Dark Days 5: Seeing the Puller

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So, were you able to identify your story? What is the message you keep telling yourself? Does it help our hurt you? Did you figure out from where it comes? This is called soul (psuché) work. It is essentially what psycho therapy is all about. The only difference here is that the objective clinical observer is looking for patterns from your past. In soul work however, we are actually gaining objectivity into our own life as we embrace the self-critical process.

How can we get out of our own way? It’s difficult and perhaps that is why it helps to have a clinical partner. Despite the difficulty, it isn’t impossible. A vital frameshift in thinking is first required. We must abandon the notion that our dark days are useless deficiencies that must be eradicated. This is like cutting off our arms which will enable us to climb out of the hole.

Intelligence is marked by the brains ability to recognize patterns and integrate seemingly unrelated things. We gain this skill over time though much of it is hard wired. One of my theories is that depression is a temporary inability or unwillingness to integrate necessary things and anxiety is the temporary over-integration of things. The depressed soul doesn’t want to connect any more dots, the anxious soul connects too many.

Putting this together we discover that in both cases, the categories we have used to integrate our soul and our life are now diminished. The frameshift comes the moment we realize that the goal is no longer to normalize backward into old paradigms of integration. Instead, the resolution to our dark days is found within categories that we may not yet possess, so we must be open to new categories. It’s the apprehension and application of truth that integrates the soul and life. In other words, we suffer because of something we don’t know or won’t do.

We don’t ordinarily seek out wider experiences of truth if not for our suffering. Thus it’s reasonable to conclude that the truth (which transcends us) is actually pulling us into itself. THAT IS AN UNCOMMON FRAMESHIFT! If true, then what or who is doing the pulling? If there is a pulling force or a “puller“, then there must be a purpose because the pull comes opposite of our gravitational trend. The purpose is to expand us.

Our dark days are not deficiencies, but required suffering through which we can know God and ourselves. They have a design and a purpose that can re-create us. Their existence means that we can never go back and now must set our sights on a future life formed by them rather than the life prior to them.

 

Dark Days 4: The Story we Believe.

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It is unlikely that we will overcome our dark days without altering our brain chemistry. This doesn’t mean however, that we must take prescription medication. America has ~5% of the worlds population and consumes 75% of the worlds pharmaceuticals.  I’ll let that statistic sink in for a bit.

The question is: “What other options can change our brain chemicals?” Did you know that according to the Institute for Brain Potential,Dr. Martin Antony from Ryerson University shared many alternative treatments that had an equal effect on brain chemistry as medications such as Ability, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa and Luvox. In one study, these medications only provided a 2-3% benefit to patients compared to placebo. Correspondingly, alternatives provided greater than a 3% benefit with no side effects. This is because many things change our brain chemicals. Things like sleep, diet, music, meditation, reading, spiritual practice, exercise, acupuncture, roller coasters, sex, and particularly your STORY. Try employing some of these.

Dr. Rick Hanson describes what is called Negative Bias. A negative story imprints chemicals on the brain like Velcro, while a positive story imprints slower and not as easily.Since the brain causes consciousness AND consciousness forms the brain, then we must go beyond the brain chemicals and learn what causes them.

Now consider that there are two parts to nearly every problem; the externals and the internals. We can’t control all the impacts that come from our externals, but we can control those that come from within (even though it seems otherwise).

Our internal story either works as a counterbalance to negative externals or it exacerbates them and creates a feedback loop. Anxiety and depression are feedback loops that raise in intensity and duration in proportion to our truth story. Thus if we change this story, anxiety and depression diminish accordingly.

Why are some more resilient through tragedy and suffering? It’s the story that we tell our self and that we believe is true. If what we tell ourselves is not actually true, then negative bias activates brain chemistry making that story increasingly harder to dislodge. This is how it folds in on itself to create that feedback loop.

Positive stories may not be believable at first, so they may not start off like much of a counterbalance. This goes beyond positive affirmations although these help. This is about our core truth narrative. Thus overcoming dark days requires a pretty powerful and frequent story, but it must contain more truth than what we presently possess.

A powerful lesson emerges here. Problems like depression and anxiety are indicators we have out grown our formative truth story. Thus the path out requires greater proximity to the truth and begs the question of; Where and how can we possess it?

Dark Days 3, Brain or Consciousness?

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Finding a path out of our dark days begins at a fork in the road. This decision point presupposes certain ideas about reality. Thus the path is ultimately based on ones truth assumptions. This means that depression and anxiety are fundamentally truth problems. That may come as a shock if you are only familiar with one path, so let me explain.

Does the brain produce consciousness?  Yes it most certainly does. This is the presupposition of the traditional path. It is proven by the fact that any change to the physical composition or function of the brain will directly impact consciousness. A shot of tequila or a shot to the head can alter a lot. Out of this seed grows modern psychology and brain science. The key truth assumption here is that consciousness is a by-product, and since it cannot be empirically defined, it cannot be the focus of therapy. Thus a depressed person is really only a brain that is emitting depressed brain chemicals. Therapy will find out why.

Does consciousness produce the brain? Scientists don’t like this question. Yet the latest discoveries in brain science and neuroplacticity (the brains ability to rewire itself) are clearly proving that our brains are byproducts of our consciousness. Addictions, compulsions, traumas, and countless events create feedback loops where our brain has hard wired itself toward certain responses. Thus many therapies are now including a “brain retraining” period whereby the brain rewires itself toward a favorable outcome. A negative thought imprints chemicals on the brain faster and much stronger than a positive thought. Pleasure chemicals have a similar effect and become linked to our preferred delivery system. A depressed person is a person whose thinking/consciousness has gradually formed neuro-pathways that bias the brain toward feeling bad. Of course, the clinical therapy is to introduce new chemicals until the brain rewires itself.

These presuppositions produce a chicken and the egg scenario. Our problems are essentially a feedback loop. Both result in the chemical manipulation of the brain to bring oneself back on track. But what happens if you change brain chemistry but haven’t dealt with the underlying narrative that created the problem in the first place? This is our second clue on our path out. Namely, that our narrative (truth story we tell ourself) has far more influence than we give it credit. This opens the door to the possibility that if ones story brings us to a dark day, then ones story must also be able to bring us out.

If that sounds too simple then perhaps we don’t know our story or how to access it, or how to change it. This will be the focus of next weeks installment.

Learn more in my book “Getting Better When You Can’t