"I am depressed"- What are you REALLY saying?
12-14 Minute Read
"I am depressed"- What are you REALLY saying?
12-14 Minute Read
"Words do not describe our reality. They create your reality."
- Dr. Matt James -
If there is one thing that I wish I would have learned much earlier in life, it would have been the power that words have over our emotional state.
Once I started learning and applying some of the principles and teachings about how much the words we use affect our emotional state, it really, truly made a huge inflection point in my growth and my overall enjoyment of life.
For example, you would be surprised how much simply saying "I am feeling a little frustrated" vs. "I am feeling frustrated" can change the intensity of the wonderful form of anger that is called frustration.
Adding these softeners to undesirable emotions has helped me and many others. This occurs because, as the quote at the beginning of the post states, "Words do not describe our reality. They create your reality."
Again, you would be surprised and I'm telling you, you have to try it. Eventually when you get good enough at this skill, you can literally feel the difference.
So, to start, one of the things that you REALLY are doing when you choose to say, "I am depressed"is that you are increasing the likelihood that you will experience depressive symptoms just by saying those words.
However, as powerful as that may be for some, that is just one layer of what REALLY occurs when you decide to say, "I am depressed".
There are some deeper, more important layers that are incredibly important to understand what REALLY occurs when you decide to make that statement.
To help you understand these deeper layers ponder a few things for a brief moment.
Let's get nasty
First, I want you to think of the nastiest, most terrible person you can possibly imagine. Someone that is absolutely disgusting to you. Someone that repulses you and that you strive to do everything you can to NOT be like that person.
It can be someone who is dead or alive.
Someone terrible. Someone miserable.
Someone who has done some nasty, terrible things to people.
Boy am I restraining from making some easy political jokes right now. . . sigh. . . I'll save the laughs to myself I guess.
Got him or her?
Okay, now imagine this.
First, get that nasty person in your mind again.
Then contemplate what would happen if something extraordinary happened, some sort of miracle I guess. . . contemplate what would happen if something really powerful occurred that completely changed that person so that the three absolute most important things to that person in the whole entire world became love, peace, and harmony. Again, imagine if these three things (love, peace, and harmony) magically became the three most important things in the world to them instead of whatever the heck his/her top three values actually are (or were)?
What if that miracle happened? How different would the world be today?
Would wars have been avoided? Would lives have been saved?
Would your life be better today if that happened?
How much pain and suffering would be avoided?
Thank you for playing along.
This (admittedly somewhat obscure) exercise is presented to highlight one of the most important dynamics there is to understand about us human beings and "how humans work". That dynamic is this:
All human beings have these things called "values" and "beliefs", including you. Your values and beliefs have a huge influence on how you view and interpret everything that happens to you in your life, and therefore your actions and behaviors too.
Maybe some of you picked a mass murderer for that previous exercise. I think it is safe to say that a mass murderer's top 3 values and related interpretations, actions, and behaviors create a pretty distorted view of reality, right?
Ultimately the topic of "values and beliefs" is so significant that countless research reports, books, posts, podcasts, and other content has been created about values and beliefs, and how much they affect everything we do. I will let that other content do the "deep dive" into values and beliefs for now.
However, there is one subtle detail about "values" that is important not to gloss over. The significance this subtlety is often overlooked and therefore it is worth bringing to your attention and ensure you are aware of it.
Subtle detail about values
That subtle detail is this:
If you dissect values even further, you realize that, in their most basic form, values are actually beliefs. More specifically, they are beliefs about each person's ranking, order, sequence, and/or hierarchy of things that are the most important to them about a given topic.
IE: For the topic of "life", one person may believe that the three most important things in life are happiness, love, and success while another person may believe they are contribution, harmony, and growth while yet another person may say comfort, stability, and connection.
The possibilities are really endless as to what one person could believe are the three most important things in comparison to another person for a given topic. Regardless as to which sequence is provided by each person, it is true that each person simply believes her/his three things are the most important for that particular topic.
In other words, each person's values are also technically beliefs.
Seeing as values are actually beliefs in their most simplistic, "microscopic" form, this subtle detail will serve as the reason why "beliefs" will be referenced when appropriate during the remainder of this post.
Why discuss beliefs?
