Usually, we start to feel that way when we’re not living the sort of life we really should be, or spending our time in a way that makes us feel happy to be alive.
The first thing I’d check is your job:
Are you doing what you want, or what you somehow got coerced into doing by other people, or settling for because what you really wanted to do seemed out of reach?
If you don’t wake up raring to go to work more often than not, then you are probably in the wrong job.
The next thing I’d check is your relationships:
Are you spending time with generous, thoughtful, caring, committed people, or are your relationships more superficial, competitive and challenging?
This article can help you start to tell the difference:
7 negative people
If you are spending too much time with people who ‘take’ and don’t ‘give’ much back, then you should re-evaluate your relationships and try to find a different crowd.
If you have a ‘key’ relationship in your life that’s very draining or challenging, then that also needs to be recognized, acknowledged and worked on, if it’s robbing you of your joie de vivre.
Next, I’d check your overall lifestyle and health choices:
Are you eating properly? Getting enough sleep? Exercising sufficiently? Or, doing recreational drugs, or spending too much time online? All of these things can seriously compromise your energy levels, motivation and mood.
You can find out more in my book, Causes and Cures of Depression.
And also take a look at this post:
3 pronged approach to beating depression.
Last, can you answer the question: ‘what’s the point of being alive?’
If you have a good answer, that by itself will start to energize you and motivate you. If you don’t have a good answer, that’s the first place to start, as feeling aimless and purposeless will continue to drag you down internally, even if the external circumstances of your life are amazing.
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(The following stuff is taken from my book ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health’ - see the end of the post for more details).
Before we get into your actual question, a little bit of background is required:
The three foundations of good emotional health are:
Healthy compassion means that you are able to see the other person’s side of things and able to empathize with their pain, without getting stepped on or taken advantage of.
The effects of emotional pain, like shame, fear and guilt, are usually much greater, and much longer-lasting than the effects of physical pain.
Verbal cruelty, blaming, criticism, emotional neglect and psychological abuse is the opposite of healthy compassion.
Now, the main ‘emotional ingredients’ that’s missing with personality disorders like narcissism and anti-social behavior is empathy and compassion for other people. When someone has NDP traits, they tend to act in a very selfish, self-absorbed way that completely negates the other people in their lives.
They expect unlimited empathy and compassion from others, but don’t reciprocate. (As is probably obvious, accountability and kindness is also usually really out of kilter when you’re dealing with people with personality disordered-traits, too.)
If you get caught in the bind of trying to keep the NDP person happen, and the relationship ‘problem-free’ by giving, and giving and giving, the following problems can occur:
HOW UNHEALTHY COMPASSION CAN AFFECT YOUR HEALTH
Unhealthy compassion can affect your emotional and mental health in the following ways:
SPIRITUALLY: It can disconnect you from God, your inner dimension, or soul, and the ‘real you’.
In turn, this can cause you to react with a strong (but often repressed…) negative emotion like:
When someone is experiencing chronic stress due to their circumstances and relationship, that’s been proven to have a number of distinct, and profound effects on their physical health.
As a general rule of thumb, compassionate responses make people feel loved, cared for and great; cruel responses make people feel defensive, lonely, anxious and angry.
So to sum up:
When you’re regularly dealing with people who treat you cruelly, verbally abuse you and criticize you, scare you to death with their rage fits and guilt you to death with their manipulative behavior, you’re going to end up with a lot of anxiety, guilt, anger and fear (most of which is usually repressed for fear of reprisals, especially when the person with severe narcissistic traits happens to be a parent).
But repressed emotions don’t just disappear – they go underground and start disrupting your body’s physical energy systems in a number of different ways.
The good news is that once you really understand how being around people who excel in cruel, critical and emotionally-abusive or neglectful behavior can seriously affect your physical health, there’s a lot of things you can do to turn things around.
You can put better boundaries in place, work on getting your own sense of (exaggerated…) compassion more balanced, and work with your meridian energies using simple but powerful techniques like energy psychology to get things back into a better state again.
