The Chemistry of Despair 2

In our last post, I described the sensations of my sense of despair. It felt like I was attacked by my emotions while recovering fromĀ  major surgery. The chemicals introduced to my body at that time caused reactions at both my physical and emotional levels of perception. I think the anesthetic medication left me feeling desperately alone, deeply depressed, and despairing to the point of hopelessness.

In the moment I experienced that episode in my life, I believed the messages of despair with which my mind was flooded. I just KNEW all was lost. I recognized that this feeling was foreign to my day-to-day expression of life, which is one of cheerfulness, humor, warmth, and gratitude.

The comparison between what I was feeling IN THE MOMENT and what I feel day-to-day was stark enough that I noticed the difference. This noticing prompted me to attribute my dark mood to chemistry – a temporary condition over which I thought I could exert some control.

I used attribution to temporarily and therapeutically assign a cause to an effect.

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The Chemistry of Despair

Laying in a hospital bed recovering from surgery, I felt uncomfortable, drugged, and depressed – very depressed – so depressed that for the first time in my life thoughts of suicide arose.

A nurse appeared to check on me. I tell her about the emotional abyss I’d fallen into. “Do you feel any pain anywhere?” she questions me. “No.” I turn away and stare out the window. I could feel my breathing slow. The room lacked light – it seemed so much darker than I recall hospital rooms being. The nurse must have turned down the lights, I figured.

Staring out the window at the machinery in between wings of the hospital, I saw no future, certainly not one I wanted to experience. Only dark days lay ahead, full of lonely isolation, failure, and despair. My investments had failed, I was unemployed, my home’s value was half what it was two years before, and sunny days were nowhere in the future. Nothing could shake this overwhelming knowingness of doom, dread, and despair I felt to my core.

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Walk Differently, Feel Differently

Intuitively, I recognize that when I’m in a mood, my body will take on an appearance that shows it. For example, when I feel sad, my shoulders may fall forward, my head may sag forward, my gait will slow, etc.

Can I use that connection between mind and body to formulate a strategy for changing my mood?

Neurolinguistics (NLP) says yes!

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