Howdy Ho, my puppies! First off, apologies for not posting last week. I wasn’t ignoring you, I’ve simply been swamped with setting up my new life here in the US. And, in the spirit of not becoming completely overwhelmed, I had to let some things go. But, you’ll be happy to hear that my house is now almost completely furnished (the basics are all in), and I’ve moved into my new office. I’m getting more organized and catching up more and more each day. So, things are about to get back to “normal”, whatever that means. Also, due to popular demand (which, honestly, totally surprised me; I had no idea you guys wanted to see how I live…) I plan on making a video showing you all my lovely house in the near future. Just give me another month or so to get some basic decorations up and make the place look more “me.”
This week, we’re getting back to our regular Q&A format: An awesome reader asks if just sitting with an emotion is really the answer. She tried doing just that, but it didn’t seem to work as expected. Did something go wrong? And if so, what is the answer?
In reviewing the video, I realized that this is a HUGE topic, and unless you’ve already read my book, I may still have left you confused. If so, please don’t hesitate to ask your questions in the comments below. I’ll either answer them there, or will make a follow up video.
Awesome Lisa’s Burning Question: “I’d like to ask about “being with an emotion without judgment.
When I was depressed, a lot of people gave me this advice: to let the sadness be, without judging it; and I followed it. I noticed that the sadness seldom went away at all, no matter how long I sat with it, and on the occasions when it did go away, it would come back again in minutes. The response I got from people was mostly, “Well, you must have done it wrong. It works for other people, and everyone is the same, so it must work for you if you’ll only do it better.”
In my experience, I got much better and resolved the depression once I decided the sadness was NOT okay, and refused to sit with it any longer. I judged it as bad and harmful and started distracting myself from it instead of letting it be. This improved my life a lot and after a few months of this, I got much better and was no longer depressed. I don’t remember being angry when I decided this, but it could be that it was a push to anger that you mention as a move up on the spectrum from other emotions.
My questions are: Do you think sitting with an emotion without judgment works for everyone all the time? Do you think anger at an emotion (instead of accepting it as it is) could help a person move up the spectrum? My life has changed for the better (vastly!) because of my judgmental choice :), but I was wondering what your take on this is. Thanks, Melody!
Thank you Lisa, I really appreciate this question because it’s something I’ve talked about quite a bit. It’s also something that I’ve mentioned in my book, in the section on the depression group of emotions. I’m so glad that I get a chance to actually take this further and I get to explain it at a deeper level than I did in the book. This question is awesome because I couldn’t make the entire book about depression. I could only put a section in there and a few paragraphs, so this is going to allow me to take it further.
Sit with the emotion you are feeling
I’m one of those teachers who will tell you that sitting with an emotion is a good way to start. The emotion is going to give you information if you listen to the messenger; however I’m never going to be that teacher who says “Well if it’s not working for you, then you must be doing it wrong!”
If you are sitting with the emotion, it won’t (usually) magically go away. It can happen that way, but generally not with depression. What happens with depression is that it creates a shift within you; it creates some kind of momentum, which is exactly what you experienced.
Moving out of depression into anger
All the people who said you were doing it wrong – they were wrong! You weren’t doing it wrong. But I am going to give you some tips on how you might have been able to speed the process up a little bit. First, I want to tell you that nothing has really gone wrong here. What happened is exactly what should have happened. You got sick and tired of being depressed! Although you becoming sick and tired of being depressed maybe took a little bit longer than you wanted it to take.
The shift that happens when you move out of depression and towards anger (you go into the shame group after depression and then into the anger group, and then into frustration and up) – you might be aware of the shift, or not, it doesn’t really matter, it happens as it happens. What actually happens is the equivalent to this: You are lying on the ground in the fetal position and you’re getting the crap beaten out of you. Depression is when you don’t feel you deserve to be treated any better, where you don’t feel any kind of hope, or you don’t have any kind of belief that it could get any better, or that it’s even worth trying. You feel completely powerless. What happens when you start to shift out of that is you often start to experience the anger, whether or not you experience it as rage or something much softer.
What you are talking about here was an anger response where you stood up and said “NO MORE, I am not doing this anymore!” That’s a beautiful response and that response is what pulled you out of your depression. (Just as you realized it did). Now, it doesn’t normally pull you out of depression in 30 minutes, there is a process that happens. It’s something that you then choose to continue with because you don’t have a choice anymore. You are done with the depression; you can’t take it anymore because it’s become too painful.
