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inspiration psychology

Are You Stuck In Shades of Gray (And Black)?


Are you stuck in the land of sadness? Do you always come back to this all-too-familiar place, no matter what you do to get out?

Surprisingly, I’ve found very little in the annals of Psychology relating to prolonged periods of sadness besides labeling these states as some variation of depression. It may be called Clinical Depression, Major Depression, Schizophrenia, Anhedonia, or some other name neatly categorized in the manual of psychological diagnosis.

What if the primary cause of, let’s call it, “sadness for no reason,” was emotional “stuckness.” It’s like being stuck in first gear, or being emotionally tone deaf. It’s like feeling only grays and blacks instead of experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion. I like to think of the full spectrum as the colors of a rainbow.

What if there was a way to change emotional mono-tonality into a state of emotional multi-tonality?

What causes emotional mono-tonality? The most likely answer is fear of being hurt. The little boy or girl inside us needs protection from some form of emotional criticism, non-acceptance, or abuse. The subconscious response is to dampen or completely shut off the emotions. It’s a good strategy for a defenseless little boy or girl. However, it becomes a problem later in life when a void of emotions and the program cutting off feelings continues to run causing depression, limited capacity, and self-destructive behavior.

I can vividly remember the moment when I shut down my emotions. I was a thirteen-year-old boy standing in an open field outside my Junior High School. As I recall the experience, I’m struck with feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and something I can only describe as the raw pain of existence rushing in. These feeling were overwhelming.

I reacted by flipping a mental switch to turn off the uncomfortable feelings. Maybe I was a Yogi in my past life. Who knows? I just did the deed, oblivious of the effect it was destined to have on my future self.

After a morning meditation yesterday, the idea hit me that prolonged, “unreasonable” periods of sadness can be the result of “frozen emotions.” Emotions are supposed to circulate rather than remain fixed. Could my constant effort to control my thoughts and emotions be the cause of the lingering sadness on the sea bed of my emotional psychosphere?

“Of course it can”, I told myself. A frozen emotional state is like a river or a lake frozen solid. Nothing moves.

No movement leads to stagnation. Picture a pond where the source of fresh water has been blocked. What does it look like eventually?

Emotional stagnation leads to sadness and depression. Constantly struggling to “stay positive” can easily lead to the opposite result. Fixing thoughts and emotions on a single desired state of feeling/being is the definition of “freezing.” We can wind up trapped in a state of grays and blacks.

The big question is where is the fine line between over-control and adequate control of thoughts and emotions. There is an interesting theory presented by Doctor David Burns in his famous book, “Feeling Good.” He says, basically, that thoughts determine emotions. I believe there is a fair amount of truth to this idea. In his book, Burns goes on to identify a series of self-defeating thought patterns that lead to sadness, depression, and unproductive behavior. All of this makes sense, and Burns claims to have had a significant success rate with his methods for reversing self-defeating thought patterns.

I’ve tried Burns’ method. It can help, especially in the short run, but I find it incomplete. Talking back to misconceptions becomes too mechanical and laborious after a while. And, it really doesn’t get to the root of the problem: the feelings themselves.

My personal experience teaches me that over-controlling thoughts and emotions can lead, ironically, to sadness and depression. Why? Because emotions need room to breathe. They need time and space to unwind and, if necessary, to heal.

It would be lovely to constantly walk around in a relaxed and released state of being. I’ve been advised to let go of my emotions and allow them to just “arise.” Sounds wonderful. I wish it worked for me.

Here’s the paradox. The demands of everyday life don’t provide us with enough time to allow our emotions to unwind, express, and heal. If you don’t have to work; if you aren’t in relationships; if you have no goals, then, by all means, go ahead and feel however the hell you want to. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself alone and homeless.

So what’s the answer? It’s obviously an individual thing. We’ve all heard and read that it’s necessary to carve out alone time to rest and recharge. It can be a long walk in nature. It can be painting a picture. It can be anything that helps you relax and enjoy. For me, it doesn’t stop there.

I’m currently using a psycho-spiritual approach to get my stuck emotions moving. With no intention of sounding overly dramatic, it’s also something I do to approach my “existential dilemma.”

What I’m about to say is not an attempt to advocate or promote anything. If it resonates, then fine. If not, we can still be friends.

My approach begins with regular meditation periods of about thirty minutes in the morning and just before bedtime. During these periods, I let my emotions out of their corral. In open fields, they can romp and kick without doing any damage to myself or any collateral damage to those around me. I do this meditation in conjunction with a tangible energy field that I tap into through my connection to the Trillium Awakening community of teachers and practitioners. I’m able to reach levels of peace, love and joy within myself aided by the Trillium energy transmission. I know. It sounds crazy, but it works for me.

