This morning, I am clearing my head of weekend troubles and clearing the path into the future. Again, I am thinking of the cognitive distortions that lead to depressed thinking. However, I am answering back when a distorted thought takes over my mind. I am squashing false limiting beliefs much more quickly than I did in the past. Here is a mind map of some of my latest thoughts and solutions associated with each of the ten cognitive distortions.
I have plagued myself with an urgency that I should find employment. Doing so would not only not be necessary, it would lead me away from my commitment to my disabled husband and my projects-in-progress.
Living here has positives that I could discount, but I will not do so. Work on the estate has been slow, but I cannot assume that my husband does not want to do it. Determining the cause of my bipolar disorder takes a backseat to focusing on solutions for alleviating it. Thinking that I should have made different decisions in my life does not acknowledge that everything I have ever done has led me to this point, which is a desirable place. I need not regret any of it or say I should have done differently.
This weekend, I pondered again on the profound importance of forgiveness. God has promised us forgiveness, conditional only on our forgiveness for others. We even need to forgive God for not answering our prayers the way we wanted Him to. Of course, God does not really need forgiveness, but in our mind, we may need to quit holding Him responsible for not doing things our way. Forgiveness is not for the one forgiven; it is for ourselves.
I have been reading The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein. She calls her Higher Power “The Universe” rather than God. However, she still invokes guidance and blessings from it. I think her most positive action is that she chooses to perceive with love rather than fear. As a Christian, I believe that Christ is the author of love, and certainly now is the time to do as Christ commands: love God, love our neighbor, and even love our enemy. Getting married to a disabled individual has taught me more about love than I have ever experienced before. My goal is to love as Christ loves.
Early Christian Writers
Over the weekend, I continued reading a tome written by Josh McDowell called The Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Josh introduced me to the Fathers of the early Christian Church. I found many of their writings on the Internet and read some last night. One of the books was about the martyrdom of Polycarp, a companion of the Apostle John. It was sad, but the attitude of Polycarp was astounding. In prayer, he thanked God for his opportunity to die to eternal life as a martyr.
Gratitude for Life
If only I could feel so grateful for either life or death! Let me start by being thankful for life. If I am not appreciative of life, how can I ever appreciate eternal life? A few years ago, I gave up on my belief in eternal life. I thought, “That is just as well, I do not want to suffer like this forever.” I did not see a way out of my depression, even in death. However, I have found new faith since that time. Now when I am depressed, I believe I am walking through the darkest valley, and God will bless me double on the other side. Joel Osteen’s book, Blessed in the Darkness: How All Things Are Working for Your Good,” brought me to this conclusion.
Do you get down? Maybe you are a bit like me. Perhaps you have even given up on your belief in eternal life. You may think, “This life is hard enough to get through, who would want that for an eternity?” I do not know the exact nature of eternal life. However, I know that joy is a part of this life, and that it is largely a spiritual state of being. I believe it will be with us in eternity if we learn how to be joyful now. Joyful Vibrance LLC is all about finding enjoyment through physical, mental, and spiritual growth. I hope you will download my ebook for many ideas on how to transform into a more joyful human being.
So can I guarantee joy every day? So far, no. Finding joy is a process. It is partly gratitude, faith, hope, love, temperance, and diligent service. Part of it is not giving up. Seeking peace is part of it. I do not have the whole formula here, but read the New Testament to find joy. See what happens. You may even be convinced that eternal life is possible also so that you can rejoice forever.
I often insert my gratitude practice into my blog posts, sometimes more than once per post. It may not please my readers, but it is uplifting for me. If you wish to see examples of what I have done, follow the arrows on the side of my posts to entries that have my gratitude practice. They will have a picture of a little mermaid, Charlotte Brontë, or a silhouette of a woman at a writing table. Charlotte is one of my favorite authors, and the little mermaid is my alter ego. The woman at the writing table is symbolic of me also and perhaps of you too.
Gratitude Heals Regret
I encourage you to start or continue a gratitude practice of your own. You can use my template if you like or modify one to suit your needs. When I am in an ungrateful mood, my entire past is colored with gloom. When I am grateful, I can see how everything has led up to this favorable point, and it is all okay. I do not have to regret any of it. Lack of gratitude leads to regret. Gratitude heals the fires of remorse. Thankfulness can, therefore, help you forgive yourself, the most essential forgiveness of all.
Forgiving to Overcome Cognitive Distortions
Looking over my mindmap of cognitive distortions again, I notice that I might magnify my weaknesses in my mind, rather than forgiving myself. I might jump to conclusions about what someone is thinking rather than forgiving them. Rather than giving myself or others a break, I might burden myself with “should have done” statements. I might blame myself or others for what is best long forgotten. Forgiveness can eliminate at least four different types of distorted thinking. Knowing that distorted thinking can lead to depression, no wonder overcoming it with the help of mercy can make us feel better!
I walked to the chiropractor’s this afternoon, stopping at the library while returning. The weather was mild and sunny, even though it snowed last night. The light breeze did not even dishevel the drifts of melting snow.
I finished eating dinner by 5:00 PM, following my new pattern of eating within a nine-hour window. This is not only for weight loss, but it can also improve my sleep and general health. [I fasted for the rest of the evening, which is an achievement.] After dinner, I spent some more time reading from Josh McDowell, then from Brendan Burchard, and then the mail. I visited briefly with my husband, but he was more interested in retiring to his bed than talking to me, so I took off my socks, put my bathrobe over my clothes, and returned to this blog entry.
Symptom-Free but Not Super Motivated
I feel even-tempered tonight. I am neither up nor down. I wish I felt a little more motivated. However, I can drive myself to exhaustion if I become driven. A balance between being moved and being relaxed, between activating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems is in order. I have turned to Brendan Burchard for ideas on how to motivate myself. I have not found the key that opens the lock for me. Not yet.
In the mindmap I mentioned earlier, I say that I do not know exactly where I want to go with my blog and other projects. In a way, not having a specific end in mind dampens my motivation. However, I trust that if I press forward with my plans, refining them as I go along, they will take me to a joyful destination. This is like being nonspecific in asking what you want from the Universe. Sometimes spelling out precisely what you wish gets you exactly that when something better is possible. At least, that is my current understanding. We will have to see how things develop.
Forgiveness and Relationships
Pro bloggers suggest making a calendar of where you are going with your content. So far, I have not done that. Instead, I prefer to let life as it comes to determine the direction of my writing. I chose forgiveness for this entry, partly because I have not used it as a keyword before, but also because I have been actively trying to forgive someone lately. I thought I had forgiven her countless times, and I suppose I have. This time, I agonized over whether to barricade myself against further hurts by cutting off contact. I even asked my counselor if doing so would do any good. She had no answer for that.
However, it seems if I were to shut off contact, I would just be nurturing my feelings of hurt from the past. What I really want is a supportive relationship. How can I continue the relationship and be immune to comments that may not even be intended to hurt me but do anyway?
Using the principles of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming,) I have been visualizing a series of twelve scenes from the past when this person did an astounding thing for me. These scenes take my mind away from the almost automatic series of images that represent my hurt feelings. A few days through this exercise and my feelings softened. I think I experienced forgiveness. However, the reason for my uncertainty is that I still feel vulnerable and fear the hurt feelings could return. Nevertheless, I was able to call her after a few visualizations and have a good talk with no ensuing bad feelings.
I do not suppose the job is completely done. However, I have a process that works. I will continue to refine it because I do not want to be bothered by my lack of forgiveness any longer. I am a mature woman now and have a future as a writer.
If you would like to join me on this journey from the beginning, please start with Day One.