Postnatal depression can be scary, confusing and painful. Feeling like you are incompetent, a failure, feeling like a bad parent or that someone else could do a better job, and being highly critical of yourself can be common with a PND sufferer.
Feeling this way can progress to feeling resentment towards your child/ren (‘I’ve made a mistake becoming a parent’), irrational thoughts of you or your child dying, actually imagining you or someone else hurting your child and sometimes even wanting something to happen to them at some level, are all common too.
Often feeling immensely guilty for having these thoughts and wondering why you are having these thoughts when you don’t really mean them, can lead to further confusion. Along with the guilt, comes more self-criticism and possibly even self-hatred.
Questions like, “Why me?” “Why am I thinking like this?” “What is wrong with me?” are constantly rolling around in your mind as you desperately seek the answers that will stop this pain you feel and the affects you see it having on your family and children.
The first thing I want you to know is that I have felt your pain. I have sat where you are right now and I am proof that you can change too. One thing I will promise you is that I am going to give you the answers to all of those questions. By the end of this program, you will feel relieved that you have found the answers to stopping your postnatal depression!! This is my personal promise to you.
The intention of this first week’s lesson is to really give you a thorough understanding of your PND. The reason why I say ‘your’ PND, is because everybody experiences this illness in different ways. Even why you have PND is different for every individual. The Postnatal Depression Recovery Program (known herein as PNDRP) is going to help you to finally understand what has caused your PND, but more importantly give you the tools to stop it.
Please know that this program is not just for mums with PND, it’s for dad’s too. In today’s society it is becoming more and more evident that men too can suffer from PND, so this program has been designed with both mums and dads in mind.
One of the primary things that I’d like you to understand in today’s lesson, is that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you. There is often a stigma associated with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety that implies that you are somewhat broken; that there is something wrong with your brain because it’s not working properly. While sometimes this is the case when talking about very severe cases of mental illnesses, in many cases this is not the case at all.
The Parental Stress Centre does not dispute or disregard the chemical imbalance in the brain that is present in PND, however, have you ever wondered why all of a sudden your brain has stopped functioning properly when it has always been okay in the past? Or for those of you who have had depression as part of your life on and off for years, have you ever wondered why your brain has this chemical imbalance sometimes, but not others?
Have you ever wondered, if the brain is not functioning correctly and is producing chemicals that are out of balance, why people all of a sudden get better? Why does the brain (usually in most cases of PND) eventually start balancing the chemicals again, with or without medication?
Have you ever wondered, if the problem is a physical malfunction in the brain, why therapists and counsellors can often be of help?
Well before I answer that last question for you, let’s consider a little scenario:
What would your reaction be if you saw a spider crawl down the wall right beside where you were sitting? Would you freak out, scream, run a mile, refuse to go back into that room until it was dead? Would you feel very scared with loads of adrenaline running through your body? Or would you calmly get up, grab a glass jar, catch him and take him back outside with very little adrenalin created at all?
What do you think causes one person to respond to the spider in one way and another person to respond in the exact opposite way? It’s the same event, yet we have two different reactions, with two different chemical reactions in the body (being the levels of adrenaline produced).
The reason is because when you saw the spider, there was a story that was activated in your brain about spiders. This story contained the beliefs you hold in your mind about spiders. “Spiders are scary”. “Spiders can hurt you.” Your brain can even unconsciously activate a memory of that time when you were a kid when you went camping and a spider crawled over your face, or perhaps as a child you saw a movie about spiders and you learnt to be terrified by them.
In this scenario, it is easy to see that it is not the spider that causes you to feel fear, it is the story you tell yourself about the spider that caused your fear. This is why another person may be quite calm about spiders – because he/she holds different beliefs about spiders.
What we can determine from this example is that it is not events that cause us to feel any sort of stress it is how we perceive those events in our minds which comes from what we believe.
Furthermore, in the spider situation there was a very physical bodily response to that feeling of fear and that was the adrenaline that coursed through your body. Again it was not the spider that caused the adrenaline reaction, it was your beliefs about spiders that caused the adrenaline to be present.
Consider for a moment applying this same rationale to postnatal depression. What if there is nothing ‘wrong’ with your brain? What if your brain is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing – which is responding in accordance with the beliefs you hold about life? What if it is your beliefs that are causing you to have the chemical imbalance in the brain, which is known as postnatal depression?
All of a sudden you are looking at things from an entirely different perspective. You start to realise you are not broken. Your brain is not malfunctioning. It is doing exactly what it has been designed to do – responding chemically and emotionally to your perception of life’s events.
