Part 2: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery
Just because you think you know something, doesn’t mean that something is true. That something could be flat-out false. That something could be partially true but lacking in full context.
In order to recovery from depression, you need to strive for intellectual integrity. Integrity can be defined as adhering to a code of ethics, and that certainly is a good thing; but the integrity I mean here is a bit different. Intellectual integrity is like structural integrity. When something has structural integrity, there are no gaps or weaknesses to create instability. When you believe something that isn’t the truth or is only partially true, you leave yourself open to gaps and weaknesses that undermine intellectual integrity.
One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life and determine whether what you think you know is really the truth. As much as possible, develop a plan to accept those things that are unchangeable and a plan to change those that you can.
Please recognize, you may be reluctant to do this for fear that it will make you even more depressed. Remaining tied to false truths and half-truths may seem more comforting that living life in the glare of intellectual honesty. If you feel that way, aren’t you tired of living your life while feeling like a spectator instead of an active participant with the power to choose your own course? Unless you take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive.
It’s time to take control and look at where you are in your life. It’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life, shoring up your intellectual integrity by understanding and accepting the truth of who you are.
- If you have developed a pattern of tying self-worth to activity, you may find it difficult to let go of some of the things you are doing.
- If you have developed a pattern of believing in your own incompetence, taking on new activities may frighten you with a potential for failure.
- If you have developed a pattern of being afraid of making mistakes, an honest appraisal of why you are engaging in an activity may be uncomfortable, because of needed changes it might reveal.
In order to continue taking stock of your life, you will need to press on. Don’t let any initial hesitation stop you from being honest with yourself.
Your perspective on life is based upon what you “know.” These “truths” are often forged in childhood. If what you “know” is framed in negativity, your perceptions and expectations may also be negative. Another way to think of this “knowledge” is as a filter through which you view your life. Some people who seem perennially happy are said to view life through rose-colored glasses. Their filter is weighted on the side of the positive. In depression, life is viewed through gray-colored glasses. Life appears negative, oppressive, and filled with shadows.
One of the main areas that may need to be changed in order to overcome depression is what you “know” about life:
- If you “know” that life consistently treats you unfairly, then the inevitable ups and downs of life are filtered through that perception. If you “know” that life is supposed to always be smooth sailing, the inevitable ups and downs can cause great anxiety. Down times are not put into a proper perspective, because you don’t consider them to be legitimate. Down times are supposed to happen to other people but not you. If you’re unprepared to deal with these down times, confusion, frustration, and depression can result.
- If you “know” that you don’t really deserve to be happy, you will filter the events of your life to make sure you aren’t. Good things will be met with suspicion, and bad things will be accepted as inevitable.
- If you “know” that the only way for you to be safe is to be in control, you will have a heightened sense of anxiety over life events. Since people are rarely in total control over their environment and never in control of other people, this “knowledge” leaves a persistent, nagging feeling of insecurity. This perpetual sense of unease can lead to anxiety and depression.
Life does not always flow smoothly. Circumstances can alter the most carefully constructed life. Traumatic events will be part of each of our lives. That we cannot change. What we can change, however, is our response to those traumatic events. If the fundamental foundation for what we know about life is based on negativity, we will have little support when bad things happen.
But we can use intellectual integrity to identify and replace the false and incomplete truths we’ve been basing our lives on. We can replace those false and incomplete truths with a more complete understanding of ourselves, our expectations, and just what the world is truly able to offer.
Making changes in your life requires a certain level of optimism. If you find it difficult to be optimistic, consider working with a caring professional or counselor. Oftentimes, when the process of evaluating your life activities is done with the help of others, their vantage point offers perspectives you hadn’t considered. Borrow their optimism, hope, and joy, until you are able to generate those refreshing, renewing feelings on your own.
If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.