Finding Faith in Myself as My Superpower With Depression
There was a time when people believed it was physically impossible for humans to run a mile in less than four minutes. People knew we could get close, but our physiology had limits. Then, in 1954, Roger Bannister did the impossible and beat that limitation. Since then, tens of thousands of people, including high school students, have done what at one time experts believed could not be done. Bannister helped changed the world’s belief about human potential, and our faith in new possibilities gave us new abilities.
Today, many people believe it is mentally impossible for humans to completely conquer depression. People know we can get close, but our psychology has limits. However, in 1977, a man named Eckhart Tolle, who had struggled with long periods of unbearable depression, was up all night in his own misery because he believed he could not live with himself anymore. All of a sudden, the idea of not being able to live with himself sparked an inner clarity that he, and the idea he had of himself, were two things instead of one. He realized he no longer had to carry the burden of the negative thinking because they were external to him. The next morning, he woke up feeling deeply peaceful and never fell back into depression again. Since then, he has worked as a mindfulness teacher, appeared on TV specials with Oprah, written several mindfulness best-sellers and helped millions of people around the world let go of their depression just like he did.
The most important part of this story is that Eckhart Tolle is not special. He is no more special than Roger Bannister was. The only unique feature they shared was their unyielding belief in themselves. The belief many people have of themselves is that they are incapable of letting go of their trauma and they hold on. People may tell themselves things like, “once you’re depressed, you’re always depressed,” “you can’t get rid of 100 percent of your trauma,” “the stigma needs to be removed before you start healing,” and “more research needs to be done to solve the problem.” Let’s challenge these self-defeating statements, recognizing people like Tolle’s ability to transcend the mind.
In fact, people have been realizing this clarity for thousands of years through various mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be some complicated ritual with yoga, mantras, chakras and prayers, although those are wonderful tools if they have meaning for you. Instead, the essence of mindfulness is simply resting in the knowledge that thoughts cannot touch you.
This is hard to believe because ever since we were born, we have watched our thoughts constantly. After doing this long enough, there comes a point in our lives where we start to believe that we are these observed thoughts. This belief causes pain because whenever hurtful thoughts arise, we cringe in the same way as when we see someone get seriously injured even though we are separated and completely untouched.
Mindfulness is a tool that reminds you of this separation. It is an exercise that strengthens the space between you and all the noise in your head. This separation provides silence, silence provides peace and peace provides joy. If you practice mindfulness, under no circumstances are you required to remove the noise in your head or even outside your head. Instead, practice simply watching your breath and notice how the nonstop traffic of thought activity flows without reason. Watch without judgment. Watch without resistance. Watch without reacting. And watch with the belief that you can achieve perfect freedom.
Every now and then, a thought, which you label as important or interesting, will carry you away wherever it wants. Eventually, you will notice that you are flying off with it. When this happens, simply return to the space of watching. The more you exercise your power of observing this phenomenon, the weaker thoughts become at dragging you away into their nonsense.
Eventually, I realized that depression is just thought activity, and it doesn’t actually have any power over me other than that which I give it. After making it this far, peace can bloom within you without any effort at all.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that in the beginning, you won’t believe in yourself. That’s OK. You don’t have to believe that you can do it. You just have to believe that you can take the first step. If you can get started and maintain committed to the process, you’re halfway there. Your mind will tell you you’re never going to make it. Just keep practicing. It may even seem like every piece of evidence in the world is telling you, you will fail. Just keep practicing.
Don’t worry about failing once or even a thousand times. Mental health doesn’t have to be some miracle overnight. It can be a million baby steps that start with getting out of bed and making some toast. Then, once you get that far, take another step forward in whatever direction you need. Maybe you take two steps forwards and one step back or three steps back. That’s fine too. Stay the course.
There’s no reason you can’t also try to let go of depression as Tolle did. Try to realize that your thoughts are simply thoughts and no matter how big, scary or violent they get, they cannot actually touch you. Your mind cannot force you to believe its lies. But you must be mindful that it knows your weaknesses and your triggers. It’s very cunning and knows exactly how to make you squeal. You have the power to say no to it. Even if the mind tries to make you believe you have a long-term relationship with depression, that’s just the depression trying to convince you of its awesome power. In truth, it doesn’t take any time to put down a heavy weight or a heavy belief, regardless of how powerful it may seem to be.
A belief can cause a war, create life, save life, end life, destroy life, bless life and change the world. The day you conquer depression could be very much like today. Just like a seed already contains everything it needs to become a mighty tree, you already contain everything you need to be a mighty you. And how much greater are you than a seed? When the mind tries to cloud you with doubt, remember that Eckhart is not special, gifted, talented, blessed or lucky. He is just a normal person like you. And since he did it, you can do it too.
Getty image by LUMEZIA