Focusing Away Depression

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I awoke today frustrated about how I was feeling.  For the past few days I have been feeling depressed and overwhelmed.  I wanted to call my daughters and whine about it, but I couldn’t find my phone.  I thought about going to see my therapist but remembered I have all the tools I need, I don’t really need my therapist for this; I guess I just wanted to complain to someone.

“I need to focus” I reminded myself.  Focusing is a technique I learned from my teacher Tom Brown Jr. and the basics of which are also described in a book called “Focusing”.

I lay down on my bed to begin the meditation, and there was my phone!  I chuckled to myself because I realized that I simply need to focus instead of relying on the crutch of complaining to my family, and that is why I couldn’t find my phone!

Focusing is like peeling back the layers of emotion, one by one, to see what is going on in that mix of emotions you might be feeling.

I began by asking myself, kindly and gently as a loving mother might, “How are you feeling?” and the first layer popped up.

“I am feeling angry!” came the feeling.  There was roaring and screaming and gnashing of teeth inside me.  I let myself feel it.

“Why?” I asked.

I was surprised that there were so many things I was angry about and they were all swirling around me: Too many things I want to do; Overwhelmed by all of it; Can’t get things done fast enough; Don’t even want to do them; Angry that I have to; People I have been angry with even popped up . . . it was like everything I have ever been angry about was there.  It felt sharply painful in the center of my chest.

“OK, that’s good to know,” I said to myself, reassuringly, trying not to get stuck in this first layer and remember the next step.  Oh yeah . . . “Now, set that first layer aside . . . and aside from that, how am I feeling?”

I let the anger move up and out of me and I felt for the next layer.  “I’m feeling depressed.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I feel ineffectual, like there are so many things I feel like I am supposed to do: build my art studio, finish the barn, learn the edible and medicinal plants, work on genealogy, do school with the kids, run errands, make food, lose weight, clean the house, etc. and I have so little energy.  I feel like a failure.”

“OK, that’s good to know,” I tell myself.  “Now, aside from that, how am I feeling?”

I let the second layer move up and out of me and I felt for the third layer.  I felt a glimmer of timid joy.

“Why?” I asked, “Why am I feeling this little bit of joy?”

“I love color,” was the answer.

“Tell me more,” I asked.

“I love making art, I LOVE working with color!” The feeling of joy was getting stronger.  I began blissfully thinking about making a scarf, and began designing it in my mind.  I started thinking about the necklaces, and tunics, I have been designing in my mind the past week or so.

I had stopped working on art after the art fair because I was spending all my time with organizing and working on the household and the building projects and had not made any art since before the fair.

I felt guilty even thinking about making art because of all the other things I felt like I was supposed to do.

Somehow I have to find a balance.

I can stop beating myself up and forcing myself to spend my time entirely on chores.  I can have the fun time in order to balance everything out and be happy.  In fact, the joyous pursuits can be my main focus and everything else can fit into the nooks and crannies around the fun.  Why not?  After all, I came to Oregon to heal my mind and body, and what better way than to live in joy?

I didn’t need to go any further in my layers today, even though I know there are many more amazing layers, because I found my answer.  I feel relieved and happy, looking forward to making art and balancing my life better.

