Recognizing a downward spiral

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We are in an age where nothing is relevant unless it is socially acknowledged. Exhibiting is the new norm. Those of us who find it hard to express or even keep up, fall into the trap of seeking validation. Social approval can inflate one’s self-image, but it can also distort reality. People who are never too sure about themselves, to begin with, perhaps suffer the most. Overthinkers. Perfectionists. People prone to depression. There are a lot of us out there. While seeking validation may be necessary for progress, it can do more harm than good if it turns into mania. When lines of self-esteem start to get blurry, finding a way out of the negative self-talk loop can feel endless. Fixating and overemphasizing the bad while turning a blind eye to the good is only too easy. The need for validation overpowers any opportunity for self-improvement. And a sense of guilt over not having done the work because you were too busy honing your inner critiquing skills becomes a downward spiral.

There’s also the assumption that if x happened you would be happier. Let’s call it the future of an alternate past. The many roads that you ought to have taken but didn’t. Things you could have done differently. Regrets, remorse, the whole package – I pick this as my poison. I thrive in knowing my failures are repercussions of my ignorance. Stir this in with a little bit of self-doubt and hurrah! You have the recipe for disaster. 

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Photo: @tinymosquito at Unsplash

Depression and anxiety stem from a myriad of things, in several degrees. The world definitely doesn’t fall short of the nuances of human tragedy. Disease, destitution, childhood trauma, unemployment, or a failed marriage among others. But while you can’t control the uncontrollable, you can adjust the lens you see it through. As cliched as it may sound, the grass can look greener on your side if you let go of your definition of hues.

We want more success, more meaning, maybe a little more appreciation couldn’t hurt either. Humans are programmed for dissatisfaction. Otherwise, how do you define progress? But can you really base an outcome on fantasy alone? I say this because a lot of us tend to dote on a rosy view of the end result. We set unrealistic expectations but don’t do the work. We envy the people who made it or shun them based on our insecurities. We fail to admit that our judgments about others are only a projection of what we lack internally. 

When a child is neglected repeatedly, they start to identify it with love. Some may even seek comfort in it. Likewise, when you feed your mind with nothing but backtalk, you train it to adapt to a defeatist mentality. Believing the only thing it knows. Our brains are not wired for chronic stress. Every time we are in a stressful situation, we activate what is known as the “fight or flight mode” – our body’s response to imminent danger. Now, imagine activating this stress response for something like a credit payment or your fears of starting out on your own, rather than a life-threatening event. Do you see what you’re doing? Putting your body through a constant state of worry – what good can come out of that?

Professional counseling along with drug therapy may be what some of us need but I’ve also found, slowly but surely, a deliberate shift in perspective helps. Now, every time a negative thought starts to take shape, I acknowledge it and try to reason why. An exercise cognitive behavioral therapy involves. Identifying triggers and altering your response. Instead of giving in to the inner monologue, try questioning it. It takes practice and can be hard to keep your mind from drifting towards a certain repetitive pattern; but not impossible. Conscious repetition helps in forming new habits and thought processes while unconscious or compulsive repetition has a crippling effect.

You may read all of the self-help books or watch every motivational talk there is on YouTube. But unless you deal with the bigger issue of figuring out the root of your anxious thoughts, all your efforts will prove to be futile. Unresolved trauma and unexpressed emotions are dangerous if repressed. In one way or another, they show up. Masking themselves in the colors of anger and resentment. Sometimes it can even manifest itself in physical pain. 

If you notice certain thoughts resurfacing, again and again, address them. Dig deeper into whatever it is that keeps trying to break free.

Every time I try to write, I expect words to come pouring in. Like water gushing from a broken pipe – unrestrained and free. They don’t. So I sit there, staring at the blank page for however long it takes. Hours, days, months, it doesn’t matter. When I type in that first sentence, I am one step closer. Wishes, when locked away in some corner of your room full of excuses, start to rust. Then decay, with little or no chances of restoration. Time doesn’t give you the liberty of second-chances for the millionth time. Coupled with shame, time will only bear bad news. But you already know that. 

I’ve learned acceptance deserves more recognition than it gets. True acceptance can pull you out of the need to please. Approval from others has its temporary highs but until you accept yourself with all your strange quirks, there’s no getting out of this shipwreck. You need to be okay with who you are, who you were. You need to be okay with momentary lapses of judgment. You need to be okay with what the future may hold – whether or not it’s in your favor. The goal should be to live in the moment so fully that the consequences don’t make a difference. If we stopped trying after one or the hundredth failed attempt we would be denying our basic instinct – survival. You owe yourself the benefit of the doubt. You owe yourself honesty.

Thoughts are transitory. And life goes on faster than ever. Make it a good one. Make it count. You steer your mind, not the other way around. 

 

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