Why discuss beliefs when it comes to the question of "What are you REALLY saying when you say 'I am Depressed'?"?
Because, besides our values, there is a set of beliefs that have a profound and powerful impact on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we do, and the way we react to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we see, and the way we interpret e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we hear.
Yes, these set of beliefs affect E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!
Seeing as they affect everything, it makes them pretty darn powerful, right?
I am sure you can think of someone who is in power and has misused it and/or abused it. Well, let's not add to that list, shall we?
What is it?
So what is this "powerful set of beliefs that affects everything we see, hear, feel, do, think, and say"?
Well, to show you what they are, consider the statement below:
There is a very big difference between feeling unintelligent, doing something unintelligent, and knowing that you are unintelligent.
We all do things that are not exactly the smartest of possible actions. However:
There is a huge difference between saying, "I just did something stupid." and saying, "I am stupid."
There also is a huge difference between saying, "I feel stupid." and saying,"I am stupid."
Saying, "I did something stupid" leaves room for interpretation and can indicate a temporary behavior. Likewise, saying, "I feel stupid" indicates a temporary nature because feelings are only temporary.
However, saying, "I am stupid" implies permanence. It implies a "fixedness" to that character trait that can not be modified (or at least not very easily). On its deepest level, it implies some form of unchangeable genealogical trait. It implies that this is who we are at our core and that "stupid" is our identity.
"Identity" is the main concept to focus on for now.
2nd SIDE NOTE:
This is a whole other and much more detailed conversation. Nonetheless, it is worth briefly sharing that recent research in the past decade has shown that we actually can change our DNA. Run an Amazon search on "epigenetics revolution" and/or run a google search on "Our DNA is not our destiny" and see what comes up.
A good way to think about identity
Sometimes the significance of "identity" becomes lost on some people.
Just in case it hasn't sunk in completely, here is a good way to think about the significance of identity:
Simply know that a cop will say, "I am a cop" and view life through the multi-sensory lenses of a cop.
An accountant will say, "I am an accountant" and view lenses through the multi-sensory lenses of an accountant.
A loving person will say, "I am love" and view life through the multi-sensory lenses of love.
Does that make sense?
Oh, and there will be more on these "multi-sensory lenses" in a little bit.
A second way . . .
To see how much your identity impacts your life, let's drive it home in a second way too.
Consider your sexual orientation for a minute.
Are you heterosexual, homosexual, or something else?
Now, if you are heterosexual say the words, "I am gay." out loud.
Or, if you are gay, say, "I am a straight." out loud.
If you are something besides heterosexual or gay, say "I am straight." out load.
Go ahead, say it out loud!
It won't kill you!
It doesn't matter if you are in public or not, just do it!
In fact, if you are in public you absolutely MUST do it!
And do it NOW!
It doesn't feel "right", does it?
Some of you may have even squirmed while just reading those statements.
That is because, among other things, your sexuality is a huge part of your identity (IE: who you think you are).
Why so much?
Why is the concept of "identity" emphasized so much? And why does this post spend so much effort ensuring you understand what identity is?
Because your identity is powerful and therefore you absolutely MUST be careful when you do anything that involves, includes, influences, and/or affects it.
Again, your words do not describe your reality, they create your reality.
Thus, it is especially true that you need to be careful and selective in the words you choose to use to describe yourself and who you are. In short:
You need to be careful about the words you decide to use to describe your identity.
Your choice of words are powerful.
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
- Abraham Lincoln -
By now I imagine that you are starting to see the implications of what you are REALLY saying when you say, "I am depressed".
The key part to that statement really has to do with those all-so-powerful words "I am".
Here is why:
Your "I am " statements are like multi-sensory lenses:
When you put these lenses on, they will filter and change the shade of E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G you see, hear, touch, feel, taste, smell, say, think, believe, AND do. That is because each "I am " statement you have is directly tied to your identity.
Remember how "multi-sensory" lenses were included in the discussion about cops, accountants, and people that view themselves as a loving person?
Well, it is important to know that what you are REALLY saying (and doing) when you say "I am depressed" is that you are effectively saying that you are a depressed person. By doing this, you then you will begin to view life through the multi-sensory lenses of a depressed person and continue to perpetuate your depression.
