Making Change

A psychologist provides guidelines to help individuals define their best pathways to change

Discouraged Again? Help Yourself Out of the Familiar Hole

Reach through time to help yourself feel more hopeful and encouraged.

Do you have trouble with feeling repeatedly discouraged or depressed? It  can feel like being in the bottom of a pit that you can’t climb out of. Then, somehow, you do get out… but only to find yourself there again; and again. It’s a pattern that gets old fast. Fortunately, there is a solution – and it’s in you.

One common way to help yourself is to think of times when you were in a good place. When failure discourages you, think of when you’ve succeeded. When depression makes you despair, think of when you were happy. By itself, this can be difficult to do. But you can do it. Recall that these “up” times have followed the “down” ones. Remember that you have gotten out of holes before – even if it doesn’t feel possible from the deep, hard dirt floor.

With some planning, you can help yourself even more. At a time when you are feeling good, make note of how you are not currently hindered by depression or failure. There is strength in your current perspective that your discouraged self (at other times) could really benefit from. So, offer this wisdom through a letter. Let that discouraged self know that you understand his struggle and how he feels. Tell him that despite feeling stuck, the future does hold hope. You know this because you feel good; you feel happy. Take time to really pour out your thoughts and feelings; to share an encouraging message to this future struggling self.

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Then put the letter someplace special. Keep it there until one day (which will inevitably come) when you feel stuck and need help. Then go to the letter and let your past, stronger self offer a hand down to you. You’ll be amazed by how it can reach through time and pull you out.

I’ve seen many patients use this letter to great effect. It doesn’t prevent the down times, but it does make them more tolerable; and helps people keep from digging themselves a deeper hole. So, give it a try. Pick a time when you are feeling a strong sense of well-being; and write that letter. Then put it away until that day when you need some compassion and a helping hand.

 

Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, NJ. She also writes a blog for WebMD (The Art of Relationships) and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships and Coping Community.

 

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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.

Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, New Jersey.

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