The problem is not the chemical imbalance. The problem is the beliefs that were formed before the chemical imbalance. This also answers the question posed earlier about why therapists are often helpful. They are helping you with your belief systems and teaching you how to look at life in a different way.
Find and change the limiting beliefs and you will stop the depression!!
This is exactly what this program is going to teach YOU to do. I emphasise the word YOU because one of the things that the Parental Stress Centre is committed to doing, is teaching you how to help yourself. Many of you have spent many hours already in your therapists office, or have poured through book after book, perhaps feeling momentarily great about what you’ve learned, yet finding that nothing changes, or nothing long lasts.
This program is going to help you to learn a specific process for you to follow that will work for any situation that causes you stress.
However, unlike many traditional helping fields, I am going to teach you a method for changing your beliefs that does not require you to continually ‘roll in the mud’. By rolling in the mud, I simply mean rehashing the stories of your past over and over again and continually talking about how you feel all the time.
Sure there will be times where you are required to look at your past for understanding, but you will find that you are looking at these events from a completely different perspective.
Once you understand the method taught in this program and begin using it you will quickly see that it is not necessary to spend a lot of time on what is causing your stress. That story has rolled around in your head for long enough. This program focuses more on how to change that story so that a new, more reality-based story becomes your new habitual thinking.
Before I continue I’d like to draw your attention to the awareness that what you are reading is addressing a readership at different levels and stages of PND. Some of you are very new to the PND experience and this may be your first encounter with any sort of help and for others, you’ve come to this program after trying many different strategies, including seeing many different psychologists or counsellors for PND. Also between the two sexes of male and female, the core thinking can be slightly different too.
I understand that some of you are already aware that your beliefs are causing your PND and may be feeling a little frustrated and worried that I may be going to teach you the same information that you already know. I urge you to continue reading, as I know that you will be getting additional new learning from this program that has proven to help even the most long term depression sufferer.
If I have repeated what you already know so far, please bare with me because I have to start with the fundamentals so everyone can understand what’s happening in their brain and the real cause of Postnatal depression.
So let’s begin by answering those ‘why me’, ‘how did I end up with PND’ questions because this week is all about understanding your PND. It is my intention that by the end of this week you are completely clear on exactly what has caused you to feel the way you do and why it makes complete sense that you have PND.
The first part of understanding begins where you began – your childhood.
From the time you were born you were exposed to your environment which consisted of your parents, siblings, family, friends, media, education, religion and culture. You observed and experienced this environment and started to form what is your belief system – that is, the way you look at life.
You watched how your parents interpreted life and their reactions, you observed how they handled life’s challenges and you learnt to adopt their way of thinking. Sometimes you can be born to be genetically wired to think like your parents, however this thinking is confirmed as you experience life as a child.
In some cases you may have even learnt to resist your parent’s way of thinking and be determined to go the other way. The way your parents interacted with you and your siblings taught you how to behave, taught you what was ‘right’ and what was ‘wrong’ and taught you how to value yourself, or rate your self-worth.
This way of thinking is often referred to as a meme. Here is a definition from www.urbandictionary.com:
1 : an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)
2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable
As I mentioned these memes can be either be passed down to you genetically or handed down to you through your experiences as a child. This explains why depression seems to be hereditary in families. The family is thinking with the same mindset and passing that mindset down through generations.
As you experienced more of life as a child, what you observed began to reinforce these new beliefs (memes) and your view of life became strengthened until it became habitual to think like this. Whenever you were faced with a situation, your learnt, habitual thinking was triggered and is likely to be the same pattern of thinking that has followed you into adulthood and is the number one factor contributing to your depression or anxiety.
Sometimes these memes can lay dormant inside your mind and not cause any problems until certain events or a series of events trigger these beliefs and bring them to the surface. This can occur with major life changes that occur in one’s life, like for example, parenthood.
For example, perhaps your mother had a view that women are meant to hold the family together. She cooks, cleans, runs a tight ship, her children are the centre of her world, she barely let dad lift a finger and from your perception as a child, she seemed to have everything under control at all times. You formed the belief that this is the way a mother is supposed to behave, because that was your experience.
Fast forward to now where perhaps you are not doing some of those things and you are likely to be feeling like you are not being a very good mother. Perhaps though, you don’t see that there are different circumstances now that weren’t in your mother’s life, or perhaps what you perceived as a child isn’t actually the reality of what happened. Perhaps your mum didn’t have it all under control, but that was your perception of it. Regardless of the reality though, all you see is you failing at something that ‘should’ be effortless because that is what you have learnt to believe.
