We have drugs. We have therapy. Both may be necessary but both take control and responsibility out of your hands. You have to help yourself or it will be all for naught.
What works for me is a Zen-like approach but the shrinks like to call it “Radical Acceptance.” It fits in nicely with Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I stumbled onto this on my own.
The fact is that you cannot change the past but that does not doom you. The future presents obstacles you may not be able to avoid. The past cannot be changed. Being angry or upset about the past does not change it.
The future cannot be promised. Control what you can and accept what you cannot. Truly and deeply accepting it to the point that it no longer raises powerful emotions. By accepting the past, it no longer has power over you. By accepting the uncertainty of the future you short circuit anxiety. Que sera, sera!
Fighting the past, regretting the past, desperately wishing the past was different, it all keeps you in thrall to it. Agonizing over an uncertain future is fruitless. Change it or accept it.
When I was researching such things, I saw a parallel in many other philosophies. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes is full of it. You can see it in Greco-Roman Stoicism and the Japanese concepts of Wabi-sabi and Bushido. There are hints of it in the writings of Victor Frankl and Albert Camus. The principles were brought to its greatest fruition in Zen Buddhism.
There is a traditional prayer that expresses the idea. It goes:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Today an abbreviated expression of that prayer is found in the overused phrase:
It is what it is.
The world tosses all kinds of rocks onto the path of life. You are driving down a road and encounter a boulder blocking your way. You accept it. A rock in the road is just another rock in the road. Maybe you can move it. Maybe you need help to move it. Maybe you have to turn around and seek a different way to your objective. Maybe you have to find another objective. Maybe this isn’t even the place or time to have objectives.
How you feel changes nothing, so don’t focus on feeling. Being angry at a rock does nothing but cause stress. It is still just a rock doing what rocks do – and not a challenge to your validity as a human being. Depression is a psychological rock. So are jerks you meet along the way. Do not give either moral or emotional value in your life.
I really don’t want it to be this way and it should be some other way and it is unfair and the world hates me! Hell, I hate me.
We are so harsh in judging, most especially ourselves! A person is never a success or a failure. A person is just a person in a particular place in life. Depression isn’t a moral shortcoming. It is just another rock in the road. So stop being so hard on yourself. Be kind instead. Pretend you are a troubled stranger you met along the way.
You aren’t a salmon, struggling desperately to avoid being eaten while swimming upstream to spawn. You can decide – instead – to sit on the beach sipping a piña colada while watching the sunset.
Being happy doesn’t require being surrounded by friends, nor bags of money, nor a wild sex life. It just requires that you be comfortable in your own skin. Anyone who judges you as less of a person for it is not a person worthy of your concern. You have free agency. That is something neither a machine nor a simple animal can do.
Oftentimes work is the most depressing aspect of life. Remember, the rat race is just a bunch of running rats. The cheese is an illusion to keep them running. Almost all bureaucracies have as their policy the dehumanization of their employees. It’s just another rock in the road.
Don’t be afraid to walk away from the abusive employer – or the abusive partner, for that matter. Your life is more important than a paycheck or even a roof over your head. There is always an alternate way to get by. Look harder. Be open to radical change.
Do not live in the past, constantly revisiting prior hurts and old pain. The past is what it is and you can’t change it nor can you fix it. By dredging up the past you contaminate the future. Your hope for change is to make the future a blank slate with no expectations. The more care you exercise in creating the future and the less you allow past pain to interfere with it, the better it will be. Do not expect rainbows and unicorns. Do something or don’t do something – but make it your decision. And own it.
When the world seems bleak and dreary I have a few things I do to cheer myself up.