The Talk to God and Fix Your Health book spells out how to do a lot of these things in detail.
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So, what’s the ‘big idea’ behind 49 Days?
Well, it’s like this: God created the world via 10 ‘worlds’ or spheres of energy, that are commonly referred to in the Jewish mystical tradition, (a.k.a. Kabbalah) as Sefirot.
According to the Kabbalah, these 10 sefirot are split into three higher ones, and seven lower ones – and the seven lower ones are associated with a whole bunch of different things, including the main ‘attributes’, or character traits, that us human beings are meant to work on and perfect.
There are different ideas as to what each of these seven Sefirot are actually referring to.
My take on what these seven attributes are telling us to work on is as follows:
Traditionally, the best time to work on perfecting these seven attributes / worlds / character traits is considered to be the 49 days between Passover, and the Jewish festival of Shavuot, that occurs exactly seven weeks’ later.
Now, this is where the 49 Days interactive journal can come in, because each day it will spell out what particular character traits need some work, and give you an exercise to do that will really tap-in to the spiritual energy of that day, to get things moving.
The book is meant to be going live on Amazon in the next day or two (and I’ll post up the link when it does), but in the meantime, dear reader, I’m giving you a sneak peek at the first week's pages (checkout the slideshow at the top of the post).
You know, every year for the last three years, I’ve been thinking to myself: ‘wouldn’t it be great if someone would put together some sort of interactive journal, that would take you day-by-day through each step of the 49 days of Counting the Omer, to get the most out of the process, and to really tap in to the spiritual power for growth, change and transformation, that each day represents?’
Well, this year, I finally decided that I should be that ‘someone’ – and miracle of miracles, not only did God help to pull the material together, He also arranged that it should actually be designed and ready to buy this week!
(If you’ve ever published a book yourself, you will know that this process can sometimes take many months, or even years, and even then it can still hit a bunch of ‘bumps’ on the road.)
So without any further ado, let me introduce you to:
49 Days – An Interactive Journal of Self-Development
In the next post, I'll tell you a little more about it, what it can help you to do, in terms of getting to know yourself better, and working out what it is you REALLY want to be doing in life. I'll also give you a sneak peek at some of the pages, as they're full colour and beautifully-designed, to help encourage your creative and spiritual growth processes.
Our frontal lobes are the home of the human ability to empathize with, and feel compassion for, other people. But there’s a particular area of the frontal lobes, called ‘mirror neurons’ that are crucial for developing our ability to empathise, imitate, synchronise our behavior with others, and to communicate.
(All these things are malfunctioning, in some way, when someone gets diagnosed as having a personality disorder.)
Mirror Neurons were discovered in an experiment done in 1994 by a group of Italian scientists. (G. Rizzolatti and L. Craighero ‘The Mirror Neuron System’, Annual Review of Neuroscience 27 (2004).
Writing in The Body Keeps the Score, author Bessel Van Der Kolk explains that: “One writer compared mirror neurons to ‘neural WiFi’ – we pick up not only another person’s movements but their emotional state and intentions as well.”
When the people we’re mirroring are healthy, happy, upbeat etc, that’s great. When they’re not, the mirror neurons are the ones that pick up on their negativity and bad character traits like anger, depression and self-hatred etc.
How mirror neurons are connected to personality disorders
When people aren’t being ‘mirrored’ or truly seen by others, and treated as though their needs, concerns and desires don’t count for anything, one of two things typically happens: either their mirror neurons never really activate, leaving them with a chronic lack of empathy and compassion for others (because they can’t feel them, or pick up on how the people are genuinely feeling.)
AND / OR they are overwhelmed by other people’s negative emotional states, and find it very difficult to put in the necessary barriers and boundaries required to keep other people’s negative moods out of their own headspace.
The people in the second category often struggle greatly with difficult emotional states, without realizing that the emotions they are feeling aren’t actually they’re own – they are picking up someone else’s bad mood via their mirror neurons.