It doesn’t mean that it’s the easiest choice to make – it absolutely is not. I don’t want to diminish that in any way, shape or form, but what I’m trying to tell you is that you followed the process that I actually outline in my book. This is what stepping out of depression looks like in real life.
Don’t judge yourself or the situation
In terms of your question about judgement, here’s the thing: (This is how I teach it, and I don’t know what you were told by other people and I don’t want to disparage anything that they said). When I talk about not having any judgment, it’s without judgement of “self”, and without judgement of the “situation” in a way that might cause you to then go into self blame. For example, you think you are horrible because you are depressed or you think something is wrong with you because you are depressed. That’s the kind of judgement that you need to stay away from. It does not mean that you don’t get to be sick and tired of being where you are – this is actually really helpful.
For many people that’s usually what happens, even if they don’t go into depression. For example, they are in a job they hate and they finally have that cattle-prod moment where they feel they are being hit with the cattle-prod and they can’t help but turn around and run the other way. They have that moment where it’s just enough, god damn it! It’s just enough, and they can’t take it anymore! That’s kind of the same moment that you had.
The judgement that I’m talking about with you (the judgment that’s ok to have) is that you got sick and tired of your situation. You decided you did not want to feel that way anymore and you went ahead and made a change. The momentum in order for you to make that change was there for you. That is often how we are motivated in the lower part of the spectrum. There’s nothing wrong with that; it totally works.
What I do is pull people to the upper part of the spectrum, where their growth does not have to come in like that anymore. If you read my book, you will notice there’s a big difference in how we are motivated in the lower part of the spectrum than in the upper part of the spectrum. I’d never say that this is bad; it’s just how it is there. You moving out of depression happened perfectly, and I want to explain this to you – By allowing the depression, it eventually led to you shifting out of it.
It doesn’t look the way people think it’s going to look. It goes into the depths, and into the darkness, you get really sick of it (in many cases), or you get a glimpse of why you are depressed and then you can shift it.
Everybody’s on their own unique journey
Here’s the thing: That journey is different for everybody and it looks different for everybody. For example, someone may have been pulled towards a certain practitioner who they worked with, or they took some anti-depressants for a while. This helped them to come out of it, and eventually they progressed out of that too and stopped taking them. They could have had a life changing experience of some kind. Everybody’s journey is their own journey.
What starts to move that energy is sitting with the emotion and allowing yourself to feel it and then going with whatever comes out of that. For you it was a push to move out of the depression, but I think you will agree, there was a point in your depression when you could not have done that (gotten sick of it to the point where you were able to do something about it). But, you somehow got to a point where you were able to do it.
I don’t want this to sound like the cure for depression is to just tell a whole bunch of depressed people to just get off their asses and make a different choice. Everybody is in their own place and everybody is on their own path.
Sit with the emotion, without judgement of self and without judgement of the situation. Thinking that this shouldn’t be happening, or god forbid thinking you are a bad person because this is happening – that’s a judgement that you want to stay away from.
“Judgment” in terms of the situation where you don’t want this to be happening and you don’t want to put up with it anymore, I don’t consider that judgement. That’s more of a boundary and boundaries are healthy. Putting your foot down or standing up for yourself is absolutely healthy, absolutely ok.
I hope that I’ve answered your question and explained this subject a little bit better. It is a touchy thing; it’s so unique to everybody, which is why I teach the process rather than individual techniques. I do answer these questions in the hope that I can clarify this kind of process a little bit more so that people who are out there suffering do not feel they are doing it wrong.
That, by the way, is not a helpful thing to say to anybody, especially to somebody who has depression. Thinking they are doing it “wrong” – there’s going to be a tendency for them to move into self blame and that’s not some place that you want them to be. Please don’t do that if you are a practitioner!
So again, thank you awesome Lisa for asking your question, I hope I’ve answered it and do pick up my book if you want some of these answers all in one tidy little place and you want this process explained in succession.
If you have anything to say on this subject – maybe you’ve come out of depression yourself, perhaps you’ve helped to bring somebody out of depression, or you are struggling with it right now, please leave a comment below and share your experience. Leave me reaction of some kind,so that I know you are out there and we make this a two-way conversation.
This has been this week’s Q&A, until next week, bye!