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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Memories and The Holiday Blues

Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about memories and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.

Holiday time can bring on sadness if it makes you think of unhappy memories. Without changing the memories themselves, it is possible to reduce or remove the emotional component, or replace it with a happer emotional connection.

Perhaps you lost someone you love and are missing them at this time of year, or lost a loved one during the holidays. Maybe the holidays remind you of happier times, togetherness, financial freedom, better health. You can miss situations as much as people; either can give you a sense of loss.

In a way, it's all in your head. Your thoughts trigger emotions so quickly you may not notice they are the first step. Sadness may seem to hit you out of the blue. Stop. Rewind the tape. What were you thinking just before you got sad? Now what would you like instead? This bit of mental play, creative daydreaming, can give your mind and emotions a new pathway to follow, and the old trigger can automatically lead to a better emotional state.

Here's an example of the process, taken from a real life story. It was about a distressing event that happened to my daughter when she was about 8 years old. Not depression, but that doesn't really matter for illustrative purposes, the process is the same.

A cranky neighbor yelled at my daughter for leaning on her new car. She was just taking a peek through the window of the shiny new vehicle to see the inside. There were several other kids around, and after the loud and rude verbal chastisement, my daughter came to me quite upset.

After she told me what happened, I told her to visualise the neighbor, see her getting angrier and angrier, her head getting bigger and bigger - until it exploded, raining confetti everywhere. My daughter laughed. I asked her to describe the incident again, which she did without the emotional impact it had just minutes before. Yes, dramatic change can occur that quickly. It doesn't always, but it can. All your mind needs is a new choice, a new outcome. It doesn't matter that it is imagined, your mind will automatically pick the best choice.

To expand the explanation a bit, you first recall the triggering incident as fully as you can, in as many sensory modalities as possible: what you saw, heard, felt (emotional and/or touch), smelled, tasted. Focus on the sense that bothers you the most. If it's what you heard, then imagine the sound getting quieter, faster, slower, raise or lower the pitch, make it blank out in spots, play circus music behind it, hear the person speaking with a phony French accent, play the tape backwards(!) or whatever appeals to you.

Same with visual information: change the color, size, distance, rotate the image sideways (photoshop your memories!), make it darker, lighter, change a color image to black and white, make it get so small the picture disappears like the dot on an old (really old now!) TV when it's turned off. Or add something into the picture...Godzilla coming to your rescue, or you being big and your tormentor very small (with a squeaky voice!)

Similar changes can be made with the other senses. If you fell on a hard, rough sidewalk, imagine it was smooth as silk and soft as a cloud. See your self bounce and laugh. OK, by now you should have a good enough idea of this aspect of the procedure.

If it's a person you're missing--for example if your mother never got to meet your children--imagine you all together. Introduce your mother to your children. Maybe they can sing Christmas carols together. If it's just the person and you, imagine you are together now. Tell them what you would if they were really there, and listen to their response. Or just give them a hug. Whatever seems right, or whatever it is you truly desire and are missing.

Keep playing with ideas until you have the feeling you really want to have. If it feels better but not quite it yet, ask your inner self what else it is you want, and your inner self will probably provide not only the answer, but also a scenario to go with it. When you're done, you know it. You get a feeling of connection and release, and perhaps new insight.

Aside from the holidays, this technique can be helpful for any relationship which ended without closure, such as a sudden, unexpected death. It's never to late to have closure!

Another way this process can help you is if you had an unhappy childhood. Imagine a mildly unpleasant incident. (Just like exercise, you want to start off slowly until you get the hang of it.) Run the tape through in your head the way it originally occurred. Then run it again and imagine getting a different response: a parent applauding your efforts instead of a disparaging response. Your mother having time to stop and help you when you need it. Or imagine yourself being the strong athletic child your father wanted. See his pride in you. Then play it again, with you being the way you really were. Does he respond differently to you this time?

Imagine whatever it is you want to change, and the way you would have preferred it to happen; first the original, then however many imagined scenarios it takes for you to feel the love and support you wanted.

There are so many ways to go with this process; it is as limitless as your imagination. What? You have no imagination? probably have more than you realize, it just may be stuck on producing negative outcomes! (It's called worrying!) Or perhaps you just never played with your imagination in such a creative way.

Keep in mind, most of us are stronger in one imaginary sense than the others. The majority of people are visual, followed in popularity by auditory (hearing), then by kinesthetic (feelings, both emotional and touch.) Start with the one you're strongest in. It doesn't matter if you can't create pictures in your head. A blind person could do this process, just by using whatever senses comprise the memory that is being played with. So do what works for you, and build in as many senses as you can to make the experience as full as possible.

The funny thing is, once you give your mind new possible outcomes the old trigger will usually elicit a different and better emotional response automatically. If it doesn't, keep adding new choices until you you have all the inner resources you need to achieve the desired state.

When I guide people through this process, it is not uncommon for them to imagine what it is they think they want, but they do not get the satisfying feeling they thought they would get. On further examination, they realize there is another component they need to complete the process. Perhaps they think they want acceptance and imagine it quite well, but aren't satisfied until they add hope, trust, wealth, joy, or whatever missing element or elements are needed to generate the desired outcome.

Another possiblilty is that if the original emotion was very strong it may take more resources to outweigh it. (It's best to consult a professional for more intense issues.) Keep building imagined resources, as described above, until the new pathway becomes as easy and successful for the mind to follow as the old one was, or more so.

To test the process for completion, imagine the original incident again. How do you feel about it now? Satisfied? Then take one final step. Imagine a scenario in the future when the old trigger would lead to uncomfortable feelings. When this, too, has a new and better emotional response, one you are comfortable with, you are done. And when such a moment arrives in reality, you'll probably be surprised at your new, improved, automatic response.

Oh, and it's perfectly normal to feel confused momentarily when you complete the process and test it by recalling the original incident. It's a bit disorienting when your brain can't access the familiar unwanted response. Actually, that confusion is one of the ways NLP practitioners (see next paragraph) can tell your process has succeeded: they see your confusion and know it signifies a disconnect between the triggering memory and the old emotional response.

The process described above is one I learned in my Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner training. If you don't feel comfortable guiding yourself through this process, find a qualified NLP practitioner to help you. They'll have numerous techniques for eliciting change and desired states.

Here are some NLP Practitioner directories:

NLP Practitioner Database Search - at

NLP Database - International list of NLP Practitioners, NLP Master Practitioners, and NLP Trainers.

You can google NLP Practitioner directory to find more listings and directories.

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