Where do you want YOUR neuropathways to lead to?

It is a scientific, biological fact that once you have experienced depression that you are more likely to fall into a depression again.  This is because our brains  (well, hopefully not YOURS, I wouldn’t wish depression on anyone!) develop a neuropathway towards it…and, once established, our neurons are more likely to take a road more travelled. 

Where are you thinking to?

I believe that this is true of any  thought pattern we engage in throughout life.  If I live my whole life thinking, oh…let’s say that I’m undeserving of what I want, I will probably find myself in situation after situation after situation after situation after situation (shall I continue here?!) after situation, (lol) of letting myself fall by the wayside.  I mean, I don’t deserve that type of relationship, or job, or friend, or money, or happiness, or whatever. 

I’m going to share something really personal with all of you…(but don’t get used to it!)  I had a breakthrough in therapy the other day (in case you didn’t guess from my last blog that yes, not only do I see a therapist–who is totally awesome by the way, but at least one of my parents is in fact, a bona fide crazy person…guess which one and you could win a prize!)  I realized that I do deserve the things I want…and, not only do I deserve them, but what I want is by no means irrational or unreasonable. 

One might ask, “Hey, Julie…how did you manage to create a new way of thinking for your brain?”  Great question, hypothetical person who is very interested in what I have to say!  I have been spending a lot of time and energy analyzing my behaviors.  Every action I take has a thought behind it.  Actually, it probably has many thoughts.  Which is why it’s helpful to see a therapist…someone who is paying attention to what I’m saying and asking questions that I might not think (or want) to ask.  So, I have been analyzing all my actions to figure out the thought processes behind it.  Once I’ve figured out the thought patterns, I work to trace these back to their origins.  How did I learn this?  And better yet, once I’ve identified these parts, I can ask myself the most difficult questions:  Is this thought agreeable with who I am, and if not, What exactly IS?  PRESTO!  There you have it.  (Not  nearly as easy as typing ‘presto’ in all caps…but you get the idea.) 

Here is what I did not do (or what I did do, but soon realized that it wouldn’t work):  I did not look for an easy way out.  I did not look outside myself for an answer.  (There is none to be found.)  Not any type of medication, or relationship or person or energy work is going to fix the way I think and therefore act.  That has to be done by myself only.  I’m sorry if I burst any bubbles out there.  But hey, if you think Zoloft or Reiki or a new boyfriend will make you think and behave differently, keep on trying.  I know I had to learn it for myself…no one could’ve told me otherwise because when I was engaged in that stuff, I was not ready to listen.     

So, what exactly does this mean?  Well, if you can picture me sitting in a

It was just like this--except we are both women, and I was crying...and my body was more limp than this guy's.

chair,crying while saying, “You know what, Whitney?  I DO deserve to be happy.  To be treated wholly by another, to give and to receive!”  (Okay, so when I was talking to her I was way more specific about what I actually deserve…but that’s a little TOO personal for me to share on the internet!)  If you are really curious, ask me and I may or may not answer you.  But I will like you just the same.  

Oh yeah, (I hope you enjoyed the picture I just painted for you) so this means that I have now formed a BRAND NEW neuropathway in my brain!  Yessss!  But, just because it’s there, doesn’t mean I will take it all the time.  It is just a baby pathway.  The other route has almost 28 years of travel…which means that it’s still a lot stronger than the other.  So chances are, that, even though I’ve developed this new route, I will still accidentally follow the road I don’t want to travel.  This is to be expected.  But now, I don’t have to be so harsh on myself…because this is simply biology.  It’s the way our bodies and brains are made up.  And, if I keep paying extra special attention to what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, I can travel the new road more and more often (even though it seems foreign and awkward and I might not want to all the time) until it gets stronger than the old way. 

I think that one day, instead of being like work, it will simply BE that way!  OH, how exciting!

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When is it enough to just be?

Sometimes, this is a lot harder than it sounds.  When things are going “my way”…whenever I’m “getting what I want”…It’s really easy to be content with how things are presently.  And of course this is true.  I can just BE happy and content that things are unfolding according to my well-thought out  life plan. 

