Does laziness cause depression or does depression cause laziness?

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There will not be an answer to this question that is true for everyone – instead, I think that this is an interesting question to ask one’s self as the answer would lend itself to a different form of intervention.

“Is my depression the result of my being lazy… or does my depression cause me to be lazy?”

perhaps an additional variable could be “am I depressed because I don’t know the activities that could help my depression… or am I depressed because I know what would help my depression, but I am unable to motivate to take action?”

the purpose of bringing up this ‘chicken or the egg’ discussion is to assist people in identifying the most effective intervention strategy and to de-complicate depressions a bit

 

let’s look at this issue from an inverted perspective – what if you wanted to make yourself depressed – what could you do?

 

note: It is easier to make yourself depressed than to un-depress your self… It takes quite a lot of intentionality, dedication, motivation, and energy to avoid depression in today’s complicated world. Depression is a ruthless entity which encourages people to follow the rules below… inversely if you engage in all the behaviors below you can unintentionally allow depression into your life. 

Here are a few things that you could do to make yourself depressed:

1.) Eats lots of hard to digest foods (processed, fried, carbs, sugars etc)

2.) Don’t get enough sleep

3.) Find an addiction (electronic devices are particularly effective)

4.) Never exercise, stretch, or meditate

5.) Throw your fear circuitry into fight or flight mode by regularly watching 24-hour news stations

6.) Avoid hobbies and any form of recreation, activities, and entertainment that could leave you feeling stimulated

7.) Avoid contact with other people (especially emotionally intimate encounters) and avoid working on your boundaries

8.) Avoid having sex

9.) Work until you are exhausted

10.) Avoid all therapies (mental, relational, and physical)

11.) Never experience nature

12.) Choose comfort over an engaging, stimulating, or challenging experience whenever possible

13.) Stop learning, growing and challenging yourself

14.) Ensure your life has no structure, routine, or goals

15.) Avoid the Arts

16.) Never play. take everything too seriously

17.) Spend all your time thinking/planning for the future, and ruminating on the past … never enjoy the present moment (or spend no time planning in your life)

18.) Avoid being openminded, curious and flexible

19.) Avoid all spiritual and existential contemplations and practices

20.) Don’t listen to your emotions or intuitions… and don’t acknowledge or validate your emotional experience

 

For all 20 variables listed above, there is a unique solution for you – for example: not everyone needs to engage nature the same way, exercise the same, eat the same etc to avoid depression… but most of us, both intuitively and through contemplation of our life, have a basic idea of what we need to achieve ‘wellness’ relevant to all the above 20 variables.

Depression may have come from a biological source, a traumatic event, or from some other environmental variable… or depression may have arrived because the above 20 variables were not attended to…

For some, an outside helper such as a therapist or psychiatrist may be necessary to get the ball rolling… for others, the solution may be as simple (though ironically difficult) as addressing the 20 variables above with an intentional plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Choice and quality of life | What choice, if removed, would most positively impact your well being?

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the United States is home to many many sub-cultures and there also exists a meta-culture which has a strong influence on all the diverse groups that make up the nation.

Perhaps the most prolific attributes of the meta-culture (the US culture) is our love for freedom and choice.

Choice is often looked at very dichotomously in our culture; we often conclude, without flexibility or relativity, that ‘more choice’ = good. Inversely we tend to have a hard time emotionally when we perceive that we, or someone else, are lacking in choice and again we can fall back to the dichotomy of ‘no choice’ = bad or oppressive.

as we apply dialectics to the topic we arrive at a plethora of examples of how choice is both the catalyst for oppression and for emancipation… choice can embolden our authentic self and allows us to embody and exercise our unique purpose while choice also oppresses the expression of our unique self and traps us from living a fulfilling and purposeful existence.

It can be relatively easy for most people to identify how choice facilitates a subjectively better and more fulfilling life, but what is often under-contemplated is how choice is our oppressor or impediment to living a ‘better’ or more fulfilling life.

