The Healing Journey of Gratitude
by Angela Brooks-Reese
My friend Dougie sent me the article linked below and I am sharing it because the article and especially the excellent links it includes are pure gold in my opinion.
Almost 20 years ago I lost everything, at 36 years old I lost my family, my home, my cars, I lost my business and buried deeply in debt, I lost my pride (the “what will the neighbors think” type of pride).
I was completely lost for awhile to a crippling depression that left me in a pit so deep I couldn’t see daylight. I finally consented to anti-depressants (effexor) for about 6 months because I could literally no longer function. I couldn’t make myself get up to take a shower so I could go to work. My body completely rebelled and I felt like a steamroller had gone over the top of me leaving me flat in the road after struggling for 2 years to try to save everything.
One of the most important tools to my recovery was gratitude. I saw nothing to be grateful for at first. Sometimes I had to mouth the words with no feeling behind them. I dutifully wrote at least 3 things to be grateful for each night, even if it was as simple as ‘I’m grateful I breathed today’, not really meaning it.
Somewhere along the way something started to change.
At first I noticed the medicine was helping because I started taking a shower again. I slowly found myself coming back to life. After 3 months I was ready to go back to work and discovered that going off the meds was not as easy as going on them. I gradually decreased the dosage until I was free of the pills but everything still felt so flat. I felt like I was wading in cement to get through my days.
I continued the gratitude journal and discovered that as it became a habit, it was starting to get easier and I was finding more to write about. I started writing paragraphs instead of short sentences. Even through the depression (lighter now but still there) I began to notice the beauty around me, looking for things to include in my journal.
Today it is simply a way of life, I find the joy in everything around me, I am so grateful every day for the incredible life I have.
It is actually horrifying to think I almost ended it, I would have missed so much and it is so sad to remember at the time it felt like it was easier than trying to move forward. Everything just seemed so damn hard.
10 years ago, everybodies world was turned upside down and all around me people were losing everything when the economy tanked in Nevada.
This is when the deepest gratitude kicked in. The gratitude for what I had experienced 10 years earlier.
I completely understood how lost these people felt and by this time I was doing well, I owned a business, owned my home and drove a nice car so I could also offer hope for them. I was able to use my experience to help people understand they were not alone and they would recover from their losses. I knew that the shame and feeling alone were the worst part of the experience so I could honestly relate and give people hope from a perspective I never would have been able to had I not been there myself.
It took years for all of the depression to leave and I am not sure when it finally left for good because the funny thing about losing something so negative is that you don’t notice it’s gone until something draws your attention to it. Then you look back, scratch your head and wonder when it disappeared completely!
Here is the link to a fantastic article, be sure to look at the linked articles (there are 4 of them):
Trauma – It May Not be as Traumatic as You Think
Transformation Hypnosis – Angela Brooks-Reese
Definition of Trauma: The PERCEPTION of threat while in a state of HELPLESSNESS.-Wendie Webber
Using this definition to understand the emotional impact of where a child develops beliefs makes you realize that to a child there are many traumatic experiences that an adult wouldn’t even blink at. We think we are looking for the big, bad Monsters (and sometimes we are) but most often instead begin to understand that it is things that as an adult, we would consider ordinary. We forget that the adult has experience to draw from and for a child this is a total surprise and they have no reference point to understand it, or the mental capacity to interpret it.
For instance when the giants you rely on to survive leave you in the care of a strange giant (that just might eat you for all you know) it can be traumatic to the child’s mind. The child might believe he is abandoned and may die based on his instinctual response. These are the strange things that form our beliefs and cement into our truths with no real understanding of where they were formed.
Marissa Peers tells the perfect story to put this in perspective. A businessman came to her for help to discover why he kept failing at business on his own. He had been VERY successful in several partnerships and was well versed in running a business. Yet he kept failing on his own.
She regressed him to his childhood and discovered that when he got his first bike his father had taken him out to the driveway to try it out. It was a beautiful day, all the neighbors were out and his father started chatting with one of them. He was impatient to try his bike so he got on and crashed at the bottom of the driveway. Everybody came running and several voices including his father were all standing around him yelling “Are you alright?” “You could have killed yourself!” “What were you thinking trying that ALONE?” ” NEVER, NEVER try something like that on your own, wait until you have someone to help you!!” All these giants circling an extremely embarrassed and frightened kid telling him to “Always wait for help, NEVER do new things on YOUR OWN!” Now you can imagine these adults never thought twice about any of this, they were scared he had hurt himself so I imagine they might have been yelling in their fear for him. They certainly wanted to make sure he didn’t try to ride his bike without help, I think they succeeded far more than they realized. Far more than the child realized. The subconscious, who’s job it is to protect him, took every word literally and created a belief that turned into his truth. As an adult he had no idea why he “couldn’t” do things on his own.
He had experienced a strong emotional response (embarrassment/fear) to a perceived threat (was he going to die from his injuries?/giants surrounding him yelling) in a state of helplessness (he was laying on the ground trapped by his bike). All the components were there: new, surprise/shock, fear, helplessness.
His response to this revelation? Are you kidding me??? That’s it???? He was a little pissed that something so SEEMINGLY insignificant had so strongly altered the course of his life!