One of the benefits of this practice is an activation of my emotional core. What gets stirred up isn’t always pleasant, but it’s movement, and, I believe, steps in the right direction.

I’ve also discovered an underlying program that affects my thoughts and emotions. It feels more like it is embedded in my body rather than in my mind. So, it is coming from the bottom up rather than the top down. The program needs to be understood and accepted. I might say “befriended.” Then, hopefully, it will unwind and lose its effect. Or transform into something more conducive to good feelings.

My approach may sound totally bonkers to you. No problem. Find your own way. Whatever you do, let’s discover pathways to breathing in and breathing out the full spectrum of human emotions. Let’s experience the rainbow.

Feature photo by Pop and Zebra on UnSplash.com

Categories
fiction humor life short stories

Tips for Staying Sane Now and Forever


Gravel splashing from stock car drifting on dirt track.

Is the car running away from something? Is it running towards something? Or is it just some dumb kid with a lead foot accelerating off of a dirt shoulder? If you picked option three, you get an all expenses paid free night at a Comfort Inn in Sawdust, Idaho. Here’s a more detailed description of what happened.

The cop who gave the kid a speeding ticket has left the scene. The kid is angry. He’s also trying to impress his sixteen-year-old girlfriend sitting next to him in the bucket seat of a restored 1971 Pontiac GTO.

The kid is basically a nobody, despite his ability to restore vintage cars, who is trying to prove he’s a somebody. It doesn’t help that he’s preternaturally short and stubby for a seventeen-year-old. It does help that he’s been blessed with freakish good looks. And, he’s never had a bad case of acne. His girlfriend, Luisa, is an average-looking teenager who started wearing braces later in life than most of her peers. Fortunately for Luisa, a company called Invisalign has invented a unique clear plastic brace that doesn’t look as bad as metal braces. These braces aren’t even called braces. They are called “clear aligners.” Isn’t that clever?

(Please note: I had never heard of Invisalign before I wrote this post. I was vaguely aware that something like clear braces exist, so I Googled “Clear Braces.” Invisalign came up. For all I know, the claims the company makes are pure poppycock).

To be perfectly honest, Luisa’s good fortune regarding her braces is completely beside the point. The big question is, as I’m sure you are wondering by now, why does Luisa hang around with the kid? There is no cut and dried answer, as is the case with many things in life. It may be that she is a good listener. The kid does most of the talking in the relationship, and, as far as Louisa can determine, she is the only person around who takes an interest in what the kid has to say. Another factor is that nobody besides the kid is beating a path to Luisa’s door. So, a bird in the hand applies.

There are other subtler reasons to account for the kid’s presence in Luisa’s life. We don’t have time to get into all of them. Mainly, and to her surprise, Louisa has admitted to herself that she likes the kid. A little. Upon further examination, she has realized it’s impossible not to form a connection with someone you spend regular time with, unless that person turns out to be a serial killer.

I’ve been remiss in mentioning the kid’s name. It is Elmore. The name is another cross the kid has to bear. His father was an avid fan of the writer, Elmore Leonard. Hence the  first name. Shit happens.

Elmore likes to impress anyone who will listen with his knowledge of fast cars. He likes to put adults on the spot by asking them questions like, “Do you know what the letters GTO stand for?” Occasionally, an elder will know the answer, but most of them say, Grand Touring…Uhh.

Elmore stands there smugly and says,  “It stands for Gran Turismo Olomongato.”

A pregnant pause normally follows. Elmore proceeds to explain that Gran Turismo Olomongato is an Italian phrase denoting a race car that is officially sanctioned for grand tour racing competition. Upon hearing this, Elmore’s audiences generally find an excuse to peel off in another direction, leaving Elmore to ponder why such a phenomenon happens with maddening regularity. He then consoles himself with the thought that most people beyond the age of twenty-one have become passionless souls obsessed with boring careers.

I’ll have to end here, because I know that people don’t like to read long blogs. I started writing this by randomly downloading the picture at the top. I recommend it as a fun exercise if you have no clue what to write about. If I had something socially redeemable to write about, I would. If you are looking for a theme to this blog, try this: To Stay Sane in the Midst of a Worldwide Pandemic, Sometimes It Helps to Write About Nonsense. This is probably a good practice any old time.

Questions abound as to what will happen to Elmore and Luisa. How will they grow as characters? Will they fall in love? Who besides these two will enter the story? What is the central conflict. And who is the antagonist? If you have any interest, let me know and I’ll continue the saga. And, if you have any story ideas, don’t be shy to suggest them. Your thoughts are welcome.