What do you think is the opposite of depression? Perhaps happiness or liveliness? Or maybe kindness? I’ve recently found that kindness has really helped to lift my mood. This is probably because I sometimes have thoughts that are quite harsh accusations, for example: ‘I’ll never get better’, or ‘I’m always making mistakes’. Today I had some pretty depressing thoughts because I was trying to make decisions about my daughters schooling, which is an emotive subject for me. I was disappointed because despite the medication and treatment I knew I was slipping back into old patterns of over analysing and worrying. What seemed to help was kindness and an idea from cognitive behavioural therapy about Wise Mind. The concept seemed a bit corny at first, but the it really helps me. Here’s the theory…
Wise Mind (Linehan 1993) is the part of our mind where ‘Emotion Mind’ (thoughts based on distressing feelings) and ‘Reasonable Mind’ (rational thoughts) merge together. Wise Mind helps us make sense of our thoughts and feelings, and come up with a balanced and wise response, so that the needs of both Reasonable Mind (what I should do) and Emotion Mind (what I want to do) are met (Yes, Reasonable Mind is right, but Emotional Mind needs to be soothed…). Usually quietly calm, it’s that wise inner part of us that just ‘knows’ what is true or valid. Carol Vivyan 2010
For my own use, I’ve translated it in to Kind Mind, or to use in prayer as listening to God. First, I stopped, got my pen and paper out wrote down my feelings (depressed) and my thoughts (‘I’m worrying just as much as ever, despite all the therapy and over analysing the decision about my daughter’s schooling.’)
I then had a coffee, chocolate and sat in the garden, which is additional to recommendations of the Wise Mind theory, but it works for me! I then searched for my rational mind which said ‘OK, so you over-analysed. But it is a difficult decision to make and you still made some progress with the decision.’ Then after more chocolate and some prayer I had a look for my Kind Mind which said, ‘You are still learning to be well and it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes. Situations about your daughter’s care are those which are most tricky for you, so no wonder you found this difficult. In your heart you know what you think’s best for her, so trust your instincts.’
And as if by magic the depression lifted – truly. I have to say though, that it took some discipline and hard work to stop and look after myself. It also seems a bit artificial and clunky. But I’m assured by my therapist that with practice thinking in ways to sooth the depression becomes more automatic.