I’ve always wondered why, so often, so many suffering from anxiety or depression wait till they reach rock bottom before they bounce back up.
And then I’m conflicted.
I reached rock bottom. Or close enough.
And before I got there, I exhausted my energy trying (or so I thought) to sort my mind and life out.
I always wanted to explain the reasoning behind this, but I could never find the words.
That is, until yesterday, when I read them from a page of the book, “The Coddling Of The American Mind.”
“Depression and anxiety distorts cognition and gives people much more negative views that are warranted about themselves, other people, the world and the future. Problems loom larger and seem more pervasive. One's resources for dealing with those problems seem smaller, and ones perceived locus of control becomes more external. All of which discourages efforts to act vigorously to solve problems.
Repeated failures to escape to what is perceived to be a bad situation can create a mental state that psychologist Martin Seligman called, “LEARNED HELPLESSNESS” in which a person believes that escape is impossible, and therefore, stops trying, even in new situations where effort would be rewarded.
Furthermore, when people are depressed or when their anxiety sets their threat response system on high alert, they can succumb to a hostile attribution bias. Which means they are more likely to see hostility in benign or even benevolent people, communications and situations. Misunderstandings are more likely to escalate into conflicts.”
I can tell you with absolute certainty, speaking from my experience, that I was a victim of "learned helplessness."
Now, I’m going to loop in human needs psychology and attempt to mould the two together.
This might explain why so many hang around in No Man's land when suffering from anxiety or depression.
I define No Man's land as that place above rock bottom where you become complicit in your anxious ways BECAUSE you begin to meet your basic human needs in ways that don't serve you. It's all unconscious–this is not an antonym for the term "woke."
It's unconscious because you have no idea it's happening.
On top of that, you've learned helplessness because nothing has worked out in the past.
The human needs I speak of as taught by Tony Robbins are:
4. Love & connection
The first four are essential. We all get them. One way or the other. And the impact is either negative, neutral, or positive.
Over time, many of us are conditioned to meet these needs negatively. So paradoxically, our needs end up fuelling our anxiety or depression, our anger or sadness.
How's that for a mind fuck?
Yes, anxiety and depression can make you feel significant.
It also provides certainty because you wake up every morning knowing damn well you can depend on it.
And when you get tired of being anxious, you can get pissed and angry with yourself or those around you. This provides variety. And it feels a hell of a lot better than anxiety or depression.
I know I was a ticking time bomb at my worst!
If I had to give a presentation at work, I would do my best to channel anger because it meant I wasn't anxious. And that meant I wouldn't mess it up. So I was praying the bastards would be late coming to grab me at the reception because this infuriated me. Pure bliss!
Even though you hate what you're experiencing, and rightfully so, it is meeting your needs.
And that, I believe, is why change is so difficult. Because you have to challenge what’s working for you—which paradoxically, isn’t really working at all.
James Allen wrote in his book, “As A Man Thinketh;”
How cool is that?
You have to change your current habits and the patterns you are currently running which aren’t working for you to change your circumstances.
It requires you to look inwards in a way you probably haven't done before. So it's scary.
No. It's terrifying. But it doesn’t have to be.
The good news is you don’t have to suffer needlessly. You don't have to wait till you hit rock bottom.
Is it going to be easy? Fuck no!
But it will be a hell of a lot easier than the life you might be living today.
And just think how wonderful your life will be when you learn hope? As opposed to helplessness?
Thanks for reading!