What do we do when life feels like it’s piling on top of us? In depression, we bury our optimism, hope, and joy and react with anger, fear, or guilt, allowing overwhelming circumstances to knock us flat. Emotional depression can become an automatic reaction to life’s trials. Reactions are automatic, but responses need not be. Depression does not have to be automatic.
Even if we may immediately react negatively, we can learn to intentionally reassert positive emotions. This may not be our first reaction, but our first reaction doesn’t need to be our only response. Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” Our reactions are on one level, but we can learn to take our responses to the next level.
The next level above automatic reaction is intentional response. You need to be intentional in your response to life and its circumstances. You need to deliberately recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy. In the midst of depression, the thought of sustaining even a modicum of positive feelings may appear overwhelming, a burden too heavy to bear. But aren’t you already carrying around the weight of emotional baggage? Think how much energy it takes to carry around anger, fear, and guilt. When you begin to put those emotions down, you will find strength for optimism, hope, and joy.
Negative emotions may be part of your personal landscape. If that is the case, you’ll need to intentionally seek out and rediscover optimism, hope, and joy. Optimism, hope, and joy are responses that come from within you and are not necessarily derived from your outside circumstances. Regardless of the circumstances, you determine to remain optimistic; you decide to have hope; you derive joy.
When you are depressed, you live pulled to one side of the emotional spectrum—the negative side. Your emotional responses are so overrepresented by anger, fear, and guilt that you have lost the ability to absorb and experience optimism, hope, and joy. Without joy, there is no hope. Without hope, there is no optimism.
Intentionally choosing how to respond to life is not a trivial matter; this attitude can save your life. We will not always have control over our circumstances, but we can determine to hold on to optimism, hope, and joy—to recognize them, promote them, and sustain them.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. The Center was recently voted one of the Top Ten Facilities in the United States for the Treatment of Depression. Break free and achieve peace. Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.
If you are a pessimistic person, I want you to be able to proclaim it, to own up to it, and to accept it. What I have found over my years in practice is that pessimistic people often don’t see themselves that way. In fact, while they view everything else as being universally negative, they tend to view their pessimism as positive.
Instead of interpreting themselves as pessimistic, they instead see themselves as pragmatic, realistic, more informed and enlightened, and smarter. For them, a pessimistic response to the world is seen as protective and even superior to the optimist. Because they approach life believing the worst in circumstances and in people, they feel they are better prepared for whatever life throws at them. They live a guarded, cautious, defensive life. Problems, difficulties, inconveniences, and downright disasters are expected.
Pessimists have what I refer to as a critical spirit. It refers to a person whose inner default mode is to be critical or negative. Picking on people, jumping on their failures, and criticizing their faults appears to be a positive, proactive position for pessimists. However, doing so says more about your own faults than the faults of others.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I have been in the counseling business too long to think that pessimists don’t have very specific reasons for being this way. I have heard, literally, hours of reasons why a pessimist’s attitude is really a good thing in his or her life. However, in my experience, I’ve found the reasons to spring from a deep well of pain, injury, abandonment, neglect, humiliation, abuse, and disappointment. Is it any wonder, then, with this kind of well, that what bubbles up in the life of a pessimist is bitterness and negativity?
A pattern of pessimism can be very difficult to give up because it seems safe. If you’ve been wounded, it appears smart to venture out cautiously, carefully, defensively. Pessimism appears to be just the armor you need to engage a hostile world. It can seem very right to the wounded person, but it leads to death, a death of optimism. Pessimism becomes not an armor keeping the world out, but a prison keeping you in. Pessimism is a world that says the worse thing that can happen to you is to be hurt by evil flourishes, where wrongs outweigh rights, where oppression is standard and disappointment is the order of the day.
There’s only one problem with this worldview; it’s a worldview. It’s a view completely obscured by this world. It presupposes that all there is or is ever going to be is this world, with all its faults and problems. This is the type of world described in Ephesians 2:11-12. It is a view “without hope and God in the world.”
But you do have hope, and God is in the world, so this worldview is a lie. Since the underlying assumptions of your pessimism are a lie, it’s perfectly logical, rational, pragmatic, enlightened, and savvy to reject it and instead base your response to life on the truth. And what is truth? Instead of a worldview, have a God view. With a God view, your response to life can change from pessimism to optimism.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.
The physical side effects of a dysfunctional relationship with food are not unlike the environmental complications that have arisen from pollution in our world today. You may have trouble imagining your body as polluted, so do the following exercise using graphic pictures that depict the damage pollution is causing to the earth.
- Collect some magazines and make a collage of beautiful pictures of the earth; sky scenes, landscapes, seascapes. If you can’t find appropriate images, draw a picture in your journal of a beautiful world. This world represents the way God intended your body to be.
- After that, find pictures of the ravages of pollution. On the next page in your journal, draw or paste pictures of how pollution has harmed the world. These images represent how your eating behaviors have polluted your body. Be aware of your physical reactions to these different pictures. Does the beautiful scenery make you feel calm and peaceful? Does the polluted world give you feelings of sadness?
- At the bottom of each picture, write a brief description of how you feel about what you’re looking at. Just as the awareness of pollution’s dangers has caused people to repair the damage done to our earth, so also your own awareness of the real toll you are placing on your body can give you added motivation for discovering the source behind the pollution of your eating behaviors and putting an end to them. Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as God intended it makes me feel…. Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as it has been polluted makes me feel… Fill in those blanks and reflect on your feelings.