Dealing with Depression

I recently made a comment in another persons website about one of the ways I deal with depression so I thought I would share it here.
I have an approach called Focusing which I learned from my teacher Tom Brown Jr. (which approach I received by going out and going to Wilderness Survival classes at Trackerschool). The concept of focusing is also taught in a basic way in a book called Focusing, but Tom took us further in the exercise.
First, you get yourself in a quiet place away from others, preferably in nature, be quiet for a minute, just enjoying relaxing, then after a few minutes, ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” and surrender to the first feeling that comes up. If the first feeling that comes up is, “Fine, I feel fine.” Say to yourself, “No, really, how are you REALLY feeling?” Then in a VERY LOVING, NON JUDGMENTAL way, you say, “That’s good to know!” Then you ask, “Why am I feeling this way?”, and surrender to the answer that comes to you. Again, no judgement, only love and understanding. Say, “Well, that’s good to know!.”
Next, you set that feeling off to the side and you say to yourself, “Great, now aside from that, How am I feeling?” and surrender to the next feeling that comes up. Once you identify the next feeling, in a very loving, understanding, non judgmental way, say to yourself, “Good, that’s good to know. So why am I feeling this way?” Surrender to the answer and acknowledge that answer with love and understanding.
Next, you set those first feelings aside and say to yourself, “OK, Aside from those, How am I feeling?” Surrender to the answer. Again, in a very loving understanding way say to yourself, “Good, that’s good to know! Now, why am I feeling this way?” Surrender to the answer and acknowledge it with gratitude.
Tom told us to peel back AT LEAST 4 layers of feelings as a minimum, but he also told us, “When you think you have gone as far as you can go, keep going.”
More likely you will find many, many layers of feelings and reasons why.
This is peeling back the layers that make up that confusing mix of feelings which may be making you feel stuck, depressed, or confused. Bringing the individual emotions up and the why’s behind them, is healing because those feelings are being acknowledged in a very understanding way. There are reasons why we feel the way we do.
The first time I did this exercise we were given 45 minutes. I kept being distracted after the first 10 minutes or so. We were each sitting out in nature away from anyone else. It was very difficult to stay on task of peeling back the layers of feelings, but each layer was a revelation to one degree or another. I had no idea each of those individual feelings were carrying on at the same time, contributing to how I was feeling overall. It’s almost funny, looking back, I would uncover a feeling and the way behind it, and get caught up in thoughts about it and completely forget I was doing an exercise! Then I would remember, and almost be startled that I had forgotten that fact! Then I would go to the next layer. Going deeper was difficult for some reason. I couldn’t imagine there could be another layer, but there always was! And the deeper I got, the more surprised I was at what feeling was in that layer (I kept going with dogged determination because I paid a lot of money for that class and I wasn’t about to waste any of my time learning all I could)!!
Then the jewel . . . under all the feelings, I found myself. I had no idea until then who I really was. I can’t describe to you how I felt when I saw myself for who I really am, but I can say it was good, and I couldn’t stop weeping in absolute joy!
When they called us back in to the lecture hall, I couldn’t stop crying. Tom said, “It’s about time you got rid of all that sh#*!” I don’t know if he understood I was crying for joy or not, but the experience was life changing.
Before Tom sent us out to do this exercise, he told us to write down the feelings and the why’s as they came up. Once the exercise was done, he had us go through the list of feelings and circle the one that felt the most important to us. For many the most important feeling was not the first one we felt come up. He had us circle it and write a little #1 by it. Then we went through the list again, looking for the one that felt most important aside from the first feeling that was circled. When we found the next one that felt most important, we circled it and put a #2 by it. We continued circling and numbering the feelings until we felt we had circled all the important ones.
By doing the second half of this exercise, circling the most important feelings to us, we might be surprised which feelings are most important or strongest, and which feelings that have not been circled are clouding or hiding our most important feelings.
Some logistics:
Sometimes the same feeling may come up more than once. Typically because of a different “Why?” That’s fine just write it down.
Sometimes we may hover with a feeling for awhile before wanting or being able to move on to the next one. That’s perfectly all right, that feeling just needs a little more time to be acknowledged before setting it to the side and moving on to the next feeling.
Sometimes you may not have any feeling come up. That has happened to me more than once in the past. What I do is say to myself, “OK, that feeling is not ready to be seen, or I am not ready to see it . . . that’s good to know.” and I set it aside and move to the next one.
The most important thing to remember is to not be judgmental of yourself for your feelings. They are there and they are valid to you because you are feeling them. There will most likely be baggage contributing to some of your feelings, and that is all great and part of the layers you’re peeling back. It is all good. Digging deep, through it all, is a very introspective approach, and therapeutic, and healing.
One of the things that makes this exercise such a jewel to me is that underneath all the feelings, I found the purity of me. I don’t know if others will experience the same thing, but I do believe that under all those emotions and reasons for the feelings, our true selves exist: pure, beautiful, amazing, powerful, undimmed, and beyond description. So peel away, be patient, enjoy the comfort of being able to feel your feelings and love yourself fully and unconditionally no matter what you are feeling. There is a reason you have your feelings, and you can be a comfort to yourself, but your feelings are not you. You are underneath all the feelings, at the core. YOU are truly amazing!
At one time I thought that if I only know who I really was, spiritually, I would be able to handle anything. I have to admit that has not been the case. I still struggle and find myself knocked off balance. I still get depressed at times, always because I fear something. I can say, however, peeling back the feelings and getting the mix separated out, helps me identify what’s really going on. Awareness in an incredible tool.
Thanks for letting me share, and I hope you can try this for yourself!