(In case you were wondering, YES, this is all directly linked to how people develop so-called ‘personality disorders’. The first group lack compassion and empathy for others, which are the hallmarks of things like Narcissistic Personality Disorder and ASPD; the second group are overwhelmed with other people's emotions, making them prime candidates for a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, or 'schizo' label.)
Social relationships can impact our mental health
Now, our body viscerally reacts to the voices and faces of the people we’re spending time with. Even subtle changes in someone’s tone of voice, body language, or facial expression can trigger-off some severe physiological reactions in us.
To put this another way, social relationships, or how people relate to us, can have a HUGE impact on our mental health, via the physiological reactions they trigger in us with even the subtlest shift in expression, tone or body language. Our body picks up immediately the physical cues we are being sent by others, so we can quickly ascertain at the ‘gut’ level if someone is comfortable, threatening, scared, angry, welcoming etc.
To quote Van Der Kolk again: “Our mirror neurons register their inner experience and our own bodies make internal adjustments to whatever we notice.”
Our conscious mind often focusses in on the actual words that are being said, but our bodies are picking up a whole bunch of clues at the subconscious level that tells us what’s really going on. So if you feel uncomfortable around a certain person, it’s not all in your mind. On some level, you’re registering that this person is suspicious, threatening, frightened, difficult, or ‘unhappy’ on some level, and you begin to mirror that unease back at them.
What happens when you’re mirroring a disturbed parent?
Mirror neurons are operational and start picking up external signals immediately after birth – researchers have found them active even in 6 hour old babies.
When parents and babies are in sync emotionally, they’re also in sync physically – and vice versa. Van der Kolk explains that: “Babies can’t regulate their own emotional states, much less the changes in heart rate, hormone levels, and nervous system activity that accompany emotions.”
So when the parent is synchronized with their baby, and mirroring back their need for reassurance, calming, feeling safe, the baby mimics the physiology and emotional reactions of their parent. When this is disrupted, the first place it shows up is in the baby’s physiology – leading to disturbed sleep, disturbed eating patterns, ‘colic’ and general crying and unease.
But when the baby is NOT being mirrored, or given attention in that calm, reassuring way? Then the baby is being conditioned to believe that nothing they can do will bring the help, attention or caring they need, regardless of what they do to try to change things (the infamous ‘sense of agency’).
These babies are effectively being conditioned to give up, when they hit obstacles, stress and challenges later on in life. (Again, this is directly linked with the ‘FREEZE’ response that causes feelings of clinical depression.)
A quick way to tell if your mirror neurons are functioning OK
When your mirror neurons are healthy and functioning, when someone makes direct eye contact, the pre-frontal cortex starts the assessment process of the person who is looking at you, and then your mirror neurons kick in to assess what sort of interaction this person probably presents to you – friendly or aggressive, suspicious or reassuring, loving or angry etc.
(Mirror neurons pick up the intentions of other people, and can act as a very accurate ‘early warning system’ when we don’t allow our social programming, and fears about being ‘rude’, turn them off).
When people have severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), brain scanning experiments showed that their prefrontal cortexes don’t activate when someone looks directly at them – which is the part of the brain responsible for social engagement.
Instead, people with PTSD / off-line mirror neurons will look away instead, and go straight into an emotional ‘fight or flight’ response to being seen. This is often why, to quote Van Der Kolk for the last time: “Many traumatized people feel chronically out of sync with the people around them’.
It’s very hard to feel like you fit in, and to overcome your innate feelings of loneliness and isolation when even meeting someone’s gaze can potentially throw you into a ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response.
This is also a big part of why so many people today feel socially anxious, and I hope to tell you more about this when I return to this topic again, in future posts.
One of the main things that I try to emphasize on the spiritual self-help blog, and in my books, is that no-one can heal us if we aren’t willing to try to heal ourselves.
