I’m a board-certified cognitive behavioral therapist who went into the field to help myself after I was diagnosed with manic depression-they call it bipolar now. I still prefer the old term as being more descriptive and honest. I find the term bipolar fails to pinpoint anything that might give a clue as to what might actually be ailing somebody.
I was unwilling to take any medication for the pain of my depression and was determined to find another cure for it, if it was at all possible.
In graduate school I found little in psychology or psychiatry to help myself out of my bipolar situation. Not until I studied neuroscience did I find the secret of how to get out of depression. The secret is to pit one neural pattern against the other. Let me explain.
One neural pattern is the neural pattern of depression that you build in your brain. I say build, because, every time you think a depressive thought you make that neural pattern stronger and stronger.
Of course this is true for any thought. Any thought you think becomes forever imprinted in your memory bank. Thoughts that you repetitively think over and over become stronger and stronger neural patterns. In a way, thinking is similar to exercising. You exercise a muscle over and over again to make it stronger. You think a thought over and over again to make it dominant. And the brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought.
This is the big problem with a strong depressive neural pattern. When it triggers off, we’re thrown into painful depression and we can’t pull ourselves away from thinking our pain, over and over, which makes the thought more and more dominant and the brain keeps following our depressive thought right into a depressive episode.
This is because depression only happens in part of our brain, the emotional part. When we concentrate on our depression, all our neural activity sparks up in the subcortex. We have not enough neural activity in our thinking brain (our neocortex) to lift us out of our emotional despair. We can’t think straight in a cognitive way. We can only suffer our emotional pain.
Now, sooner or later, since depression is cyclical, some small learned associations spark up small thoughts which stimulate the build-up of neural activity in the neocortex, and slowly we come out of our depression as the brain follows these developing cognitive thoughts, and neural activity sparks back up in the neocortex. Our cognitive faculties re-awaken and we start to gather our wits and re-engage with our life again. Until the next depressive episode and the cycle repeats itself.
But we can do better than just wait for learned association to slowly get us out of depression. We can force feed those incipient cognitive thoughts into a stronger neural pattern-a pattern that is strong enough to pit against our depressive neural pattern and defeat it.
Did you know that you could do that? Did you realize that you could actually choose to think a non-depressive thought even when How Does Grief Counselling Work is raging? And that you could make that thought strong enough to defeat the depressive thought?
Who says so? Neuroscience says so. Neuroscience tells us what our psychiatrist cannot tell us. If we think another thought that is not depressive, and think it over and over again, repetitively, the brain will start to follow the cognitive thought, and turn away from following the emotional depressive thought.
This means that neural activity will spark up in the thinking part of the brain, and power down in the emotional part of the brain. And when the brain stops following the depressive thought, guess what happens to your depression? It stops.
The dirty little secret about depression is that your brain has to think depression for you to be depressed. And you can force your brain to stop thinking depression by choosing a cognitive thought instead of a depressive thought.
Choosing to think a cognitive thought instead of a depressive thought is not easy. It’s called brainswitching because it switches your concentration away from the subcortex to the neocortex.
The easiest way to brainswitch is to choose, ahead of time, as a mind exercise, some completely non-emotional cognitive thought. It could be a math problem, a nursery rhyme like “Row, row, row your boat,” or even a nonsense phrase like “green frog,” or “hippity hop.”
Then when depression hits, immediately grab onto the nonsense phrase, and keep thinking it over and over. Make the nonsense thought so dominant in your brain that the brain will turn in the new direction of the nonsense thought, and thus it will turn away from the depressive thought.
I brainswitch all the time. This morning, for instance, I woke up depressed. So I used the nonsense exercise: “1,2,3,4 who are we for?” (It’s an old high school cheer.) In about five minutes I got up and dressed and began my day. The depression didn’t make it past toothbrushing. The secret to ending depression every time is to pit one neural pattern against the other.
You pit the exercise neural pattern against the old habitual depressive neural pattern. By repetitively doing the exercise, you make the exercise neural pattern dominant and the brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought. Which means the brain ceases to follow the direction of the depressive thinking. If your brain will not think your depression, it can not last.
Some criticize brainswitching because it doesn’t cure depression once and for all. Depression comes back, and you have to put up with some few minutes of depression before you get going with a mind exercise, and you have to keep using the techniques to continue to be free of depression.
But you are also continuing to build helpful neural patterns in your brain that make the nonsense exercises easier and easier to employ.
When I compare brainswitching to taking anti-depressants for the rest of my life and having to put up with the terrible side effects there isn’t any comparison. And the meds stop working after a while anyway. You build up tolerance for them and have to keep upping the dosage, or adding a new drug, and the full extent of side effects nobody knows because the pharmaceutical companies edit the research before it is published and settle lawsuits out of court.
I must admit that, after all my study and practice, I myself can’t keep from getting into the mind set of depression occasionally. But I insist that DOWNER THINKING IS NOT AN OPTION for me and I IMMEDIATELY CHOOSE ANOTHER THOUGHT TO REPLACE THE NEGATIVE ONE. Then, of course, the depression does not have a chance to set in so my depression doesn’t last more than five or six minutes.
But to accomplish this I must ignore the pain and fear and the seeming reality of depression. It takes courage and practice to do this. The pain and seeming reality of depression is always overwhelming. It is very difficult to ignore it and start changing your thinking and remove your concentration from the stress and depression, and place your concentration upon some dumb little exercise. But it can be done. It is doable.
Some people criticize brainswitching because it is not really getting rid of depression permanently. It still reappears. I disagree. I built the depressive neural patterns in my brain for 30 years when I was ignorant of how my brain worked and periodically spent weeks or months in a depressive episode.
If I hadn’t built those neural patterns, I would not have to suffer now. But I built them, and they trigger off, and I suffer. BUT NOT FOR LONG. I brainswitch. I consider five or six minutes of agony now and then a small price to pay for my wonderful life. I brainswitch. I am grateful for the process..