Has your life been touched by depression? Depression doesn’t always play out in prescription pills and crying jags. It’s different for everyone. But basically depression makes you think you’re helpless to change the circumstances you’re facing. And it’s an endless loop of telling yourself the same story over and over again. Every time you think about it, you’re guaranteed to feel worse than ever before.
Your Brain on Stress
Truth. Your brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. There’s an almond-shaped part of your brain called the amygdala which functions like a warning system. It lets you know whenever your body senses it is under attack. Hard-wired to your fight or flight response/survival instinct, the job of your amygdala is to warn you of danger. As a Certified Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, I learned that we create meaning out of our life experiences. Just think of all those times when you associate danger or risk to your memory of a specific event or person, that anxiety or emotion you feel is your amygdala on a hair trigger.
When your amygdala senses danger, your brain’s knee jerk reaction is to flood your body with stress chemicals. The ultimate purpose of this chemical cascade is to give you a blast of energy and motivation to escape the danger. If you had to rescue a trapped child from beneath a heavy object, your surging stress hormones would work in your favor giving you the temporary strength to lift the object. The way nature organizes it all is that after that herculean effort your body is intended to return back to a resting state, the toxins get released and processed and all is well. But nowadays we’re living in radical times and just watching the news or having an argument with someone is enough to make you feel worried and anxious. Bombarded by so much negativity, our brains are receiving false warning signals 50-100 x a day. If you’re an emotional eater, it shouldn’t surprise you to notice that stress and anxiety can often make you feel the need to eat when you’re not hungry.
Many clients hire me because they want circumstances to change in their lives. They are overweight, miserable and worried about their future. They see the people and relationships in their lives as a huge source of frustration. They mistakenly believe that in order for them to be happy, everybody and everything in their life has to change. That’s not true.
This is victim thinking which puts the burden of your happiness in other people’s hands. Whining, complaining and nagging people in hopes of making them change is only sending your cortisol levels soaring sky high. Nobody is going to change until they are ready to do it for themselves. And no amount of effort from you is enough to change anyone else. That’s just the way it is. Unless someone is ripe and ready for a reboot, your interference and well-intentioned ways will only alienate them, make them avoid, reject and snub you. Ouch!
If you’re feeling isolated and unwanted, you may be tempted to think that something is wrong with you. Even if you are unhappy with your body and are certain that losing weight is the answer to all your problems, making radical changes to your eating and depriving yourself will only trigger your body’s natural self-comforting reflex to eat.
If you’re not happy with your body, yourself, or your life, you have to muster up the courage to change. I get it. But the change has to start from the inside-out. You have to make peace with how you feel. Maybe you’re living out the consequences of some really difficult and painful situations. Perhaps you can even trace your misfortune to other people’s actions.
Blaming others and resenting your circumstances will only keep you stuck. This goes for all the little stuff as well as all the big stuff.
Can you relate to any of these thoughts?
“If he can’t love me, then I must be unlovable.”
“If you wouldn’t buy all this junk food, I wouldn’t be so fat.”
“If they reject me, then I must be the biggest loser in the world.”
“If he would just give me an ounce of acknowledgment, I’d feel appreciated.”
“If my wife would stop drinking, I would be happier.”
“I guess I just must be cursed.”
“I’ll never be as smart as my sister.”
“If only they would stop judging me, I would feel more accepted.”
“If she would shut up and let me speak, I would feel like she cares enough to listen to me.”
“I just want to be seen, so I won’t feel so invisible anymore.”
“I wouldn’t have eaten that half gallon of ice cream, if I didn’t feel so alone.”
“I need to find someone who will tell me I’m smart, so I won’t feel so stupid anymore.”
“If only I would have invested that money.”
All the statements above will put you in a victim place.
When you blame other people, your past, present circumstances or any other condition you’re experiencing, you are powerless to change anything. Why? Because you’re unconsciously giving your brain the command that your circumstances are out of your control.
