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Watching for Depression: Debunking Perceptions

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

I speak with so many people that suffer from depression and anxiety. They explain how their thinking keeps them up during all hours of the night. Many of them are experiencing body sensations that cause tension and discomfort. They report how their emotions are on a roller coaster sometimes and everything seems overwhelming and out of control; grasping and reaching for some kind of relief but never quite getting to a safe destination where everything feels calm and relaxed. These feelings and symptoms are very common in our fast driven culture that believes success is doing and having more. The result is exhaustion, depression and a stressed person just trying to get through their day.

Usually, by the time they come to me, the behavior patterns of suffering have been occurring for a very long time and it seems normal. People usually come to me looking for relief from pain but are not fully aware of the conditions that causes the pain.

One of the first mindfulness exercises that can provide benefit is what I like to call “watching”. Watching is a term I learned from 12 step recovery that I have expanded on in my own mindfulness practice over the years and have worked to help teach others in my clinical practice. To watch is to observe yourself; primarily your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, sensations and actions. It’s like you are seeing yourself from an observational third person. Let’s take a look at perception as an example. A common perception of Mondays is that they are busy, stressful, long and not very exciting or fun. This perception is the foundational recipe for a difficult day. Sometimes we start our Monday off with this perception without even considering that this is the narrative we have chosen. Mindfulness watching gives us the ability to catch these negative perceptions before they manifest in our day. We can catch them in the moment they begin occurring.

Have you ever heard the expression, “I am going to hit the pause button”? There is no such thing as a pause button. But there is a zoom option that allows us to take a closer look. Through a dedicated mindfulness practice we can begin to zoom in on the perceptions we attach to and how they are affecting our well-being. After all, they may not be serving us or those around us very well. If this is the case, we have a golden opportunity to zoom into them and “watch” them for what they really are. This can help unlatch the neurosis of the mind.

Zooming in to these old perceptions we begin to discover that they are fixed patterns that we have repeatedly reinforced in our neuro pathways that have very little to do with reality or the present moment. This is good news for all of us. Because that means that the sometimes conditional negative response we are perceiving is not as real as we think it is.

The truth can look more like this: It’s just Monday and our hearts are beating and our lungs are breathing. We are alive today and this means survival. But there is only one place to survive and that is in the here and now. So zoom into it and shine a bright light on all of it so you can have a new experience that isn’t obscured by old perceptions that don’t apply or serve you best. Zoom into it and give it some space and clarity. Zoom into it and focus on its openness. This is freedom.

Enjoy (in-joy) your day!

Rhett Reader LMSW, CADC

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