Occasionally, it is enough for me to “just be” when I’m feeling depressed or sad or lonely or angry or a host of other negative intangibles.  I mean, who can honestly be peaceful and content one hundred percent of the time?  So I know that when these emotions arise within, that they are momentary…they will pass, and I can be ok even when I’m not ok…but only because I know that I’m really ok.  (Hilarious, right?)  In Vedanta, this is known as using your intellect to govern your mind.  Or, in psychology, operating I/E.  (Familiar with that equation?  It’s intelligence over emotion.) 

However, when life-plan A has failed and I resort to life-plan B…which is really just transitional, things can get really tough.  At times I find my intellect weakened as I entertain less than productive thought patterns.  (To put it nicely.)  And all of a sudden, it seems that I am not enough where I am–my job, my finances, my hobbies, my living situation, the way I relate to the world.  Believe me when I tell you that this list could go on…

MALARKY!

I read an article on elephantjournal once titled:  Why It’s Good to Lay Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor.  I try to remember this article during a really tough time.  The author talks about this lesser known hindu goddess named She-Who-Is-Never-Not-Broken, who is a metaphor that we as humans are always changing…we are always being broken and putting ourselves back together again…and that when this process ceases, our life ceases as well. 

Also, my sister once said that we are like banks of a river.  All the people and objects of the world that pass by us, shape us (like the water of a river!)…and our shapes are constantly shifting and changing. 

Although I cannot hold on to life-plan A, I can at least have a say in how these events shape me as a human.  I could become bitter and self-loathing (not that this behavior exudes me 100% of the time…so I’m NOT perfect, ok?!) OR I could use these events to analyze why things didn’t work out…and how I can change my behaviors to better ensure a positive outcome for next time…and also learn how to better assess people and situations so I might have that Plan A, which by the nature of the world has already evolved and changed. 

And, in the meantime, writing this has already helped me to be OK with just being…even if I feel pretty miserable, I also feel pretty damn good too.

Dharma!

Dharma…or simply put (meaning in english) our individual calling, duties or principles.  We each have our own truths.  What is right for me is not necessarily right for another.  (But wouldn’t life be amazingly easy if we all had the same truths to live by?!) 

Should I take this new job?  Is my current lover right for me?  Is how I acted/interacted/reacted right for who I am? 

Maybe that last part is key: Who am I?

As if answering these questions aren’t hard enough, the physical equipments we have to work with are NOT designed to go metaphorically deep sea diving into the layers of our core personality.  Think about it…

…We have eyes that see brilliant colors and shapes, as well as the pain and suffering occurring everyday.  Ears hear the murmurs of conversation, nature, music both nasty and sweet.  The tongue tastes all the nutrition we put into our bodies.  And skin feels the soft, gentle touch of a lover or wind; the physical pain of abuse or an accident.  Our noses smells scents from armpits to dinners…from hot, smoky fires to the rain that washes them out.

Don’t get me wrong, these are WONDERFUL things…our five sense.  However, I cannot decide which job to take by sniffing daffodils and I cannot decide to stay with or to leave my lover by licking lollipops. 

And…just to further complicate things:  What about what I WANT?!  Can I want the same things I need??  (oh, I think life would be grand if that were so!)  Can’t I have my lover…even though basic communication skills are lacking?  Can’t I have the lucrative job even though it exploits those less fortunate?  Can’t I eat all the cookies in the world and still get all the vitamins and minerals I need to sustain a healthy body?

So.  What happens when we’ve searched long and hard and deep into the darkness of our souls and find out (to our horrid disdain and fear) that:  No Julie, you can’t sustain a healthy body on cookies alone.  Or:  No, you need an intimate partner who can communicate his needs effectively as well…otherwise you’ll just be miserable.

Here it comes:

But…But…won’t I be miserable if I have to eat all those vegetables EVERY DAY?  and won’t I be miserable WITHOUT that guy who can’t communicate?  and…won’t the money make me forget that my job is causing others to suffer?  

Finding out our truth is haaaarrrrd work.  We have to go beyond the physical layers of our bodies…work through the trickiness of our emotions…to discover something that we might not want to admit.  Then what? 

Then, we have a choice.  And this choice is so very hard.  Emotionally jarring.  We might think we’ll be scarred for life.  But the amount of courage it takes; the strength we can muster to actually live our truth is what makes us the GREAT human race.  The ability to do what’s right for us.

I’m shaking my head right now thinking:  Man, life is freakin’ hard sometimes!  But totally worth it.