Deciding with Depression

Dear Edahn,

I'm having a midlife crisis though I'm not quite midway through life. How much weight should I give to the thoughts that run through my mind when I'm frustrated, sad, angry, etc. versus the thoughts that go through my mind when things are good? Should I even begin to compare the two? Which are better indicators on whether or not I'm in the right place in my life? Should I even entertain the thoughts of drastic change when I'm depressed?

When you're thinking too much, your mind is too cluttered to see what you really need to do. You're too busy juggling 10,000 variables in your head, entertaining endless possibilities, and setting up counter-arguments to any conclusion you flirt with. It's very confusing and it seems to be the state of mind you're describing.

In contrast, clarity and understanding are born out of listening to yourself with kindness and dignity. When you get that intuitive understanding, you'll know it because it will feel honest, liberating, and different from your routine planning-related thoughts. It'll be free of the hesitation and fear that colors your thinking and you'll feel a sense of determination. Psychologists and New-Age weirdos call it intuition.

Intuition is hard to miss once you've sampled it, but people sometimes try to convince themselves that they're having it when they're not. In a way it's like crying or an orgasm or meditation, in that trying too hard to do it will cause you to overthink and prevent it. The good news is that intuitive insight grows out of a state of mind you can cultivate just like a muscle. That state of mind, which I described above, can be thought of as patience.

So how to you cultivate patience? By calming yourself down and focusing on whatever it is you're doing. Try and talk with a calm but full voice throughout your day, even when you feel yourself getting agitated. Make an effort to stay patient at work, and try and practice when you get food, drive home, watch TV, or slice an apple. Even if you're thinking, you can think in an atmosphere of patience. You can supplement this all with some soothing music.

It might take a little experimentation to discover how to be attentive without trying too hard or just acting, but if you keep trying, you'll figure it out. If you're a thinking-addict like the rest of us, then putting your thinking on hold is going to take some trust and some guts. If you try it, I think you'll see that it actually enhances your thinking over time. I think you'll also start to see what you need to do in order to address your depression and career confusion.