Acting “as if…”

   There is this method some psychologists try to use to help their clients go over difficult times. When we have difficult times, we feel like sh*t. We want to do nothing, we want to see no one, and all we want is to be left alone. We are grounded by our state which makes things harder. In these situations, we cannot see any ways to do the things we really want to do. We feel like we don’t have enough strength.

   Whenever things get tough, it is recommended for us to remember situations in which our problems just weren’t there. For example, for a depressed person it is recommended to remember a situation when he/she didn’t feel that depressed (maybe not depressed at all) and to see in what ways that situation was special. Also, depressed people are asked to imagine how they would behave it they weren’t depressed in a very specific way. For instance, a depressed person might say that he/she would go out with friends each Friday night if the depression wasn’t there. Or that he/she would go to the park each Sunday. Or that he/she would go jogging. When these situations are identified, it is prescribed as “homework” to do those things. Not all of them at once because it might be overwhelming, but at least one per week. He/she should act as if the problem wasn’t there.

   The main explanation here is that when such a task it is done, it should boost the confidence in the own self. Also, it is a proof that the problem can be overcome and that there is enough strength within us to overcome any obstacle, even though it is so hard. Once an example has been made, we can use it as a reminder that we can do it even though we think that we can’t.

   I know that in theory it sounds very nice and that in real life is so much harder, I still believe it can be done. The issue is that once the automatic thought “I can’t” comes in, we’ll going to feel sad, anxious and weak. I believe that all our thoughts are just theories that need to be tested so the thought “I can’t” needs to be tested as well. Whenever that comes into our minds, we could counter it with “Ok, now I think I can’t, but let’s test that. I was wrong before in my life so maybe I’m wrong now also. I have to try it first so I can know for sure.” Also, once we test that thought, we should do it in proper conditions. Just as if it wouldn’t be a problem. I’m saying this because we’re so good at sabotaging ourselves that we might unconsciously do things to prove that the automatic thought is right. It’s a tricky situation.

   What thoughts you have that you need to counter?

32 thoughts on “Acting “as if…”

  1. If you are laying in a deep hole you will not see possibilities to come out of the stage of feeling bad, weak and overwhelmed. Imagination might help, but I am quite sure that people who see black at this point, just see that colour. For me first you have to come out of this deep hole. You need to imagine that you got rescued by a taff crew, which is flying with an helicopter about you and through down a rope you can hold on.

    I personally believe, if you got depressed you need to go through all that emotions which want to be felt firstly. Meeting friends once a week or other so called “homework” will not change your state, I think its like a distraction in order to get over that depression.

    But for sure if you don’t reflect and feel your inner pain, you will never be able to lift yourself up. It might be depend of the character of that person. I know there are a lot of people who are depressed because they feel lonely. Then the option of friends and family might be helpful. But if you are depressed about your ego, you should learn to handle yourself, check your values and beliefs.

    If you don’t request yourself, you will always feel depressed on a regular basis and running, meeting friends and so on would just soften the depression not healing that illness.

    1. I agree, but usually people get stuck in that blackness and if they are not doing things to distract them for that so they can see the fact that the black is not that black and more of a grey, the inner self talk is much harder. I’m always pro inner analysis because it’s the most powerful out there, but doing stuff despite the inner state might be slightly easier compared to the inner analysis. At least, that’s what studies show.

    2. Hey! This is interesting! 🙂

      Even though I’m not a believer in imagining the good when shit is getting real, I more believe in tripling down on our emotions. Emotions are actions signals that are desperately trying to tell us something. They are trying to tell us that something is out of equilibrium in our body or environment.

      If we triple down on those emotions and begin to ask ourselves WHY we are feeling the way we are feeling (e.g. depressed), then we can begin to grab problem by its core roots and fix it.

      I genuinely think that self-awareness, is the absolute game, and that the more aware we are of why we feel the way we feel, we can get ourselves out of ‘deep holes’ with an approach that will be much more sustainable and healthier for our long term mental health.

      Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. I think I have been applying this w/o knowing. I normally use “what’s the worst that could happen” before doing something/going out.
    It’s hard fighting things in your mind but it’s good in the long run.

    1. That’s the essence of this. That “what’s the worst that could happen” is actually a question frequently used to go through some hard times. It is great if you find it useful.

  3. When I was really being hit hard with depression and was basically forced to feel all the pain I spent my life running from and I wasn’t allowed to escape it in the beginning. Shows, food, not even people would stop the pain, but once my heal was far enough along they started encouraging me to do fun stuff. I had no idea what to do at first because I spent so many years denying all my wants and needs. My daughter got a pair of rollerblades for her birthday and I used to love skating so I got some too. There were times that would help me to feel better and just enjoy the moment because when skating you can’t focus on much other than skating. I say if a person is just suffering from depression then it is good for them to try and do something fun to lift their spirits. If it’s a forced healing then it will really depend.

    1. Thank you for your insights here. The main idea is to break that negative circle by doing things because it’s much harder to break the negative thinking, at least at first.

      1. Do you want to know what helped me back then? It wasn’t a cure all but it helped. My friend Jumpp would come around and take me to a movie or out to eat. My parents told her parent not to let her do that because I needed to snap out of it. They were a huge reason I was depressed and had zero confidences in myself. I don’t go around blaming people and even then I didn’t blame them for my problems, but the truth was I was being cussed out and told I would never amount to shit so duh, I felt worthless. Anyway she would come around once a week and sometimes literally drag my ass out of the house and take me to do something fun. I know we have to be responsible for ourselves but sometimes we need a friend to help us find our happy again.

