Sunday, April 13, 2014

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Are Depressed

A few years ago, after having just come out of a long and deep episode of depression, a friend asked me how I did it. My reply was simple... "I gave up." Her frantic response was, "NO, NO, NO! You can't give up! That's what gets you through! You must have hope!" The basic truth, however, is that it simply doesn't work that way for the depressed mind, and it's difficult for those not afflicted to understand.

There is a wonderful scene in the cartoon series "Avatar; The Last Airbender" -- they are desperate to get to the walled city of Ba Sing Se and must take what is called The Serpent's Pass. At the gate to enter the pass, there is an inscription on the post that says "Abandon Hope" and one of the travelers wails "But hope's all we have!" Aang (the Avatar) explains to his companions that the monks who raised him said that hope was simply a distraction -- it's not hope that will get you to where you want to go; action will.

When someone is depressed, hope may seem like something they need to get them through it, something to focus on. The challenge is, however, even a little bit of hope sets up expectations. If - for ANY reason - those expectations are not met, the depressed mind will use that "failure" as further "proof" that life sucks, and open up an even deeper abyss into which they can fall.

For someone who is depressed, giving up awareness of possible hope allows them to focus on the here and now, to get through the day, to start healing without the distraction of what "could" be. However, keep in mind; shutting off your awareness of hope is different than shutting off your awareness altogether. The awareness for the depressed mind needs to be brought closer to home, to think of only hours, even minutes ahead - not days, weeks or months.

Giving up hope for the future means living one day at a time, in the truest sense.

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