If there is something that can be done to stop perpetuating the pain of your depression you would do it right?
The MOST powerful concept
Do you want to learn the MOST powerful concept about identity and these "I am " statements?
There are a lot of implications from this one, so get ready.
It comes back to that subtle dynamic about values that was discussed near the beginning of this post.
Guess what "identity" and "I am " statements and "values" all have in common?
In their most basic forms, all three of these things are beliefs.
And THAT common, subtle dynamic is powerful!
Why is it powerful?
Why is it powerful that "identity", "I am " statements and "values" are all beliefs?
Think about that wonderful guy named Santa Claus.
Or how about the Tooth Fairy.
Or the Easter Bunny.
And for those of you that the wounds of the trauma from your learning experience with these characters still have you in their grasp today, perhaps it will help you to consider how humans used to believe the world was flat.
Or how we used to believe that a four-minute-mile was impossible.
Or that we would never be able to fly.
Or that we could never get to the moon. . . or Mars. . .
Or that you would never be able to read something written on the other side of the globe within milliseconds of it being written.
And, the best of them all, maybe it will help you to focus on how some of us used to believe that we would not be able to conquer depression . . . I couldn't resist pointing this out : )
I bet you can come up with your own "or that" statements of things people used to believe that have been proven not to be true...
Even better; if (and only if) you are willing to be honest with yourself, I bet you can come up with things that you used to believe to be true that were actually not true.
This is why it is powerful that your identity is a set of beliefs, and that your "I am " statements and values are also simply beliefs.
You CAN change your beliefs.
That is if (and only if) YOU are willing to.
If you decide to change your beliefs about your love life (or men or women), how would that help you?
If you decide to change your beliefs about money, how would that help affect you?
If you decide to change your beliefs about what you believe you are capable of, how would that help you?
If you are experiencing depression, and decided to change your beliefs about your identity how would that help you?
Just like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, you can change your beliefs about your identity too.
Hopefully changing your beliefs about your identity will not be traumatic and much more liberating than some other "changed beliefs experiences" were for some of you.
Drive it home one last time
The significance the implications of the "I am" statements and the multi-sensory lenses they create is worthy driving home one last time. To do so, here is one final set of questions to ponder:
How would someone who believes "I am stupid" interpret her/his mistakes?
How would someone who believes "I am learning" interpret her/his mistakes?
How would someone who believes "I am flawed" interpret her/his ability to take on new tasks and conquer challenges?
How would someone who believes "I am capable" interpret her/his ability to take on new tasks and conquer challenges?
How would someone who believes "I am not lovable" interpret affection from someone they're attracted to?
How would someone who believes "I am loved" interpret affection from someone they're attracted to.
The "how would someone" iterations are countless, and each of them are incredibly profound.
For someone that actually is and/or thinks they are experiencing depression, perhaps the statement, "I am resilient, courageous and strong, and I am able to conquer my depression today!" is one of the more profound "I am statements" of all?
Put it to use
Again, remember that when you say "I am depressed" you are REALLY saying that you are a depressed person at your core and you are effectively taking on the full identity of a permanently depressed person.
Deciding to make this statement instead of choosing to say,"I am feeling depressed.", or (even better), "I am experiencing depression." is not the most talented use of your language and communication skills.
Ultimately, it is the statement "I am " that is one of the most powerful and influential statements we have in our lives.
So let's put your power into positive use and try these on for size:
I am resilient.
I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am capable.
I am flexible.
I am able to learn new things.
I am funny.
I am lighthearted.
I am an amazing person.
I am skilled.
I am kind.
I am warm.
I am gentle.
I am compassionate.
I am kind, warm, gentle, and compassionate to myself.
I am powerful.
I am courageous.
I am resourceful.
I am lovable.
I am loving.
I am worthy.
I am worth it.
I am worthy of being loved.
I am worthy of loving others.
My life is worth it.
I am able to conquer any challenge I face.
I am able to conquer my experience with depression!
It's Not a Joke
Depression is not a joke. You need to be careful and consciously decide how you want to talk about it. Choose your words wisely. Unless you are experiencing the symptoms outlined in this post (coming soon!), please be very, very careful about choosing to say, "I am depressed".