Some people get trapped in a subtle kind of avoidance that looks like they’re doing something, but they’re doing it half-heartedly, in a daze. For example, rather than respond to his wife’s request to talk, a husband goes to his computer and surfs the Net for hours. Or, a young woman loses herself in junk novels but feels ineffective about getting her life in gear. This haven can take many forms. It isn’t quite alive nor completely unconscious and has the illusion that you’re doing something, but it actually creates nothing but emptiness.
If you find yourself in this zone of lethargy, the first thing to do is notice you’re there. Then get up and do something else. See what you were avoiding and address it directly if you can, or explore what you’re avoiding if still feeling stuck. But get out of that swamp, because it’s one of the ways that you can get stuck in depression.
Thinking. Cognitive therapists help you train awareness and thinking through the use of automatic thought records. Here’s how those work:
Some situation throws you off balance. As soon as you can, you write down what happened and examine the thoughts that were triggered by the situation and whether those thoughts are a distorted description of what you observed. Then you write down the feelings that were elicited by those thoughts and gauge their strength. Next, you dialog with those thoughts to find a more adaptive response. You conclude by measuring the intensity of emotions that now relate to that incident.
Often you’ll find that your emotional response has calmed considerably so you’ll have a more adaptive response going forward. You can receive similar benefits by examining such situations, thoughts, emotions and possible responses with your therapist. She may also engage you in role play to build confidence and teach you new skills. These methods all help you think more clearly under pressure. Some people may have learning and attention problems that are innate, such as dyslexia. Your therapist may refer you for assessment and address such issues in your treatment plan.
Perspective is the ability to take a step back from the immediate situation and view it in context. A solution-focused therapist may help you imagine the life you want and start doing the things that build such a life. Imaginal approaches such as dreamwork, art therapy or sand tray therapy encourage you to work with images you spontaneously produce. These methods and others like them help you see that your unconscious mind already has the broader perspective you’re seeking.
Talk therapy is the method most often used to help you gain perspective. Your therapist may guide you to explore your situation and the many influences that create it. Sometimes, interpreting your actions through the lens of unresolved childhood conflicts can help you understand responses that no longer make sense. You may also benefit from assigned reading and discussion of research findings about your particular situation.
Resilience is needed for staying power, and can be seen as a combination of patience, flexibility, self-care and support.