Recently some friends of mine have been experiencing anxiety attacks and states which have negatively affected their work and relationships. In my life I have faced challenges with my psychological strength and health, such as admittance to a psychiatric ward when I was 17. I’ve had a running battles with depression, alcoholism and violence in my own life. All of which I have been able to gain control over and overcome. Though I continue to wrestle with depressive bouts and habits, that’s the ongoing work of becoming my strongest self. It’s a gift. Aware of this history two of my friends asked about what it takes to overcome patterns of depression and anxiety.
So when I asked myself what I would like to share with the world today, this topic arose to my mind.
Now we need to be clear, there are no simple or quick fixes in life. As human beings, we are at the mercy of our physiology. And that can make us our own worst enemies. The human mind is designed to find problems and solve them. It’s designed to keep us alive in survival situations. To do so, it looks for threats and dangers. That’s one level of the challenge. The fundamentals of the human brain and body. On top of this the conditioning, we receive from our environment. Parents, school, all this stuff. Now, both these we can work on. We need training to overcome conditioning. There are a few simple practices, which, repeated every day, will eventually win out over depression and negativity.
First of all, let’s start with focus.
Remember this maxim:
What you seek, you find.
The practice here is to train our body and mind to focus on that which aligns us with a sense of fulfillment, growth, contribution. In a word, happiness. Pleasure and happiness are not the same. Happiness comes from a sense of control and progress in one’s life. Pleasure comes and goes like the tide. The Ancient Greeks use the word Eudaimonia. Which means literally
A good God within
Now there are many methods and strategies to train ourselves. And the right strategy can save you decades of time, the right framing to a problem can reduce its complexity by orders of 10 or a 100 in an instant. However, even so, a strategy without action is no strategy at all.
But let me tell you this – change is possible – incredible change. A life orders of magnitude more inspire and empowered and joyful is available you, and to other people too. But it must be won. Grown and cultivated like a garden. Composed like a sonata. Built timber by timber. Through a combination of surrendering that which holds you back, and centering on that which leads you forward.
As you think, so you become.
In my own life I’ve overcome many challenges and struggles. I have overcome alcohol addiction, after two generations of intergenerational violence, being a victim or perpetrator of violence it has been years since I harmed myself or acted with ill-will to any human being. Addiction to love and sex, addiction to cigarettes, I’ve overcome, transcended. It does not trouble me any longer.
All this poverty of mind and spirit has been reversed into abundance. All these means of meeting my needs undone. Now I am able to love and give love. To communicate and encourage. To nurture and live with passion.
Though my challenges and journey is not over. No. Not yet! Some things I still strive against. Food and pornography can be a challenge for me still at times. I admit. I am not ashamed of this. These are hardwired coping mechanisms I adopted in childhood. But I believe. I have faith. I know with absolutely certainty that persistence will win out if I stay the course. And I will stay the course.
A strong why will make anyhow.
When I decided to overcome these personal challenges, I found for myself a compelling reason to do so. Daring to dream it can be better. That I can grow and become.
It was to serve my unborn children, my future family, my friends, and those I serve as an example of what could be done. That we as human beings have the capacity to heal and determine the meaning and fruit of our pain and suffering. I set the goal to transcend, to overcome these addictions and use this struggle as energy for growing and contributing to the lives of others.
Hold to yourself. Remember that no one way is right. Each path is as unique as the trees and the stars in the sky. They all share similar needs and developmental stages, and their needs for thriving are essentially the same, what they choose to become and to value is unique to them.
Give yourself this right to explore and create meaning out for your life.
Remember, remember! Obession with money, politics and consumerism lead to division and degradation. True wealth has many forms. It’s time that we began to shift our means and imagination into a creating a new world and way of being. And all change begins within the self. For if we do not change, then circumstances will dictate the change to us.
Take one step today. Years ago I read a book on that changed my life. Nial Dodges Book, ‘the Brain the Changes Itself’ and from this I discovered that with practice and training, the body can create neural circuits, new ways to be an live. People with servere disabilities can train themselve to new be able to walk without legs, or to speak where before they were mute. And that this process was applicable to many challenges we face psychologically.
From this book I realised that the root of my addictions lay in patterns in my brain and limbic system. Reinforced by my social environment. Violence and alcoholism weret tings which I had learned and copied from my parents, and friends. Who in turn had resorted to these behaviours in order to meet their basic needs. Raised in alcoholic, violent circumstances which relied on violence and alcohol to give them certainty and significance, they had simply mimicked and replicated these.
I was so thankful. Finally I new it was possible. And over time I have begun to understand my circumstances and upbringing as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn and live with greater skill, awareness and courage. And now I seek to create conditions in for which others can do the same. And in doing so, sow the seeds change.
Again, through luck and grace, my life is no longer a slave to these destructive habits. It is no longer the case that I am at the mercy of what was handed down to me. I used to fight my father when I allowed the fear and rage to take me. Now I do battle through being the change I wish to see within my family. I give unconditional love, even when physically, emotionally or verbally attacked. I maintain faith and hope, I speak my truth with as much kindness and courage as I can. And slowly, change is coming. I am confident that if I continue to grow and create greater love and fulfilment in my own life it will automatically permeate the lives of those around me.
For you cannot give to others what you do not have yourself.
It’s been a long road. And one that still continues. But as each day passes the strength of my love, that is, my physiology, grows through simple disciplines, learning, investing time and energy into activities, exercises and relationships which bring me joy, wisdom and meaning.
For life’s greatest rewards are found by seeking and exploring. Discovering new ways of being and doing. Just as with technology, business, science, and art. All improvement and realisation requires risk and effort.
I would like to encourage you know to reflect and consider. How are you meeting your needs? What are the limits in your own life? What leads you forward and holds you back? Set yourself the challenge to grow and become of greater value to the world and those around you. I invite you to reflect on this now. And to take action. Beging by daring to dream and image a life for yourself in which your needs are met and you’re giving your greatest gifts to the world.