God sends us illnesses, emotional problems and issues for a reason: to get our attention, and to encourage us to take a look at the things in our life that we need to fix, re-examine and change. Sure, we can ignore those messages – and most people do. Encouraged by the Western Medicine approach that ‘the body is all there is’, most people just keep on taking pills for their ills, or try to ‘cut out’ all the bad things that are going wrong in their body physically, without ever asking themselves the question:
When people don’t ask themselves those questions, their emotional and physical illnesses very rarely resolve, because even when they’re temporarily quelled or ‘cured’, they just pop-up again down the road, in some other format that’s often more serious.
That’s why if you’re not prepared to get involved in your own healing process, and to take responsibility for your own health and well-being, and to fight for yourself – there’s very little that anyone else can really do to help you.
I was reminded of this again recently when I had some correspondence with someone who was asking me for advice. They were in a pretty bad way, in all senses of the word, and they were writing for help. Yet at the same time, it became obvious to me that the person they most needed some ‘help’ from – namely, themselves – had gone AWOL and had washed their hands of the whole problem.
The Jewish Sage Hillel the Elder, who lived around 2,000 years ago, summed the problem up very succinctly when he wrote the following:
If I’m not for myself, that who will be for me?
But if I’m only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?
This could be the credo for achieving good mental, emotional and physical health.
If you can’t be bothered to fight for yourself – if you gave up on yourself, and you’re really just hoping to check-out of this life as quietly and quickly as possible – then how can anyone else help you?
At the same time, if all you think about is your own comfort and considerations, and what suits you, and what you need – then how can you ever have any space for meaningful, fulfilling and mutually-caring relationships?
And if you’re not prepared to grab the bull by the horns, and start the process of renewal and change and transformation TODAY, then what on earth is ever going to change before you’ll make that jump?
The people who really get better – in every sense of the word – live by Hillel’s words.
Even though they’ve been knocked down again and again, they still try to stand up again (and they usually realize pretty early on that if they don’t have God in the picture, pulling them up again, that’s an almost impossible feat).
Even though they’ve been through so much, they still try to reach out and help others, and they aren’t full of excuses, selfishness and bitterness about what the world owes them.
And lastly, they don’t keep pushing off their epiphanies, or turning on the telly to drown them out, or playing over the message they’re getting with their music, podcasts or radio shows turned to the highest volume.
God’s using our illnesses and our problems to get our attention.
He wants us to stop and think about what we’re really doing with ourselves, and where we’re really going in life. And if we don’t do that when we’ve been hit with a serious mental, emotional or physical health issue – then when are we ever?
The first thing to know about 'Bipolar II' is that - like many of the other mental disorders listed in the DSM - it's actually a very new description of a very old problem.
What's the problem, in a nutshell?
It's this: usually thanks to a whole range of circumstances, issues and experiences, many people often start to feel down and depressed, to varying degrees.
This isn't happening because they have a chemical imbalance in their brain - because that theory has never been proven, despite 30 years' of research into the field.
(If you want to learn more about the erroneous information being put out there about the so-called 'chemical imbalance', try the following articles, for starters:
12 quotes from scientists that prove the 'chemical imbalance' just doesn't exist
why the lunatics are truly now in charge of the asylum )
So what IS causing the feelings of depression (we'll go on to talk about what's causing the 'mania' shortly)?
A huge amount of research has been done on this, and there's a growing consensus that depression results from the following things:
MIND / EMOTIONAL REASONS
How the Homolateral Energy State Can Cause Depression
new study shows 'silent' forms of child abuse cause depression in adults
How trauma can lead to mental illness - and how to fix the problem at the 'body' level
Now, what about the 'manic' part of the equation?
This is where we get controversial. In his book 'Anatomy of an Epidemic', award-winning investigative journalist writes the following about bi-polar, and the 'manic' states that differentiate bi-polar from good old fashioned depression:
"Psychotropic drugs - both legal and illegal - have helped fuel the bipolar boom....Researchers at Mt Sinai Medical School reported that nearly two-thirds of the bipolar patients hospitalised at Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut in 2005 and 2006 experienced their first bout of 'mood instability' after they had abused illicit drugs....
