Monday, January 3, 2011

One More For The Road...

If it looks like this blog has gone off topic, that's because I don't have much more to say on it. And honestly, nobody seems very interested in it either. Most of my popular stuff has little to do with uncovering the causes of depression, or helping diagnose it, the main point of the blog.

So I'm closing up shop. I'm starting a new blog which will be dedicated to translating classical Hebrew books into English and posting them on the site (If you're interested, email me for the details). I'd like to make it a communal project, where everyone will translate books for me to post. (I would have liked to make it a Wiki site, but I have no idea how to set that up. If anyone knows how, please help me out.)

Before I let you out on your own, I thought it would be fitting to share a therapeutic technique that has helped me in the past. I am not a doctor, so you need to use your common sense if this applies to you or not (actually, that boilerplate is very good advice when seeing a therapist too). The technique is pulled from the annals of behavioral conditioning, and is helpful in dealing with all types of trauma.

First, imagine yourself in a situation that causes anxiety. Bring up the situation in your mind to the point where you actually feel the reaction you normally get. What exactly is causing the anxiety? Is it a certain type of person? A group of people? Now, come out of your imagining state, and think about the situation rationally. Is there truly a reason to be afraid? Or does this type of person fit into a mold of someone you were afraid of in childhood and thereby triggers an ingrained reaction?

OK, now let's say for example that this person, by virtue of her being a red-haired woman, reminds you of your mother, who was extremely critical of you. This has made you neurotically fearful of many things, but especially of a woman who fits your mother's mold. Now, go over the rational possibilities in your mind. Does this person probably act like your mother just because she shares certain external characteristics? And if she happens to- coincidentally- does she have any power over you? No, and no.

The next step is to go back into that imagined state, and bring up the fearful feelings. Now, calm yourself down. You can do this by physically calming your muscles. How? Let's say for example that your chest tightens up when you get these feelings. Breathe deeply to show you actually have control of the situation. Now move up to your face and relax your facial muscles. Now, command your mind to relax. If you need to, shift your focus to something else in the imagined room to prove you have control over it. Now think over the same rational thoughts from before.

Do this exercise a few times, until you have it down well. Congratulations! You have done step one! Now you can move on to step two. Enter a non-pressured social situation that will bring these feelings up. Now do the technique. Repeat this a few times until these situations lower their anxiety-level for you. You can work your way up to situations that actually cause you anxiety for a good reason. For example, your jerk boss. Especially if they have features other than power (big, black hair) that evoke the same childhood anxiety state.
Now do the technique so that you can separate the real, healthy, anxiety, from the flashback memory anxiety state. Unless you work in special ops, or a slave-labor camp, your anxiety will now go down to a manageable level. Now you're cured. You deserve a drink. :)