Sure. Legit. There are so many situations that are truly out of your hands. It could be a cancer diagnosis, a spouse or lover who’s been unfaithful, a demanding boss, drug addiction, the death of a loved one, an overbearing mother, a critical father, a fair weather friend, 100 pounds extra, low income, no income, a failing business, an abusive past, suicide, a spouse who hits you, a drinking problem, feeling self-conscious at a party, a chronic illness, a plane that’s late, a daughter or son in the armed forces, being raped, hair loss, wrinkles, boobs gone south, an outie belly button, small breasts, being late, getting pregnant, an old car, a president you didn’t elect, an administration you resent. These are all examples of events over which you have no direct control. No one’s saying they don’t exist. They do. But maybe you’re not as helpless as you think you are. Maybe you just believe that you are.
When circus elephants are trained as young calves, they are taught to obey their trainer’s every command.
This is done by placing a thin chain around one of their ankles which is attached to a stake driven deep into the ground. Being just a tiny baby, their little pulls and tugs are not strong enough to break the chain or uplift the stake so they eventually give up trying to escape. This is an example of what is called learned helplessness. Naturally, I know that you’re not an elephant and you don’t have a chain around your ankle preventing you from moving, but can you see how you may have learned how to play the role of being more helpless than you really are?
If you’re facing a difficult situation and feeling helpless, have you given up on yourself? Don’t.
You’re In Charge: Taking 100% Responsibility
Let me introduce you to a completely different and much more empowering way to think about yourself and your circumstances.
It’s called taking 100% responsibility for yourself. By doing that, you don’t have to rely on anyone else to make you feel anything, because you are your own boss.
The bottom line is you have total and complete control over the following:
- The thoughts you think
- The words you speak
- Your behavior
I’m Not a Victim Anymore and Neither Are You!
That may not seem like much but it’s all you need to get out of any situation. By leveraging the three things you can control, you can untangle yourself from ever being a victim again. As a #MeToo sexual abuse survivor, I know a lot about being a victim and playing the powerless role. I grew up in a very abusive home with people who had no sense of personal boundaries. Just like the little elephant, I was raised to believe that I didn’t have a voice or a choice. Even after years of facing the actual traumatic events and going through therapy, I am still affected by triggers of anxiety and fear. The difference now is I am not a victim of my past and I don’t have to rely on anyone to make me feel better. I’ve changed the meaning of my experiences as my cross to bear as my gift because I realize that they have made me who I am.
It’s All Just Energy
For centuries We live in an energy universe and everything, everything, on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual plane is energy. And there are laws of energy, the universal laws that govern every aspect of our lives.
It is so freeing knowing that whenever my anxiety or fear gets triggered, and I start thinking and reacting like a frightened child, I can ground myself without having to rely on anyone else. When I fall into old habits of overeating, I don’t shame myself for going there. I recognize that behavior as my body’s way of saying, “I’m overwhelmed.” Any lack of self-care is my signal to use stress-relief techniques to make my anxiety disappear. Meditation, a lovely soak in the tub, cooking and preparing food for myself or a chat with a friend. Those are some of my go-tos to get over feeling blue.
Have you been feeling depressed and powerless to change your life? The only way to turn your frown upside down is to accept where you are now. Acceptance is powerful stuff. Realize that just by changing the way that you think about your situation you are changing your situation. As long as you demonize and resent those who have victimized you in the past, you will remain the victim of your story. Want to tell a different story and see yourself as the hero?
You’ve got to own your past. Taking 100% responsibility means acknowledging that you create everything that you have in life. It means that you understand you are the cause of everything that happens to you. All the good, bad and the ugly in your life. All your experiences rest with you. As I’ve said many times before, your thoughts are powerful. What you think about your situation influences what you will do about it. If you feel helpless, then you won’t do anything to get out from under the messy pile of problems that are facing you.
