Our childhoods leave us with a lasting impression, one that affects us throughout our lives. As infants, we are a ‘blank slate’ upon which early experiences make their mark. If our parents are kind, consistent and loving we learn that the world is a safe place to be in. If our parents are neglectful, cruel or unpredictable in their love and care, we generalise this experience and see the world as an unsafe place where others can’t be trusted. (If you want to know more about this – look up “Attachment Theory by John Bowlby).
Part of what makes us who we are is genetically determined, such as whether we are shy or outgoing but many of our attitudes and beliefs about ourselves and the world come from how our parents treated us and what we observed as children. Our childhoods leave us with a ‘story’ that colours the way we see the world. Sometimes, we deny the story exists or we see it through rose-tinted glasses but our story will begin to show us its influence through our behaviour, thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms. Sometimes, when we find ourselves acting in ways we never thought we would, it might just be your background story trying to tell you something.
If you find yourself acting out of character, looking for ways to escape your reality, there might just be an underlying issue that needs addressing.
Possible signs that show you haven’t dealt with your past adequately:
You regularly look for ways to escape your life – through drugs, alcohol or unhealthy excessive behaviours.
You have uncontrollable rage or anger that seems hard to manage.
You have had a pattern of unhappy/unhealthy relationships.
You have many secrets in your life, possibly a double life that no one knows about.
There is a lack of open and honest communication between family members.
You see the world as unsafe where others can never be trusted.
There are many possible signs that you may not have dealt with issues from your past. More often than not, residual damage will continue to influence you in later life. If you feel that you have become stuck in a cycle of self sabotage it may be time to seek the help of a professional – a counsellor or psychologist.
Getting the most out of life means taking control of past demons and laying them to rest. Dealing with the negative emotions such as guilt or resentment can take a huge weight off our shoulders and let you live a life free of unnecessary emotional baggage.
Behavioural Activation and the Cycle of Depression
When people are depressed they can feel physically tired and lack motivation which might make them stop doing things they used to enjoy. They may also end up neglecting their daily tasks. Initially when we avoid things, we feel relief; we kick back and relax which is why we keep doing it. This is known as negative reinforcement. The disadvantage of this, is that we then get into a vicious cycle, the less we do and the more we avoid things, the less we want to do and our bodies can experience more tiredness. Due to feeling more tired, we avoid more.
Another impact of low mood is that we might start thinking badly about ourselves, we might find ourselves thinking “what’s the point”, “I won’t enjoy myself anyway” or “I’m useless/failure so there’s no point even trying”. Sadly, this makes us feel even lower and want to withdraw even more.
When we stop doing the things that we love, we miss out on feeling a sense of enjoyment and when we stop doing the things we need to do, we stop feeling a sense of purpose and achievement.
Our thoughts and our behaviour keep the cycle of depression going.
Behavioural Activation Steps
One of the ways of breaking the vicious cycle of depression is by very gradually increasing our activity levels. We need to focus on our routine activities such as (doing exercise, housework, paying bills etc) – regular behaviour that allows people to feel comfortable in their surroundings (exercise, getting outside) and pleasurable activities (Seeing friends, reading, watching TV etc). there is a lot of evidence that shows that having a good balance of activity in your life is positive for your wellbeing and restoring that balance is essential in fighting depression.
It may not seem easy to increase your activity level because of the tiredness or the negative thoughts but it is worth working towards this increased level of activity slowly but surely. It’s a good idea to start with small, easy steps and begin with things that you can do.
Think of it in terms of training for a sports event. If you haven’t done any running for 6 months, you might not try and run a marathon without doing any training. You would probably go on a training program that slowly builds up your fitness and endurance. That way you’re more likely to achieve your goals and not feel like a failure.
If someone sets their goals too high, they might end up not doing them or failing, becoming disappointed and feeling worse. So it’s important that to start with small steps and slowly build up to the larger tasks that seem unmanageable right now.
Another important thing to remember is that it’s not what you do or how much you do, but simply that you are doing, that you do something. It is important to remember that to feel better on the inside, we have to start with the outside, making ourselves do something, even if we don’t want to. We call this the Outside-In approach.
So, start by making small steps, even if you have to start by getting out of a bed an hour earlier. Small steps and you will be on the way to improving your mood.
The “no contact” rule is talked about on most websites dealing with break ups and relationship splits. It is stated that cutting all contact from your ex partner is the best way forward, irrespective of whether you want to reconcile or not. These websites give two main reasons for the “no contact” rule. They say that it helps you to heal and move on and it gives your ex partner time to miss you.
Now, the no-contact rule does have its virtues but I wish to expand on this very rigid post-break up rule.
No contact does help a person to move on quicker from a relationship split but it isn’t necessarily the best move if you miss your ex and wish to reconcile. My partner and I were apart for nealry 5 months and I didn’t stick to this rule. I only got in touch sparingly but I never believed that the no contact rule was the right one for me.
The best way to reconcile with an ex partner
If you want to get you ex back, it is generally best to keep a low profile for a bit. But this doesn’t necessarily mean “no contact” at all. It might just be that your ex is thinking of reconciliation and decides not to get back in touch because they haven’t heard from you and think you are over them.
I maintained no contact for 2 weeks at the most. Inbetween that I would send the odd funny joke or a casual “how are you?” text. Nothing too heavy.
The bottom line with ex partners is this, if they love you and want you back, they will probably make the effort whether you engage in the no-contact rule or whether you maintain a casual connection.
Maintaining too much communication and being needy however, is never a good idea as it ‘devalues’ your position. Maintaining a casual connection is fine though, contrary to what most people say. Come over confident and happy and show the person what they are missing. DOn’t ask heavy questions or talk about getting back together if you were not responsible for the break up.
Reconciliations happen all the time. Trust your own decisions and go with your instincts.
Is happiness a state of mind or is it solely determined by external circumstances? One thing I do know is that happiness is something you feel within you, it isn’t something that you can search for – that implies that it is something outside of yourself. It is a state of healthy psychological functioning. Serenity and calm already exists within you. If you don’t understand yourself though, you will find it harder to be happy. Happiness is now – in the presnt moment. It is the only time it can exist and it often presents itself as a fleeting feeling of bliss. It occurs when you allow your mind to rest, when you take your attention away from worries and negativity.
Only in a calm mental state can we find new solutions to old problems. Happiness allows a ‘freshness’ to prevail, it allows creativity to flourish. Happiness comes from knowing what thoughts to focus on and which ones to dismiss. Inner peace can be achieved by learning to distance ourselves from our paranoid, worried thinking.
What story do you want to tell yourself? One that is filled with hope and possibility, or one that focuses on how awful and hopeless life may seem? You can focus on either but it’s clear which one will affect your mood in a more positive manner.
Happiness does not need to have conditions attached. Many people believe they do not truly deserve happiness and they go about sabotaging any chances of cheerfulness. A woman who believes she will only be happy when she is married will be more likely to attach new conditions to her happiness once she marries. Choose to be happy in the moment, as much as possible.
Happiness is a feeling that you can learn to grow and maintain within yourself. Happiness is a feeling, a process – not an outcome.