One of the cruelest parts of depression is the misperception that you are trapped. In the throes of our darkest moments, we often lose sight of the exit, assuming that we are doomed to remain in the dark forever.
For this blog entry, I want to discuss an exit from depression, but I want to be clear that these words oversimplify the problem for some people. Depression certainly can be the result of a medical condition, so I do not assume or suggest “one-size-fits-all” solution. I understand that sometimes, professional medical care is required.
Having said that, there is another cause of depression – one fueled not by a medical condition but by an eye condition. What I mean is that depression can stem from a problem with perception.
You see, your perceptions determine how you see the world. Your mind is similar to a computer: the brain is the hard drive, and the perceptions are the ‘software.’ It is your perception of people, demands, issues, and circumstances-not the actual people, demands, issues, or circumstances in and of themselves-that dictate how you will react”
So a person with a distorted thought pattern will see the world in very depressing terms:
- For instance, a person who overgeneralizes thinks that if one thing goes wrong, nothing will ever go right for him ever. So, that person loses hope quickly.
- Others fall into a thought pattern of magnification, meaning you exaggerate the importance of issues or events. Your goof-up seems huge. So does someone else’s achievement. These things become giants in your mind.
- The opposite of that is minimization – which means you inappropriately shrink things down until they appear tiny – your own desirable qualities, for instance, or the other fellow’s imperfections.
- Some people arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to them, and they don’t even bother to check it out.
- Some people anticipate that things will turn out badly, and operate as if that prediction was an already–established fact.
You get the point. Our perceptions can drive our reactions, which can lead us into the throes of depression.
So, what’s the cure? How do I change my perceptions? The answer is to change your focus.
Look at this quote from Warren Wiersbe: “Look at others and be distressed. Look at yourself, and be depressed. Look to God, and you’ll be blessed”
Take a moment and ponder why this is such powerful advice.
Life can be like a roller coaster–full of ups and downs. The tendency is for us to experience happiness, joy, significance, and security according to where we are on the track.
Here’s the thing: we all have to ride it, but we do not have to be dominated by it. We can learn to ride it with a great deal more spiritual, mental, and emotional stability regardless of whether we are in the valleys, on the level places, or on one of the peaks.
The key is to keep our focus on the Lord and our minds right with God. We live in a world that says, happiness, security, and significance, (i.e., your needs), are found in the details of life, and when we focus on those details, it is easy to get turned around and lost in dense clouds. When we try to fly by the seat of our pants rather than by our Biblical instrument panel, we either get really lost or we crash and burn emotionally.
On the other hand, spiritual stability is one of the blessings of our salvation in Christ, and we experience it only as we learn to keep our focus on Him and His purposes.
How can you do that? Here’s one suggestion – try focusing on others. Steven Davey wrote:
“Karl Menninger, a rather famous psychiatrist that I am not necessarily endorsing, once gave a lecture on emotional health. Afterwards, he began answering questions from the audience. He was asked, “What would you advise a person to do, if that person felt an emotional breakdown coming on?”
Most people expected Menninger to reply, “Consult a psychiatrist.” However, to their astonishment, he replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and help them.”
That is powerful advice. Can you put it into practice?
If you struggle with depression, ask yourself, “Could my real problem be one of the eyes?” If so, ask God to help you pull your eyes off of your troubles and put them squarely on Him.