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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.

Part 1: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Consider a single trip to the grocery store.  On your list today is a new toothbrush, soda, sandwich bags, ground meat, milk, bread, eggs, and tissues.  Pretty standard.  Should be an easy trip, right?

  • There are 15 types of toothbrushes, all different colors, from extra soft to extra firm.  Which is the right one?
  • Regular or diet or caffeine-free soda — and which brand?
  • Sandwich bags come in 50 or 150 or 300, fold-top, single or double zipper-top.
  • Ground meat is available as extra lean, lean, or regular, in varying package sizes.
  • Milk can be whole, 2 percent, non-fat, skim, fat-free, enriched, in regular, soy or almond.
  • Bread in plain white or honey wheat or 7-gran or 12-grain or multigrain all in different brands.
  • Seven types of eggs – organic and how many do you need?
  • Tissues come in small square boxes or medium boxes or large rectangular ones.  They could be scented or non-scented, colored or not, with lotion or not, in 100-count or 200-count boxes.

Then when you’ve overcome all of those choices and make your way to the checkout, do you choose the regular line, express line, or the self-checkout line?  Paper or plastic or both?  Cash, credit, or debit?  Any coupons?  Cash back?  Need any help out?  Groceries in the front seat or trunk?

We live in a complex world that has the capacity not only to trigger our emotions but also to inundate our minds.  The more we feel compelled to do, the more energy our lives require.  A hurried, fast-paced life is draining.  Bit by bit, detail by detail, the sheer weight of our lives can wear us down, leaving us feeling inadequate and devastated.

The pace of life can be daunting, threatening to overwhelm even the resilient.  Keeping your emotional balance from jumping from task to task, demand to demand, can be acrobatic even for the resilient.  But what happens when you take a stressful life full of tasks and demands and add onto that a belief system that “knows” you’re not good enough, that “knows” you don’t deserve to be happy?  Or what happens when you take that stressful life and add onto it a belief system that says happiness can only be found when you’re in total control?

In order to recover from depression, understanding the role of emotions is vital, but you must also understand the role of the intellect, of the mind.  Recognizing what you feel is one step in the recovery process, but another step is recognizing what you know — what you believe to be true — because what you “know” may not, in fact, be the truth.

Let’s look at the example of a half-empty glass.  The truth is, yes, the glass is half empty, but is that all there is to it?  If the glass is half empty, isn’t it also half full?  The truth of a half empty glass is that the glass is also half full.  Those people who see a half empty glass actually see an empty glass because, to them, the glass should always be full to the brim.  If the glass is not brimming, then that glass is unsatisfactory; it will always contain emptiness and loss.

No one’s glass is ever truly filled all of the time.  Life simply doesn’t operate that way.  instead, the truth is even a half empty glass has fullness.  Those who are depressed don’t see half empty, they see completely empty.  Some will rage because the glass never seems to be full.  Others will despair because they are convinced they aren’t worthy of even a half empty glass.  Others will quietly accept the fact that the glass will never be full for them.  They look at the glass and see what isn’t there instead of what is.  They focus on the lack of what is absent instead of the presence of what is there.

To learn more about intellectual integrity, and how it assists in depression recovery, read Part 2 of this article.

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.