Therefore I encourage you to ask yourself the following question:

What choice, if removed, would most positively impact your well being? What choice would you be better off not having? 

Again, notice that you may have an automatic negative emotional reaction to this question – If you live in the US (and many other countries) you have been primed your entire life into believing that no choice = bad… this creates anger or fear at the suggestion that you could remove choice.

One good example of a culture in which the removal of choice seems to positively impact the people is the Buddhist and Hindu cultures at temples. In many ways, routine, ritual, and a dedication to various practices are favored over choice. Additionally many cultures have removed the choice of isolating from family, or eating certain harmful foods or engaging in spiritual practices etc.

What choice would you remove?

Some examples:

  • the choice to exercise
  • the choice to meditate
  • the choice to eat certain types of food
  • the choice to read
  • the choice to engage with nature
  • the choice to take certain drugs
  • the choice to have what quantity of alcohol
  • the choice to act with aggression towards another
  • the choice to lie
  • the choice to avoid meeting the needs of a loved one
  • the choice to engage in art
  • the choice of when to go to sleep and wake up
  • the choice work what amount of hours
  • the choice to watch what amount of tv
  • the choice to always have your smartphone

 

etc

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Intentionality and Happiness | How life choices are impacted by purpose

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When you reflect on the major life choices that you have been making over the past few years can you identify a theme?

what purpose are you trying to achieve?

Lately, I have been observing the interplay of intentionality and happiness… the relationship between the two variables is very often symbiotic or reciprocal = Increasing intentionality can lead to greater happiness and greater happiness can free us up to act with greater intentionality.

The interesting observation that I have found with friends and clients is that often these variables can be prioritized in a manner which makes them detrimental to each other = people favor happiness at the expense of intentionality or people favor intentionality at the expense of happiness…

The intention of this post is to encourage self-reflection – for simplicity’s sake let’s break this into three categories

1.) balance – my actions concerning intentionality and happiness seem to be in balance with one another – My level of intention serves to benefit my happiness, and my choices to be happy do not negatively impact my ability to live with intention.

2.) intentionality – I favor Intentionality at the expense of happiness – my life is predictable and consistent with a high degree of reflection and planning… threat, fear, impulsivity, chance, and chaos are minimal, but there is a deficit of joy in my life.

3.) happiness – I favor happiness over intentionality – I have joyous experiences and enjoy flexibility and spontaneity –  positive experiences and connections are bountiful, but there is a deficit in predictability, security, congruence, refection, and planning (and possibly purpose and fulfillment)

 

ultimately this surrounds the existential concept of fulfillment and of feeling congruent with the life we live (and corresponding actions)…

there isn’t an objective moral truth surrounding options 1, 2, and 3 – there is not an option which is universally ‘best’ … instead, there is an opportunity to choose and adjust your life accordingly based on your own subjective preference.

here are some over-generalizations concerning the existential truths and other value/belief systems relevant to each choice:

Intentionality – Fulfillment is attained by achieving concrete goals. The purpose is the final project more than the process of completing the project. The destination is more important than the journey. All choices, emotions, thoughts, and actions are reflected upon – the unconscious is relentlessly attacked with the goal of one-day achieving total control. Life is somewhat mathematical, and it is fulfilling to impact probability. Morals and Values tend to be more objective and less relative. There is a fulfillment in making the unknown known. linearity is effectively utilized. Understanding is more important than engagement in an experience. life it put into categories. The future is extremely important. The past is very important to investigate as doing such increases the probability of control in the future.

Happiness – Fulfillment is achieved during an experience. Emotions and abstractions are more important than concrete results and truth. The journey is important and often the destination is irrelevant. Spontaneity and intuition guide the actions of the moment. Because the truth is elusive an/or non-existent, reflection is often irrelevant. Commitment to the experience is favored over trying to control the experience. the unconscious is often labeled as intuition – and tends to be a great friend that is allowed to exist without a need to be fully understood. Everything is relative. engagement is more important than understanding. Life is free from categories. Neither the past nor the future is particularly important – the moment is favored. Control and progress are not important goals. potential future consequence and reward are not heavily contemplated.