Taking 100% responsibility in your life means that you have to stop waiting for your life to begin, shaking your fists at God and blaming situations and people who are out of your realm of control. The only way that you can come to make peace with yourself and see your body for what it is—perfection—is to release your hold on the past, realize that you create all of your current conditions and only you can uncreate and/or recreate them. In short, you are the one who holds all the cards. Only you. It’s you who determines what the situations in your life mean. By changing your response, and creating a new meaning for yourself, you will break free of ever feeling like life’s victim. Here’s a story of a friend and former client of mine who beat cancer not once, but twice!
Dee (Dr. Clair Rubin) was one of my first coaching clients. She is a brilliant therapist who was struggling financially because she couldn’t find it in her heart to charge what she deserved to be paid for her services. She worked with indigents and homeless mothers and anyone else who couldn’t pay for therapy. If she charged them at all, she would ask for $5.00. As big as her heart was, she lived in a world where money was important. She had to pay her rent and buy food. She was barely scraping by. She was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago.
After facing her fears and being told that she would die, she decided that she was not going to allow cancer to strip her of her right to live. She was going to fight. And that meant that she wasn’t going to take it lying down. She was going to alter her thinking and adapt her response to accept her situation. Rather than feeling sorry for herself and giving up, she used the gravity of her crisis to motivate her to make many changes. She changed her diet, she lost weight, she started caring for herself in ways that she never did before. Little things like making the bed and wearing pretty clothes helped her feel better about herself. As she felt more worthy of self-respect and compassion, she recognized how her past had colored her present and made her ill. Because she wanted to live, she started to release her resentments from the past, forgiving a father who sexually abused her, a mother who beat her, a system that ignored her talents and skills.
She started letting go of all of her emotional and physical clutter, and began treating herself with love and kindness, recognizing when she was overdoing it and pushing herself too hard. She put her finances in the hands of a manager who encouraged her to charge fairly for her services. It meant releasing some of her old clients, but she was able to refer them out to social organizations and other volunteer helpers. Her confidence grew as her caseload increased. Now people paid her happily without complaining, thanking her for her outstanding service.
She sought out alternative healing, got a coach, became a Shaman, spent time and energy being more active, visualized herself healed, and one day she went to the doctor and was told she was in remission.
Another Cancer Diagnosis
Several years after things were going smoothly, her life took another turn for the worst. Her parents were dying and she was going through a bad breakup. She had stopped going to her weekly massages and gained weight. She had accumulated more paper clutter, and had several years of unpaid taxes. Unresolved guilt and sexual issues from her past began to resurface, and her life was starting to hit the skids again.
At the five year point, a critical time for cancer survivors, she was told by her doctor that she had a tumor in her ovary. She regrouped and realized that her life was again causing her to become ill. She pulled back on all her unnecessary commitments and reassessed how she was spending her time. Once again she began paying more attention to her thoughts and went back to meditating. After struggling with her inner demons and fearing a negative outcome, she decided to take the reins of control and beat the odds. Today she is in remission.
In order for Dee to fight her illness, she had to want to live. She had to want to live so much that it pushed aside and eclipsed her fears of dying. She focused exclusively on visualizing what she wanted. One of the most important things she had to do to heal herself was learn how to say the word, “No.” Her example taught me to have real appreciation for the word and to recognize that “No” is a complete sentence and anyone who doesn’t respect it, is stepping on your boundaries and trying to push your buttons.
Cancer was the life situation or event that was out of Dee’s control. Setting boundaries in her life and learning to say “No” to others and “Yes” to herself was a change that she was able and willing to make. Instead of blaming and digging herself more deeply into despair, she chose to take a more proactive path and ultimately reclaimed her life. By doing everything within her power to support the work of her medical team, she was participating in her own healing. As a result of changing her response to her diagnosis, her outcome changed. She went into remission, not once but twice.
Now you have to ask yourself, are you ready to take full responsibility for what’s going on in your life now? Remember just because you were a victim then, doesn’t mean you have to stay a victim now.
If you’re struggling with anxiety and depression feeling helpless and overwhelmed by your circumstances, I am here for you. I recommend joining my FB group, 30 Days to Lovin’ the Skin You’re In. There you will get a chance to learn how to manage your stress so you can get some much needed perspective. Check it out: