Understanding Depression — Thermostats, Automobiles and Airplanes
On the topic of Funk, of Depression, and in preparation for creating my own custom Emergency Depression Kit, I’ve brainstormed a bit – and I’ll share it here with you.
“We mentally blow up depression into something even bigger! We assign depression special meaning that cheerfulness doesn’t get.” DawnSeeker
Let’s examine depression, figure out how it works and where it’s coming from, so we can come up with our kick-ass Depression Emergency Kit!
We are Spiritual Beings in a Physical, Material World
The reality is, we are Spiritual beings stuck here in this physical, material world. That means we’re always going to feel somewhat out of place here, out of sync. Because we don’t really come from here. We pass through this beautiful green Earth. We vacation here for a life-time, and move on. . .
Birth and death are so similar. I remember my two daughters’ births. Wide innocent eyes staring deep into my soul, freshly delivered from another realm. Such a marvel.
And my Uncle Lloyd, before he passed, his eyes bright, dancing, greeting me in the hospital when I came to visit him. So happy to see me!
Life certainly seems to run in a circle. A vortex. (I imagine a big dust devil.)
Riding through Life in one of those can’t be easy! That’s the emotional mess we find ourselves in.
Don’t Freak Out – Prepare!
So I think it helps to know that a certain amount of Funk, Down, (Depression), is going to happen. It’s perfectly normal and to be expected. Not something to freak out over. (See: When Down is Up)
We don’t freak out over nightfall. We don’t freak out over a snowstorm. We already know what to do. We prepare.
We turn on the lights, bring in the wood, and stoke up our stoves to stay warm.
In the long-run, we wait out the storm. Passing the time as best we can. But the storm will pass.
The analogies must be endless. Between moodiness and other aspects of our everyday, physical world. The counterpart world to our spirituality – where the cold-front of matter butts up against the volatile volition of its other-dimensional inhabitants!
Depression — Energy gone awry
Depression boils down to one thing: Energy. Depression is Energy gone awry.
Depression is not merely a physical problem. It’s an energetic problem. It comes from a subtle shift in attitude, shift in energy, and it can either be accelerated – or stopped and reversed from there.
Dealing with depression is similar to mastering an art, a craft. When we have the training, the understanding, the tools – when we know how to work it, we can accomplish our task!
Depression Increases Depression
Part of what brings us down is the fact that we are down in the first place.
We say to our self: “Oh NO! I’m depressed! This is awful! This is something bad! Something bad has happened, and it’s going to get WORSE!”
And we believe it! (This Self-talk is important – we’ll examine it later.)
But this is merely our own interpretation, our own internalization, at-the-moment compromised by the shadow of depression.
Remember, we have short memories. We tend to forget nuance over time. We tend to update and correct our memory files to fit the slant we’ve already assigned to Life.
So when we find ourselves depressed, we easily forget that these emotional lows will happen from time to time.
We mentally blow up depression into something even bigger! We assign depression special meaning that cheerfulness doesn’t get.
Depression is NORMAL
We are humans here on planet earth. Stuff happens!
We have jobs and school and people in our Lives. We have bills and sickness, and people around us even die. We even die!
No wonder we get depressed!
We, as humans, experience a full spectrum of emotions!
Happiness, elation, anger, grief . . .
How Do I React?
Ever since the beginning of time, humans have faced Life’s challenges. But it’s not the challenges that should concern me, but rather my reaction to the challenges in my Life.
That is the only thing I truly have a chance at controlling – how I react.
By understanding what I’m dealing with, and having a strategy, planned and ready in advance, I hope to ward off the worst of my sagging emotions, turn the down-cycle around sooner, and be back on my jolly good path.
Spiraling Downward . . .
The problem occurs when the normal ‘lows’ of Life go even farther.
And when we fixate on the depression, it seems to stick around! It seems to spiral deeper.
But of course, we know all this rationally. We know all this stuff when we’re ‘up’.
But what to do in the throws of depression? How do we save ourselves from the downward spinning cycle, from getting sucked into the rabbit hole itself?
Let’s look at what I call: The Thermostat Approach.
The Thermostat Approach
Let’s look at it this way. The reason we have a thermostat in our homes and offices is to keep the temperature relatively consistent – so that we don’t get too hot or too cold.
Before the invention of the thermostat, someone had to manually stoke the fire or turn the heat up or down.
(Years ago, my husband worked for a spoiled, wealthy heir to the thermostat’s inventor. Think of that. Someone’s out there living the high-life off of the original thermostat. That’s almost enough to get you depressed!)
Some heat sources, like the old apartment radiators, could not be adjusted at all, leaving a person either too stifled or too chilly. And nothing could be done about it.
But with a good heating/cooling system and a working thermostat, the cat’s in the bag.
We stay comfortable because we experience a relatively small margin of temperature change.
Since depression, like heat in the summer and cold in the winter, is part of Life, we need to plan for it, not just let it catch us off-guard. We need to have a good thermostat to even things out.
We need a depression thermostat!
(Hey, any chance my heirs will get royalties off of this invention? Didn’t think so.)
The problem really isn’t the depression. It isn’t even the heat or the cold. The problem is one of regulation: Keeping emotions in check, within a comfortable, “normal” range.
So how do we go about doing that? What kind of thermostat must we employ?
To find the answer, let’s look at two other vehicles, two other mechanisms.
Automobiles and Airplanes
“I believe that depression stems from unfamiliarity with our “craft”. Yes, we own it, operate it – our “craft” comprised of body, mind and soul – but perhaps we were never really trained how to get the most out of it. We were never really trained how to fly it!”
“We spend our Lives driving our fantastic winged airplanes around like Volkswagens, never leaving the parking lot! No wonder we’re depressed.” DawnSeeker
Brakes in a Car
What would happen if you were to drive your car without brakes? Clearly not recommended!
Brakes check the speed of the vehicle to enable normal maneuvering. Without brakes, a car is rendered useless.
And that’s how we feel in the midst of depression. Useless! Hopeless! Careening down the road of life without brakes.
(I must say, this has been the topic of many nightmares!)
Stop and Go
Because when we are afraid of not being able to stop, we then become afraid to go.
We freeze into a tail-spinning standstill.
Even worse, we seem to be cascading out of control backwards, with no hope of finding a way out. . .
We become like Wile E. Coyote. Frozen. Eyes staring for a moment. “Beep, beep!” And then vanishing off of a cliff.
In driving a car, stopping and going are normal parts of Life: As long as the engine and the brakes work! (It helps to have a coherent driver, as well!)
Depression is akin to failing brakes. And somehow it also kills the engine.
Really we need an emotional brake-job. And perhaps, once the brakes work again, an emotional-engine overhaul!
Depending on how rusty we are at running down the road, like my ’99 Jeep did recently, we may need a large amount of repair.
But where do we start? How do we surface from the mess we’re in?
Let’s examine one more mechanism.
Depression from a Flight-Based Model
Think about an airplane. I’m a third generation pilot with 300 hours of flight, so I know a thing or two about this topic.
Airplane vs. Car
An airplane is a lot like a car, but very different.
Both are used for transportation. Both have steering wheel mechanisms, some form of applying gas (thrust) and brakes.
But from there, the differences begin. (Follow me, if you will.)
Cars are satisfied with driving around on the two-dimensions of Terra Firma: Right, left, stop, go.
Airplanes break free of Mother Earth and involve the third dimension: Up, down.
Airplanes involve “lift” which the wing provides. But the wing only creates lift at a certain speed.
Flying requires enough thrust to create the lift that breaks the craft free of gravity, and sends it into the atmosphere.
Obviously, the most dangerous time in flight are the take-offs and landings.
In-flight incidents may involve mid-air collision or something technical going awry. But take-offs and landings are the most vulnerable points.
Isn’t that Similar to Depression?
My depression generally starts in the morning, in the take-off phase of my day.
Sometimes I’m hit with a mid-air collision of some sort, when bad news or events occur during the course of the day. (See: Runaway Emotional Emergency Escape Ramp)
Other times, insomnia hits, for example, in the landing phase, the time for letting down and coming to rest. . .
Most of us are not as familiar with flight as we are with driving a car. So we go about attempting to manage our moods from an almost two-dimensional, ground-based, “automobillic” type of rationale.
(Note the term itself: Automobile. Automatic. Automated. Automaton… Hint hint!)
We apply a little gas here, press on the brake there. Turn the wheel. And wonder why we’re still depressed.
Lessons From a Pilot
What can we learn from a pilot and his craft? Can his model for planning, safety, and achieving aerodynamics help us with our Depression and Mood Swings?
I believe that depression stems from unfamiliarity with our “craft”. Yes, we own it, operate it – our “craft” comprised of body, mind and soul – but perhaps we were never really trained how to get the most out of it. We were never trained how to fly it!
We spend our lives driving our fantastic winged airplanes around like Volkswagens, never leaving the parking lot! No wonder we’re depressed.
Pilots trained in discipline. In protocol
Pilots are trained in specific protocols for safety, including pre-flight checks – done every time they fly — verbally checking off each item on the list out loud, least something be forgotten.
Breaking protocol puts pilots and the public at risk. Without following disciplined protocol, even just once, many pilots have lost their Lives.
I met a pilot once waiting-out a low-visibility, fogged-in weather pattern for three long days. He told me: “I have a written set of my own flight minimums (ie. visibility, cloud ceilings, etc.). Unless the weather clears those minimums, I don’t fly. Following this is what’s kept me alive…”
You see, there is the temptation to cheat a bit. Just a little bit. Maybe the fog will clear after all. And I’ll be able to get out. Maybe the storm won’t hit like the weatherman predicts. After all, I really need to get off the ground, to make the meeting, to make the sale… to get the boss where he needs to go…
Unfortunately accidents happen. And the vast majority of airplane (and car) accidents are caused by human error.
So before a pilot gets into his plane, he does his homework: Plans his route (checking for closed air space, navigational aids down for servicing, etc.); checks into the weather (current wind, altimeter, airport and atmospheric conditions); minimizes his risk.
In other words, he has to know what to expect from the day. Before he gets in his airplane. Before he tries to take off.
The Importance of Thrust
Then, after our pilot has performed his pre-flight exam (checking over the working parts of his craft), run-up his engines (to make sure they’re purring and not sputtering), and gotten permission from the Tower to roll, he does the most amazing thing!
Just like a race car driver at the Drag Races, every time an airplane takes off, leaving behind the confines of gravity, the pilot pushes the throttle all the way in, petal-to-the-metal.
Because without full throttle, either the runway runs out, or the airplane won’t create the lift required to fly.
(When do we ever do this with our cars, by the way? Passing, perhaps. But that’s about it. We would ruin our cars, wear out our brakes, crash and kill people by stepping full-throttle on our gas pedal while driving around town.)
Now how does all this apply to depression?
In order to overcome the downward, spiraling energy of depression, in order to rise out of our earthbound-Volkswagen-thinking, full-throttle is required.
The Ultimate Thermostat Kick!
Let’s follow our analogy between Depression and the Automobile, and add to it what we’ve learned about the Airplane.
Lets learn to become the pilots of our Lives – and put together protocol and our own written minimums, designed to keep us safe.
Then, when we’re ready, let’s put the throttle to the metal and get off the ground!
Remember, in order for a physical body (airplane) to get off the ground, it has to apply every available ounce of thrust.
Think about that! Flight is the result of an all-out-application of energy! It’s our roll-model for the ultimate Thermostat Kick!
And how do we apply this concentration of full-throttle thrust in our lives?
We get off our butts and DO SOMETHING! Take ACTION. Rev up our retrorockets and shift into gear! (See: The Assignment, Guide to Greater Happiness)
Get ready to get off the couch, slouchers. This is the TOWER talking: Get ready to roll!
Next Post: Making Your Custom Emergency Depression Kit :))
Like what you’ve read here? Visit Dawn’s sister blog: Soul Horse Ride
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