Balance – Intentionality is used to maximise fulfillment and to create planned strategies that would significantly positively impact long-term happiness. Happiness is achieved whenever possible by allowing immersement and freedom in the moment – yet, the actions of the moment are influenced by a value system and are taken with a consciousness of the future. Intentionality does not overly disrupt the joy of the moment… and happiness in the moment does not disrupt fulfillment in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

The Relationship between Anxiety and Attention

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Attention is a learn-able skill

There are many famous quotes and affirmations spoken through the years that point to the humbling truth that most suffering never actually happened … of course this is only partially true as we can all speak to the suffering involved in having a high level of anxiety.

it isn’t that the suffering never happened, but instead that the reality which could have created the suffering never actually occurred – instead the suffering was the result of focusing attention on a reality that could happen in the future – the cortex loves to fixate the attention on the future so that it can engage its’ problem solving abilities in a effort to reduce the probability of suffering in that future.

Ironically it is this ‘future solution’ process which is often the source of our anxiety and resulting suffering.

much of the time the present moment is free from stress… it is actually quite benign or neutral much of the time. In these moments the cortex gets really bored… there are no puzzles to solve, no needs to create strategies for, no meaning to be made…

So then we imagine fictitious situations so that we can engage in strategy creation.

Most problems are too easy… so we gravitate towards unsolvable or complex problems.

the problem is that our Limbic system and our brainstem do not know that the fictitious situation are not actually happening… so while the cortex is having a great time playing a make-believe game in the future, our emotional system is reacting as if the fictitious situation were actually happening to us.

let me give you an example:

Imagine that you went to work tomorrow and you bumped into a co-worker that you have always struggled with… imagine them saying to you that thing that you know they think about you, but have never said to you directly. Now imagine that your boss enters into the conversation and takes the side of your co-worker…. what would you do?

pretty uncomfortable right?

why are you uncomfortable? in reality you are simply sitting somewhere reading this… it’s quite pleasant perhaps?

When our attention is placed in these fictitious futures we find that we are the source of our anxiety – we (our at least our Cortexes)are the source of our suffering.

This is why you hear so much talk about Mindfulness (many posts on the subject if you look in my archives)

Mindfulness is a mechanism to harness and heighten our ability to focus our attention

With practice we can increase our ability to put our attention where we want to – such as right now in this present moment… where it may be quite pleasant

With practice we can learn to observe when attention is stuck on a fictitious future… and come back home … to now

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Fear, Competence, Values and Anger in Parenting Rambunctious Children

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This post will investigate how our perceived parenting competence impacts our fear and resulting emotional and behavioral reactions. We will focus on how fear can lead us into parenting interventions that are not consistent with our parenting values.

I was offering a parenting coaching intervention in a couples context the other week and I arrived at an interesting finding.

The couple has one very creative, sensitive, expressive, intuitive, and impulsive child that needed parental intervention to ensure the relative safety of various environments and people in those environments (the child needed help not playing to rough and chaotically). The parents needed help as their intervention methods were very different, and the fathers more authoritative method made the mom uncomfortable.

Values -I started the intervention by assessing values… in order to do so my goal is always to create as much felt safety as possible by genuinely entering into a place of significant curiosity and acceptance. My hypothesis was that there was a bit of value, belief, and ethical dissonance between the couple which resulting in differing parenting schemas (it is very hard to have a united parenting front when there are two widely different sets of beliefs as to how to parent a child). … as we deconstructed the parenting values and beliefs to there foundations we arrived at a welcome conclusion – the couple had essentially the same parenting values and same desires for how they would ideally re-direct misbehaving children.

