inclined to be under siege from the adversary.”
Individuals who are depressed have undoubtedly learned to accept some thoughts planted by Satan as truth. For example, “This situation is hopeless.” Once we believe these false messages, we look for experiences which will reinforce them and prove that they are “true.” In professional lingo, this is called “self-verifying” or “self-fulfilling prophecy.” For example, Satan may whisper that if we are having problems in our marriage, it means we have failed in our efforts to live good lives, period. Believing that we only succeed when our marriage is going well, we berate ourselves with negative thinking every time a problem arises. Then, to continue to prove that we do not deserve success since our marital problems are not totally resolved, we unconsciously continue the same behaviors that contribute to our marital distress.
Since much of our negative thinking is unconscious, we need to pray for God to help us increase awareness of harmful beliefs. Forgiveness and repentance are healing processes that help us to have a “change of heart” or a change in the way we view ourselves and others. Although some issues may require the help of priesthood leaders or professionals, our Savior wants to be our partner, our First Source. As we give our thoughts to Him, He will help us reframe them with light and truth.
Can We Take ALL Our Thoughts to the Savior, Not Just the Good Stuff?
Sometimes we think we need to “sugar coat” our thoughts and feelings and that we are disrespectful if we express our honest negative perceptions and emotions to the Lord.