Depression is horrible in part because it cuts you off from your future or, more precisely, your sense of the future. The bleakness of the present is so oppressive just because you can't imagine an alternative for tomorrow.
I personally know how depressing life can feel without a sense of brightness up ahead. It's something I struggle with occasionally as I continue to reorganize my life after loss and seek the kind of companionship with which I can ride happily into the proverbial sunset.
But in some ways I'm lucky. Several months ago I was introduced to the work of Ti Caine, a hypnotherapist and life coach based in Sherman Oaks, California. Caine wanted me to know about a technique he had developed called FutureVisioning, a way of helping people move forward in their lives.
He contends that it's our relationship to the future that most pervasively affects our current state of mind, that wounds from the past diminish our sense of our future and we live in fear of that future, and that is the source of our most potent negative emotions. Not knowing what's ahead, or not believing we deserve or can create a better future, leads to a sense of fear and feelings of stress. It drains energy and motivation.
"Many of us have been taught that we are powerless, that the future is just going to happen on its own, delivered by fate," Caine observes. "That can give rise to enormous amounts of anxiety, dread and anger, and frequently leads to the brand of hopelessness widely known as depression. Anxiety is experienced in the present but it originates in our relationship to the future."
In reality, people can create the future they want. Caine sees his life work as restoring to people an ongoing, passionate connection to their dreams for the future. Having a sustained vision of a successful future allows one to carve lots of mental paths to it, to actually live one's way into it, step by step.
Because of an ongoing project, Caine and I have had numerous conversations. I thought I'd share some of his comments with you, because they may help you as much as they have helped me.
You can achieve what you want in life only if you have a clear vision of where you are headed. The reason most people aren't moving forward is that they don't even know where they are going. If they are going anywhere, it's towards whatever they got programmed for, which is essentially whatever their parents envisioned for them; they are not even living their own life.
Successful people dare to aim for the moon, believing anything is possible, while most people are taught to settle. But that is the antithesis of the human spirit. Still, whole schools of thought are dedicated to the idea that happiness comes from lowering expectations and settling for what's at hand. That is more accurately the path to depression.
There are many people in unsatisfying and even destructive relationships who are trying to convince themselves—or their partners are trying to convince them—that what they have is good enough.
Having a complete vision of the future gives you a constant source of hope and motivation. But, of course, the command to envision your future is far too global to be of help. It's likely to induce a brain freeze. You have to break the future into very specific component domains of experience that, when totaled together, add up to your life—your physical self, your social life, your career, your financial health, your emotional life, and so on.
Caine has lots more to say. Further, he has developed worksheets and other exercises to help people move past the painful present. All are freely downloadable from his website, www.ticaine.com.