  4. Feelings follow actions.
    This most basic concept is a blessing and a curse. For true depression isn’t easily remedied by doing things you love, neither is it as simple as testing “I can’t”. When in the throws of true depression logic doesn’t work that way.
    But, if we consider feelings follow actions outside the realm of true depression, it’s fairly straightforward. If you behave as though x then eventually you’ll begin to feel as though x. This could be beneficial in breaking a negative cycle that isn’t true depression.
    There are many things I love to do, and when I’m feeling lazy, or melancholy, doing them is helpful. But, if I’ve cycled down into my true depression, breaking through that by shear force of will is not realistic.
    I love the way you ask these questions. I love reading your thought process. Thanks for a great post!

      1. Really nothing but time…
        When I’m depressed, I can’t really read or write. Literally can’t comprehend words on the page. Can’t form words. So even things I most love don’t ease me.
        Though being in the out of doors is beneficial in some ways, fresh air and sunshine ease me some.

  5. Hey! Cool post! 🙂

    Affirmative thinking, whether a person if going through depression (which everyones these days thinks they do) or through some kind of other irrational thought patterns that inhibit their behavior, is an overshadowing strategy that, yes, is temporary method to ‘feel a little better’.

    The same wasted on such affirmative thinking I believe should be invested into self-awareness and knowing why you are actually depressed.

    Its the same dilemma that many people have who are desperately ‘trying to be happy’ all the time.

    The reality is that the number one way for humans to learn and through trial and error. If we constantly avoid finding out the ‘error’ (the reason why we are unhappy/depressed) then how can we grow smarter from it?

    I hope this makes sense! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Yes, I totally agree with you. The thing is there are times when we cannot find enough strength to take that inner road to find the main cause. Maybe doing it from a point when we feel a little better, we can get to some sort of insights because we feel a little stronger. When we have a black cloud over out thoughts, it’s harder to get somewhere compared to the times when that cloud is grey-ish. At least, that’s how I see things. Thank you for your insights here! They are very helpful! 😀

  6. I also subscribe to the theory that thoughts are not real and need to be tested. Having said that, I don’t always see depression as a bad thing – sometimes it comes along to draw attention to something that needs addressing.

    1. That’s a great approach and we can almost clearly see that when we’re not in that state. It’s much harder then.

  7. It’s a very, very difficult thing to do when severely depressed, but on both occasions that I was in that hole, ‘acting as if’ was a big factor in turning things around. That said, it took a lot to get to the point where that was possible.

    1. I’m sure it did. Would have been easier to try to change your thinking instead of changing your behavior in those moments?

      1. In the long run, distractions are not that good, although we might need them from time to time.

  8. I’ve been seeing quite a few posts today on actions and the reactions we have to the world around us. Maybe something’s in the stars, but more likely, it might have to do with the types of blogs I follow. And as with everything else in this mish-mash plane of existence, there is no one answer for everyone, except for (I would argue) one thing: the only true existent thing is that which resides in your mind. The psychobabblists and people who use phrases like “just depression” seem to forget there is a very real physiological issue at hand. Telling a night owl to go to bed earlier is asking them to change the make up of their DNA, and research indicates, will send them to their deathbed much sooner than the early bird go getters our society so highly praises. The clan’s need for a night watch has disappeared so we now demand their change. Good luck with that. Psychologists and psychiatrists guide their patients through new patterns of thinking because it changes their physiology, not as a simple distraction. Fake it ‘til you make it is more true than can be imagined. But it’s also true that sometimes you’ve got to hold on for dear life and wait it out. Jeanette Winterson wrote, “Why is the measure of love loss?” A rhetorical question that if given half a thought, extends beyond those bounds. The measure of love is loss because the piles define the paradigm. Always.

    1. I love the owls and the DNA part. The thing is we don’t have depression in our DNA. We created it as an response to different situations. This is different from one person to another and for a adequate plan there are some deep investigations needed. This is more of a suggestion for people that are not actually depressed. Sadness and pain is very often confused with depression, which indeed requires professional help so the strategy varies from one person to another based on some guidelines established by a psychologist or a psychiatrist based on that investigation.

      1. Actually, although scientists have not as yet pinpointed it, there’s new evidence to suggest the ability to track susceptibility to depression through DNA. This quote is from Business Insider after interviewing researchers who have been using the 23andme database.
        “So, in an effort to find out more about what exactly causes the illness, researchers published a paper in the summer of 2016 in the journal Nature Genetics in which they pinpointed 17 genetic variations, or tweaks in particular genes, that appear to be tied to major depressive disorder, the most debilitating form of the disease that’s currently the leading cause of disability worldwide.”
        I would correlate it to susceptibility to schizophrenia. Given the right (or wrong) circumstances and enough stress, anyone can develop schizophrenia. The part that relates to DNA is at which point does someone cross the line into disorder. So, yes, environmentally caused sadness and pain trigger depression, but my guess is the markers for likelihood are very much based in DNA. But that’s just a supposition from someone who is not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

      2. This is great! I didn’t know this to many many thanks! Anyway, the good think is that it creates some sort of predisposition for that, not the illness itself so for it would be even harder to get over it. That’s why it is very important to consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist (or maybe both) for a more adequate treatment plan.

      3. I could not agree with you more. And that doesn’t even begin to touch epigenetics. But even scientists don’t know what the hell is going on with that. I read an article where “they” studied the children of holocaust survivors and yaddah-yaddah found that the children of mothers who had undergone severe stress while pregnant had more difficulties handling stress than the control group. Really interesting stuff. Anyway – thanks for the fun mind game that did not include being mean to people. I really am a big fan of yours. Best of luck!

      4. Thank you so much for your kind words! I can’t wait for the next conversation. This is exciting!

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