Or for Dads, perhaps your experience of a father was someone with a very strong work ethic – you must support the family and take responsibility for bringing in plenty of money to provide for their needs – being the primary message. However, perhaps you are conflicted between this and the fact that you don’t like your job but can’t see any other option, that you don’t want to work so many hours because you want to hang out with your kids, or perhaps you are experiencing a situation where you can’t be that provider.
Another situation that causes dads stress is their own temperament. Perhaps you experienced a father who was aggressive, impatient or disengaged and you swore you would never do that to your kids, having experienced how that felt. However as the days push on you find yourself getting more and more irritated when interacting with the children and find yourself resorting to anger, leaving you feeling like a failing parent too.
Not being able to live up to this expectation you have perceived as being ‘the right way’ to be a dad, can be contributing to your depression
It is likely you have carried specific beliefs about parenthood around all your life, however they haven’t caused you any problems up until now – that is up until you became a parent yourself. Your beliefs about how a parent ‘should’ be puts you under pressure to meet this expectation and leaves you feeling stressed when you don’t feel like you ‘fit that mold’.
In combination with your beliefs about parenthood and how it ‘should’ look, we have also been taught unrealistic beliefs that we need to get life right and be happy all of the time. You only have to go to the movies to catch a glimpse of this ‘happily ever after’ concept to see where this conditioning came from. You only have to turn on your TV to see all of the advertisements for products that will help you to be happier and supposedly get your life to run ‘better’. You only have to read magazines or newspapers that emphasise and exploit people who got life wrong and to tell you how you ‘should’ be living your life. All of these influences are also contributing to the memes you hold about life.
By being alive in this world at this time, you have learnt from a very young age that you must get life right in order for you to be successful, valuable, accepted, approved of and above all, worthy. This concept lies at the core of all stress, depression or anxiety.
Now I’m sure you will logically agree that this ‘get life your life right 100% of the time’ idea is not realistic. I mean after all tell me anyone whose life has gone to plan every single time. Yet we still expect things to turn out that way and if it doesn’t then we believe there something is wrong with us or our lives.
If you take this concept into parenthood and think about what you expected when you first envisaged being a mother/father and you will most likely find that you expected to bring your baby home and play happy families. I’m sure you probably expected some challenges, but certainly not in the way you are now experiencing them.
All of a sudden (and don’t mind the fact that you cannot control this child’s behaviour, both you and your partner are going through a HUGE life change and things are never going to be the same as they used to be) you expect that you are going to know exactly what to do ‘instinctively’ and know exactly how to handle every situation parenthood throws at you.
However, once you get home with your new bundle of joy, you find that life is nothing like you’d planned. Your perfect, Hollywood-style, Huggies-ad picture from your mind has been smashed into pieces among the piles of dirty laundry, the messy house, very little or no sleep, conflict with your partner, breastfeeding problems, feeling like you’re not bonding with your child straight away, feeling bored, isolated or lonely. You feel like a slave, your body feels saggy, you dress like a dag, you barely get a chance to wash or even brush your hair and suddenly you seem so far away from your desired picture, you start to feel like something is very wrong.
For dads who are the primary earner, having to deal with working life and a new family, not being able to be selfish and just relax after work, having to deal with the cranky stay-at-home other half and the tired kids after a full on day with the boss breathing down your neck, the pressures of earning enough money to survive, losing the connection with your partner because all you seem to be now is ‘the help that walks through the door’ and a practically non existent sex or social life, seems to take its toll on you.
You start to blame yourself, feeling like you are a failure and like you are not being a good enough parent. You start to compare yourself to others and think that they are happier and more organised than you. You may even start to feel regret for having children, blaming your child for you feeling this way. You sink further and further into depression feeling like a failure and maybe even feel like the family is better off without you.
All of these feelings have come about as a result of holding a simple unrealistic belief and expectation that ‘I was going to be a great parent’ and ‘this’ (my picture) was how it was going to look because that is how I have been taught it ‘should’ look.
But this whole view of parenthood was set up when you had absolutely no experiential idea of what it was even going to be like.
Another scenario that is a common link to depression is where having a child wasn’t even in your plan, or at least not now. All of a sudden the picture you held (the expectation) of how your ideal life was supposed to go, is no longer your reality and now you feel like your life has become worth-less (and sometimes it’s normal to feel this way even though you still adore your child).
Look closely at either scenarios and you can see that it is NOT the events that are causing you to feel like your life has failed. Just like the example with the spider, it is the beliefs you have about these events that are causing your stress, depression or anxiety. You had beliefs about how your life should look and you had beliefs about your capabilities. And to top it off you have habitual thinking set up from childhood of how to judge life when it doesn’t go to plan.
Your internal judgments about how bad (or good) you feel about yourself, how to handle life’s ups and downs and what you deem it to mean about you when life doesn’t happen your way have all been largely taught to you through the experiences and observations from your childhood environment. They have caused you to think the way you do now in adulthood and they are the cause of your depression.
