I will respond to any questions, concerns, or comments that you send to me, Leaf, care of THE SUN, Box 732, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Dear Leaf,

I would like to comment on the article that you wrote in the issue of “Birth and Death,” that, to me, was the most timely subject at this point in my life. Being a widow, and separated from my children by hundreds of miles, I find that my new life has brought on new reconditioning.

Beautiful as it is (surrounded by nature, one of the nicest places to live), nevertheless I have reached a point in my life where I was, or still am, going through a transition.

During this period many hours have been spent in reading, appreciating, thinking, planning, remembering, and oddly enough, a deep depression has overtaken my normally cheerful viewpoint.

Now Leaf, you don’t have to be a college graduate to understand that a mental depression does not necessarily have to make sense. Because, to tell you the truth, “I’ve never had it so good.”

Yet when I respond to an incident by being hurt (I am very sensitive), I realize (as you have written) that the incident in itself does not warrant that, but it triggers off old wounds, and all the years of suppressed “not telling someone off” come back and a flash of: “Oh no, I’m not going to let anyone hurt me anymore.” Then at that point I over re-act. I realize it while I am doing it. I know the reasons, yet I can’t, or shall I say, I don’t want to stop. I think I have the attitude, “Well, someone has to pay for my hurt, and, since you’re doing it to me also, then it’s through you I’m going to get back some satisfaction.”

I know it’s wrong, I know it’s unfair, I know it’s unwise, I know that’s not the answer, and I also know I am hurting someone unnecessarily. But how do I stop from being hurt?

In your article you say, “Tell the people whom you feel anger towards about your feelings” etc. Well, I have, and the response that I get is, “I understand how you feel, but what has that got to do with me?” In a sense that’s true. So many words later I am getting to my question to which, perhaps I already know the answer, but I want to hear it from you.

Question: How can I separate 59 years of trying to please everyone and now try to please myself, when I don’t even know what pleases me, or what I really want?

May I wish you good health
R.

Dear R.

As I read your letter, I feel much empathy with your unhappiness when you “have never had it so good.” This is a situation that many of us experience at times: we feel depressed when, externally, our lives seem better than ever. I am responding to your concerns hy focusing on depression. Please extract whatever is useful to you.

* * * *

DEPRESSION

Typical Symptoms

Depressions are usually characterized by loss of energy, lack of enthusiasm and good feelings, and lowered self-acceptance. Depressed people often feel unwanted, unloved, and unworthy. When depressed, we may feel burdened or overwhelmed by responsibility, confused, indecisive, apathetic. Depressed people may sleep constantly or little; either way they feel tired. Appetite loss or overeating are also characteristics. Body aches, discomfort, and pain are often part of a depression. When we are depressed, we are down . . . emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually down.

Causes

A depression may be started by a loss or death, a rejection, a failure, or, as you have written, it may appear unconnected to any event or circumstance. A depressed person continues to feel bad for weeks or months (or years) while someone who is healthy releases pain in a much shorter time. Depressions, in my opinion, are usually caused by blocked and hidden feelings of pain. This blockage causes tension which prevents energy from freely flowing, and we feel depressed. Depressions can be changed to feelings (sadness, anger, grief, whatever) and then to health and happiness. To do this, the depression needs to be connected to feelings (emotionally and physically), and these feelings released. Thinking is not a substitute for feeling. In order to truly feel good, after clearing our pain, life-affirming pleasure needs to become a (greater) part of one’s life. Depending upon how blocked we are, and how much we want to become happy and healthy, this process can be simple and quick, or difficult and lengthy. The results are well worth the effort.

What To Do

Tune into yourself. Awareness is perhaps the most powerful change tool that we possess. Stay with your feelings (or lack of) as much as possible. Observe yourself, being aware of what you feel and do, and what you avoid feeling and doing (and how you do this). When you find yourself avoiding, make a decision to either continue avoiding or to deal directly with yourself. By making a decision, your personal power and responseability increases, which is a healthy direction.

If you decide to avoid, try to imagine what might happen if you did follow your feelings. Often when people explore what might happen if they dealt with their pain, they find that the consequences are not as awful or frightening as they had expected.

There are many ways to explore and release buried feelings. An effective technique that I have used is to exaggerate the feeling of mood of which one is aware. If you have felt “weighed down,” imagine that weight. Feel it restricting and crushing you. How and where do you feel its effects? What does it prevent you from doing, and what does it allow you to do? Let that weight become as heavy as it is continuously feeling and observing. Act out any feelings of which you become aware. When and if you are ready, decide to throw off that weight, and physically do so. Using your own resources (creativity, awareness, strength), vague depressed feelings can be understood and released. Although this technique is most effective with guidance, it can also be beneficially used without anyone else’s help.

If you can specifically identify a feeling(s), do what you need to do it to release it. Cry, get angry (no victim is necessary for your anger), shout, moan, stomp, punch pillows, vomit, whatever you need to do without hurting someone else (see “Communicating With Yourself,” Leaf Diamant THE SUN, No. 13, January, 1976). By physically acting out (expressing) emotions, energy is released, and you become flowing and responsive again. Again, assistance from a trusted friend or a skilled helper will probably further your exploration and release.

Be aware of your body. Unexpressed feelings are expressed as tension in various body parts. This tension is often felt as pain, tightness, or weakness. An awareness, relaxation, and release of tense body parts will lead to different feelings and attitudes. This reponse to our physical selves can be the key to ending a depression. Yoga, massage, dance, and exercise release tensions and bad feelings.

Diet is of great importance. Overeating and eating poisonous “foods” block our bodies’ energy flow. Drugs (including alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, nicotine, and sugar) use up our strength and often leave us depressed. What chemically lifts us up will inevitably deplete us. Hypoglycemia (weak adrenal glands that do not maintain healthy blood sugar level) is often caused by white sugar consumption, and is a leading phsyiological cause of depression in the United States.

Sometimes a depressed person will not feel better until he or she makes environmental physical changes. This would include home, family, job and recreation. What don’t you like, and how can you change this? What do you like, and how can you do more of it?

The most effective healing techniques integrate the cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of our beings.

* * * *

You ask, “How do I stop from being hurt?” Hurt seems an integral part of human experience which serves many functions including helping us to increase our appreciation of its antithesis (pleasure). I believe that by releasing old pain and maintaining a healthy energy flow in the present, you (and all of us) will not re-act to pain as painfully. As we cleanse old wounds, I advise us to observe and appreciate our difficulty. We must be patient and caring with ourselves if we are to become healthy.

You preface your final question with “. . . perhaps I already know what the answer is.” Of course you do, and as you become (as you will) healthier and clearer in the present, the answers will emerge. Just as writing your letter was a step in your process of self growth, how to get and know what you want will come naturally to you.

Thank you for sharing yourself.

— Leaf

In last month's column, the second sentence was incorrectly printed. The correct version is power = goal desired → directed behavior → goal accomplished.