"...In 2007, Dutch investigators reported that marijuana use is 'associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of a first diagnosis of bipolar disorder' and that one-third of new bipolar cases in the Netherlands resulted from it."
So using illegal drugs has been found to severely worsen your chances of depression (which has generally been much easier to treat effectively with natural means) morphing into bipolar, (or what used to be called 'manic depression') which is much harder to treat effectively, whatever course of treatment used.
Now for the REALLY controversial stuff.
Let's return back to Anatomy of an Epidemic:
"In a 1993 practice guide to depression, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) confessed that 'all anti-depressant treatments, including ECT, may provoke manic or hypomanic episodes."
To put this into plain English, what the APA was actually saying is that if you take anti-depressants for standard depression, you could end up becoming bipolar as a result of the legal drugs you are a taking.
"In a recent survey of members of the Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, 60 percent of those with a bipolar diagnosis said they had initially fallen ill with major depression, and had turned bipolar after exposure to an antidepressant."
And unfortunately, once you have one 'manic' episode, you are much more likely to have another 'manic' episode down the road, even if you subsequently stop using antidepressants or smoking your weed, which is why 'bipolar' is much harder to effectively and permanently treat than depression.
You can read up all the research for yourself in Rob Whitaker's book, and I highly recommend that you do, as there are so many lies being told about 'chemical imbalances' and drugs being the answer to mental illness, that you need to ensure you have all the facts before deciding what route you want to take.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO EFFECTIVELY TREAT THE PROBLEM?
First, avoid legal and illegal drugs as much as possible (I know that's easier said than done, as often people turn to drugs for relief, but long-term, drugs and medication only make the problem worse, they don't resolve it.) Also, don't forget that things like coffee and alcohol also profoundly affect the brain chemistry and act like drugs, too.
Anyone who drinks 2 litres of Diet Coke a day, for example, is setting themselves up to display a lot of the symptoms commonly associated with hypomania - and it's all caffeine related, as opposed to evidence of bipolar.
Next, try the following things:
1. Get a good night’s sleep. - at least 6-8 hours
2. Exercise enough. - 3 times 30 mins a week has been proven to be even more effective than anti-depressants, even over the short-term, to beating depression.
3. Cut back on the junk. - especially MSG and additives (more chemicals!) white flour and white sugar, that all deplete your vits and minerals and leave you feeling emotionally 'off-balance' and more prone to depressive / manic states
4. Turn up the music and dance.
5. Check if you’re in the Homolateral energy state. - and then do the easy exercise that will help you to get out of it (see the picture at the top of this post)
6. Strengthen your Spleen Energy Meridian. - as this starts to overcome the feelings of 'freeze' that resulted from whatever PTSD-type experiences you've had in the past. Energy Psychology is also really good for unpicking the issues caused by trauma that can result in depression.
This article explains more:
The ‘Happy Energy’ Angle to Beating Depression
7. Stop blaming yourself: it’s not your fault you feel this way.
8. Learn how to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
9. Stop hanging out with negative, critical people - because this, more than anything else, can trigger your depressions in the first place
10. Avoid anyone who thinks you have a ‘chemical imbalance’ - because it's completely unproven, and given the huge problems associated with medications, mental health professionals should be giving their patients far more information on alternative options to treatment with drugs.
If they aren't, either they don't know the latest research, or they don't care enough about their patients to find out about it - and either way, that's not a good person to be entrusting with your mental health.
11. Focus on the good.
12. Learn how to make good decisions.
13. Have a good answer to the question: ‘What gives my life
14. Talk to God regularly.
If you go to the following link, you can download a free report that explains how to do all these things, and also covers a lot of the things I've written about here in much more detail, including how to get out of the 'freeze' state, an exercise you can do to get out of the Homolateral Energy State, why lack of Vitamin B is directly related to depression, and how much exercise you need to beat off the blues etc
Download your free report: 14 things you can do to boost your mood now