Depression Is None of my Business
I’ve noticed over the years that I go through different periods of higher and lower baselines of emotion. Some periods last years, some last months, others only days or weeks. Some are hour-to-hour or minute-by-minute fluctuations.
I have generally judged low emotion as bad, something to be remedied and avoided. Given the choice today, I would still choose feeling high over feeling low. It’s part of the reason why I meditate every day and do The Work. Because these things help. So does eating well, sleeping enough, avoiding overwhelm, and trying to lead a balanced life.
But in reality, I only have so much control. Emotions still fluctuate even when I meditate or do The Work or try to lead a balanced life. There is no perfection here, at least in my experience. But I’ve noticed what makes it worse is wanting to get rid of it.
What Happens When I Want to Get Rid of Depression?
As soon as the idea is active in my mind, every emotional fluctuation gets magnified. If I’m feeling better, I magnify it: “This is great! I’m making progress. I hope it lasts.” And if I’m feeling worse, I magnify it: “Here it comes again! So terrible. I have failed.”
The mind is constantly evaluating and exaggerating the experience when there’s an underlying attachment to getting rid of depression. Every little change becomes important. Then doing The Work, eating well, sleeping well, and meditating regularly become “must do” tasks for trying to control my emotions.
Who Would You Be Without The Story?
If I’m not thinking that I want to eliminate, minimize, or otherwise get rid of depression, I would be much easier. Depression comes and it goes. It becomes thicker, then thinner. What does it have to do with me, any more than the weather outside has to do with me?
It just is.
In every climate in the world, people have found ways to live: in freezing cold, in super hot, even in outer space. And the same is true for the inner weather we all experience. In any state of emotion, it is almost always possible to think, and act, and live effectively and meaningfully.
The Trap of Making Depression a Project
Unfortunately, depression doesn’t respond well to being a project. That’s because it has a will of its own. It comes when it pleases and goes when it pleases. And If I try to control it, I end up frustrating myself which leads to added depression.
Instead, I like to think of it as two separate tracks. My emotion track runs on its own. I notice it but I don’t try to control it. My action track (what I choose to do next), is where I prefer to place my attention. There are things that I can do that make me happier, less attached, more easygoing. I do those things regardless of my emotions, just as an ongoing way of living.
Then I’m not putting my life on hold waiting for the “project” of getting happy to be completed. I am living my life fully with whatever value of emotion happens to be there. I do The Work because I enjoy doing it. I meditate because I like doing it. I do my job because it interests me and feels right to do, not because it will make me feel better.
When I Stop Trying to Control my Emotions, I am Free
When I see that my emotions are really none of my business, I don’t dwell on them much. I notice them, but I know they will continue to change and fluctuate. I’m in the business of living my life instead. The emotions become less important.
And as always, those emotions show me my work. If you like doing The Work as much as I do, that is not a bad thing at all.
Join Us for Nine Weeks of The Work, Sep 13 – Nov 14, 2021
Let’s dive into The Work of Byron Katie over the course of two months. Starting this practice and understanding how it works can be a very enjoyable process.
The Work 101 is a great way to give yourself the structure and support to do The Work. And after the course, you will be able to join my Inquiry Circle ongoing practice group where we have been holding each other in this practice for years together.
Learn more and sign up for The Work 101 here.
Have a great week,
“The thoughts that used to send us into deep depression—these same thoughts, once understood, send us into laughter. This is the power of inquiry.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is
Further reading: Where Does Depression Come From?