All your life you’ve heard the expression, “It’s never too late.” You need to believe that now. Yes, there has been damage done to your body, but that damage can be dealt with and, in most cases, reversed.
In the past, you have spent a good deal of time focusing on how your body looks from the outside. Now it’s time to look at your body from the inside. What is happening to you on the inside affects how you look on the outside. Your relationship with food has not brought you to the point of vibrant health. Instead, it is robbing you of your well-being, little by little.
Before, you were concerned only with the end result, attaining some sort of desired result. Now you need to be concerned with the means you are using to that end and the damage it is causing. To be thin is not necessarily to be healthy. To put on weight is not necessarily to be fat. Vibrant health is what you are striving for physically. Proper nutrition can aid your body in regaining the health of its systems.
Learn more about how nutrition can have an impact on your mental health.
If you or a loved one show signs of having an eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.
Healing from an eating disorder is a journey. The path isn’t always easy and level, but neither is life. You must want to get well, to move forward and reestablish a healthy, balanced relationship with food. Once you have understood that something is drastically wrong with the choices you are making in your life, the responsibility for making positive change lies solely with you. You must replace the false control of food with a positive control based on your new understanding of yourself and your past.
As you continue on your healing journey, allow me to give you some food for thought. Mapping your progress can be very beneficial. I encourage you to use a journal to assist in the recovery process. Here are six tips for you to consider:
- Imagine your healing process as a journey. Draw a map in your journal of your progress so far. Show the path you’ve taken, the obstacles you’ve had to overcome or work around. Write about the high points where you’ve come to understand a hidden truth. Label it, “My Journey.” Remember, don’t worry about the quality of your drawing. Use color and whatever details help cement how you’re really feeling. This picture is for you, a visual chronicle of the work you’ve done so far.
- Go back through a previous healing journal to refresh your memory. Read over the statements and questions you’ve already answered. Take a moment to put this journey into perspective. Fill in your journey up to this point and then, if you like, anticipate some of the highs and lows that may come up as you continue. If you can anticipate the lows, it may help you to get through them. You’ll have an idea they are coming, although you may not be sure exactly when.
- Looking at your map, what are the major high points so far? What are the major valleys so far?
- As you look over your past, what are you able to see now, from a more mature viewpoint, that you haven’t been able to see before? Think about letting go of your anger. What are your immediate reactions? Read these next two statements aloud and then write down your answers:
- I’ve always thought I was at fault for what happened to me. Now I can see that what happened to me happened because…
- It’s difficult to forgive my parents for not being perfect because…
- Read over the following and respond as honestly as you can.
- It’s hard for me to accept responsibility for how I use food because…
- I realize I’ve contributed to my unhealthy relationship with food by…
- In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
- I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
- In order to get well, I’ve been able to…
- I choose to accept the responsibility for my future because…
- You have to want to get well. You have to believe you can get well. Use the following statements to reinforce your desire and your belief in your own healing.
- I have the following reasons for wanting to get well…
- These are the reasons I know I can get well…
You have been experiencing waves of emotions that have tossed and turned you about. It is time for some calmer waters. Everything we do, see, and experience is sifted through the filter of our perspective. It provides the lend through which we see the world. Continue to document your healing journey. In time, you will be able to reflect and see how far you have come.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.
Forgiving someone is never easy. It does not happen overnight; it is a process. Often it requires getting over the faulty beliefs and practices taught to you by the very people you are trying to forgive.
Beware of the need to punish. In your anger, you may withhold the healing act of forgiveness as a way to punish or to retaliate against the person who hurt you.
Beware of the desire to continue focusing on yourself. Forgiveness allows for you to move on to a healthier focus in life, away from your self-consuming relationship with food and on to a healthy balance of focuses and interests.
Beware of the belief that you deserve to be hurt and miserable. You don’t; that’s your eating disorder talking to you. Forgiveness will bring you peace, healing, and relief.
Beware of pride. Your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns may have brought you a perverted sense of pride as a way to counteract the pain. Forgiveness, by lessening the pain, interfered with the maintenance of that pride.
If you were never provided with an example of love and forgiveness growing up in your immediate family, where can you find these examples? Try to remember the people who did give them to you as a child, maybe a grandparent or a family friend. Then, think back to how much you needed love growing up. Remember how you would have felt if you had received acceptance. As a forgiving adult, you can give those who wronged you the very things you were denied as a child.
If you have constructed the myth of a happy childhood, giving up that dream will be painful. You will have to discard your idea of the perfect mom and dad, or the image of an idyllic, loving family. Instead, you can establish a new relationship with your family, just as they are.
For some people, their pain and hurt are so deep inside of them that their ability to forgive is buried under layers of anger and resentment. If this description fits you, you will need to search outside of yourself for the strength to forgive. Again, you need to understand that forgiveness is something you can rarely accomplish immediately. You’ve lived with your pain for many years; allow yourself time to work through your need to forgive.
Your eating disorder is a response to your pain and anger. If you can understand what happened, get past the anger, and forgive the pain, the reason for your behavior will no longer exist. When the reason no longer exists, and the health-related complications of your behavior are addressed, true healing becomes a reality.
Once you are able to acknowledge the truth of your pain, you must look towards proactive forgiveness. You have to decide to forgive—not because you want to, not because it feels good, and not because it’s deserved, but because it is the healing thing for you to do. A conscious choice on your part to forgive can counteract your conscious decision to continue in the behaviors of your eating disorder or disordered eating. Your will is the same, but you are choosing to use it in a healthy, uplifting way.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 29 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.