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The context for these videos

This is the seventh in a short series of videos in which I am picking stories from my own life to share with you – and using them to illustrate how I have achieved a life in which I feel I have become enormously rich terms of emotional wealth & well-being. In each video I use one of the Anxiety Freedom cards to illustrate my message. And the reason I’m doing this is to show you how you too can live a life free from anxiety and stress.

Please let me know what you think by commenting below!

   The previous video in this series: Divorce: the aftermath, picking up the pieces

   The next video in this series: Why is sleep so important for our mental health?

Hi. In this short video, I’d like to share with you my firsthand experience of the effect of strong emotions on the human brain. You may have seen in the previous couple of videos, I talked about what I learnt from the failure of my first marriage, and I’m picking events from my life, from my past, to illustrate things that I’ve learnt from these various experiences and why they’ve shaped me, and now in my 60s, I’ve reached a point where I feel very abundant in terms of emotional health and well-being. And I’m sharing these stories, really, so that you too can live a life free from stress and anxiety.

And I’m picking cards from the Anxiety Freedom Cards to illustrate my message in each of these videos. And the cards that I’m going to be using today, I’m going to use two of them. The first is emotions, and this is about the effect of strong emotions. Now, there are many things that we can say about emotions, that they are what motivate us, there are many positives to it. I’m not saying emotions are bad. But in this video, I’m talking about how when you have very strong emotions, they affect our ability to think clearly, and we go into this typically black-and-white mode of thinking where everything becomes polarised.

So that when we’re angry, everything’s right or it’s wrong. There’s no shades of gray. When we’re frustrated, we want to mend it or destroy it. When we’re in love, we want to be with them every minute of the day, or we hate their guts. When we’re frightened, we just have to run away. It’s extreme thinking. And this is shown in this card by the way that, as emotion goes up, we go into this polarized black-and-white mode, and when emotions are calm, we get the shades of gray, we get the ability to think more clearly.

A rather cruel way of putting this is that strong emotions make human beings functionally stupid. But that upsets some people, so I don’t always put it that way. But back to my story.

So how do we fit this into context? Well, 20 years ago, I got divorced. It wasn’t expected.I felt that I’d failed in many ways at that point in my life. And then, my mother died unexpectedly from complications from surgery. And at that time, I tried to help a young man who was sleeping rough nearby. I was living on a narrowboat with no engine and no running water, a very primitive lifestyle but I actually loved it. I was living like that because I wanted to be near my kids, and they came to stay with me every weekend. But this heroin user eventually burgled me, which was kinda predictable, but I didn’t see it coming. And the police said don’t move anything till they come, and then they took ‘em 24 hours to arrive, and I couldn’t even make myself a cup of tea because they’d burgled the kettle. That was the last straw for me. And at that point, I was really struggling. I was anxious about work, I was anxious about life, I was anxious about who I was, and I couldn’t think. And I fell into what became quite a deep depression.

Luckily it didn’t last for too long. I came out of it on my own after a month or two, but at the time, it was very frightening. And I can remember the worst day. I sat on the sofa in my narrowboat for the whole day trying to figure out whether to get up and make myself a cup of tea or not. And I was aware that I couldn’t make a decision, I couldn’t prioritize, I couldn’t think. This didn’t work anymore. I couldn’t work. And I was really puzzled as to what had happened to me because, as I said, I’d always lived on my wits, and suddenly I didn’t function anymore. I wanted to know why couldn’t I think, and why after a reasonably good night’s sleep of six or seven hours, would I wake up feeling utterly exhausted?

Well, later in life, I learnt some explanations for what I’d been through. And although I didn’t know it at the time, looking back, it all made perfect sense. And one of the first messages was that strong emotions impede clear thinking. They cause polarized black-and-white thinking. And you might also know that depression, to an outsider, looks like this. You know, looks like there’s nothing going on. Looks like I’m depressed, shut down. But inside, there’s a whirlwind of anxiety and confusion and repetitive thoughts, and like, “What’s happening to me? “Why can’t I get out of this?” All that kind of stuff’s going on internally. And I think that anxiety and depression are actually, you know, they’re very close feelings, and my work as a therapist has verified that.

So the other thing that I learnt later was that this cycle that you can fall into that we call depression is now well understood. We understand why people wake up in the morning exhausted. We understand what causes depression. We understand why people fall into it and get trapped in it. And best of all, we now understand quite clearly how to help people overcome it. And when I learnt this, I decided to change my career, drop all of my past activities, retrain so that I could spread this message and help other people. Because when I was there, it was the worst experience I’ve ever been through, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer like that. And plenty of people out there are suffering. So my mission now is to bring this understanding, this way of looking at things, this perspective, to other people who are struggling so that I can help them, too.

Now, if this makes sense to you, if you find it helpful, please could I ask you to interact with it in some way? Please share it, like it, or comment on it. And my work involves talking to a lot of people who are struggling, and I know that I’ve helped people in the past by talking about these things. And I’d like to reach more people. So if you can like, share, comment, I can reach more people, and I can then help more people.

So just to summarize, I talked about emotions, we talked a little bit about the role of emotions and the effect of strong emotions, the way that they can cause black-and-white thinking, and I linked it to this story of when I became depressed 20 years ago. And in a way, I’m grateful for that experience because I wouldn’t be doing the work now that I really love if I hadn’t been through it.

Anyway, thank you very much for watching. And whatever else you’re doing, don’t forget to keep breathing.

Alec

   The previous video in this series: Divorce: the aftermath, picking up the pieces

   The next video in this series: Why is sleep so important for our mental health?