Family of Origin – We then looked into family of origin themes to isolate how the two partners were parented themselves as children. This part promoted greater bonding and understanding between the couple, but still did not explain the intervention style of the husband… this intervention did however elicit some emotions for the father as the process uncovered his deep dissatisfaction with his intervention style.

Emotions – Next step was Somatics (body’s reaction) and Emotions – and we arrived at the answer. I oriented the clients into a more mindful place by directing them to differentiate from the parenting story I was going to have them recall. I told them that we all have a tendency to become enmeshed with our emotions while retelling a difficult story, but for this exercise we would be a curios mindful observer of our emotional and physiological states while retelling the story – we were going to observe with as little judgement, explaining or defending as possible.

The story was one that all of us with young children have experienced many many times. The young boy gets over excited at the playground… he misinterprets the non-verbal signals from a child he is playing with – he plays too rough and there is a worry that the other child might get hurt. Dad swoops in quickly and assertively to separate the children then relays to his child how dangerous he was playing. Dad appeared very angry while educating the child.

The emotion that the couple first identified were anger. Anger was what the couple believed to be the problem.

I share this next sequence of deconstructed emotions to normalize for all of us what it is like to parent in these difficult instances.

The emotional experience of the Dad (‘kind of’ in order)

Anxious or nervous: That he is in a situation were there is a high probability that his son will need a parenting intervention that he believes he is not competent enough to enact.

Embarrassed: that his child is more frequently the rambunctious one.

Fear: that the other child will get hurt

Fear: that he will not be able to successfully intervene with his son.

Fear: that his wife will think poorly of him

Sad and Shameful: That he is intervening in a way that is incongruent with his values (his parents were very patient, calm, and compassionate)

Terrified: that his wife (his primary connection) is non-verbally displaying disappointment and fear related to his authoritative parenting intervention.

Hopeless, Confused, and Flooded: that he does not have the confidence in his ability to regulate his son and thereby improve the probability of more empathetic play.

Angry: because his fight or flight system has been activated. His system is terrified as he feels disconnected from his attachments figures. (Quick note: social threat impacts our brains (and the fight or flight system) the exact same way as a physical threat. So the fear of being rejected by your partner impacts us the same way as the fear of being attacked by a tiger.

 

During this time both myself and his partner offered deep warmth and compassion.

Next we moved on to the solution

Solution Focused: We then switched to a solutions focused’ish’ intervention to identify unique outcomes = when the above story-line happened but there was a different result. The couple relayed numerous examples of successful outcomes and commented on how dramatically better things have gotten with the parenting now that they are more securely connected to each other (emotionally vulnerable and supportive… attuned… compassionate… present etc.)

Now if you look at the chain of emotions above you may be able to identify the ideal place of intervention… Anxious and Nervous.

The cascade into anger started long before the child started playing too rough… it started when they arrived at the park and the father started feeling anxious do to his self-perception of his parenting competence.

Unique outcome: In instances where the couple was successful the Dad was self-aware of his emotional state (mindful), vulnerable enough to turn towards his wife for reassurance (brave), and the wife was able to give him very quick regulation through validating their connection to each other (bonded).

yes it is sometimes that simple… we just need the courage to tell our partner we are emotionally overwhelmed. And our partners need the courage to trust that offering love and connection is sometimes all we need in order to be able to utilize an effective parenting intervention.

Yes, sometimes parents need help with behavioral strategies, but more often then not they simply need emotional support so that they can be regulated enough to intentionally and effectively utilize the parenting intervention that they already know (they just don’t have access to those methods when they are overwhelmed and dis-regulated by a sea of emotions.)

During an intervention such as this I tend to use a lot of self disclosure – I have two very rambunctious and passionate boys – I can related very much to wanting to over control their behavior to ward off the possibility of them getting so chaotic that I fear i wont be able to successfully intervene. in these times I Don’t need academics or education of strategy… I simply need to be loved and a hug works really really well for me. I am expansively grateful that I am married to a really good hugger that knows me very well.

 

 

 

 

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.