Your brain accesses these memes every time you experience a situation and these memes dictate how you see your life and judges how you see yourself.
During the next six days I am going to show you insight into exactly why you have PND in the first place.
Although I promised you when you signed up that you will not be rolling in your muddy past in order to change your future, I believe it is necessary to spend the first week understanding your PND which may require a little digging into your past. However, as I also promised, you will be doing this from a completely different perspective than you may have done before.
This will be an incredibly empowering week for you as you are going to discover that you are not broken. You are about to discover that it makes absolute sense how you came to have PND. I will answer the ‘why me’ questions you have and the ‘how the hell did I end up here’ questions. This will help you to, not only detach from your PND, but also feel inspired and motivated to make those changes required to start moving you away from feeling the way that you do.
I am so excited to present this program to you and teach you how to stop doing postnatal depression for good because I know how you feel, and I also know how it feels to recover from postnatal depression.
Remember, throughout this whole program, please log onto our private member’s forum with any questions you may have. I realise there is a whole range in severity of PND, so it is very difficult to cover every issue that may come up for you personally.
I want to be able to answer your questions, so please ask your question on the forum so others can see the answers too, or if you require privacy or have a sensitive question, please email me at email@example.com
Click here for the audio version of the lesson
NB – Some of this lesson is taught by video below. However the audio component of this video has been included in this lesson’s audio.
If you’re anything like I was, you’ve been highly critical of yourself for feeling the way you do and for not being able to change the way you are. There is a painful cycle that can occur where you may repeatedly attempt to change, possibly experiencing small successes for a short time, then continue to go back to your old habits again. This cycle often causes us to feel even worse about ourselves.
Understanding this firsthand, I wanted to explain some very basics of the brain that helped me to really understand that there is a very physical reason to why we think the way we do and furthermore, show you that there is a way to change how we think.
When we are born, we have very few neural connections in the brain. These neural connections are what enable us to do anything; like move, breathe, eat, think, walk, talk etc.
As a baby, you only have enough connections formed in the brain to enable you to eat, sleep, breathe and move in the limited way that you do as a baby.
Everything else is learnt over time through repetitive exposure to your environment.
Think about how you learnt to walk. You got up, fell down, got up, fell down, until eventually you taught yourself how to walk without falling over. It became habit.
This also occurs with learning how to eat with a spoon, talk, climb, run and any other skill or ability you now have.
What about how you respond to events? What about the emotions you feel, the opinions that you have, the choices that you make, the preferences you have and the expectations you have about yourself and life? Where do you think they come from?
That’s right. They too have mostly been formed from your environment as a child. Through repetitive exposure to the world around you as a child, you learnt what to think about your world and how to interpret these events. You literally grew neural connections in the brain that are what we call beliefs.
The environment you grew up in consists of your parents or primary care givers, siblings, other family, media, friends, exposure to religion, cultural trends and education.
As you grow, primarily from zero to seven, you start to observe all these influences that you are continually exposed to and you form beliefs about how life ‘should’ go.
When you understand that there is a physical process that occurs when you think and that the beliefs you hold are like hard wiring in the brain, it starts to make a lot of sense why you think the way you do.
Consider your own children and how innocent and naive they are, experiencing and interpreting the events in their life. They have no idea about how life should be and they are learning these things right now from their environment. They are growing new neural connections in their brain as we speak, which is going to determine how they view the world as they grow older.
You were once a child too, and from your experiences and observations you formed your belief systems from what you were taught and from mimicking what you observed from your surroundings. This is now influencing how you view the events in your life.
This is why one parent may experience challenges with no stress, yet another parent experiences those same challenges with stress. They both have different beliefs about what that event means to them, and therefore process that event differently.
This is the physical process of how we came to think the way we do and the reason why I teach you this, is so that you can understand that your brain is doing exactly what it is meant to be doing. That is, operating in accordance with the beliefs you hold about life. They have been physically hard wired in the brain.
I know that when I learnt about this scientific understanding of the brain, I felt such relief because I realised that how I perceived my life at the time I was depressed, couldn’t have been any other way. My brain could only operate with the information that it had learnt from.
I thought that way because I had incorrect beliefs about my self-worth and the way life ‘should’ go. I had incorrect beliefs that expected that I could always get life to go the way that I wanted it to. Those beliefs were physical parts of my brain, just like my arms, legs, fingers and toes.
It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t broken, I was completely normal. I just had connections in the brain, formed from childhood that I hadn’t become aware of. This was what was causing me to feel the way I did.
I think at this point, in order to reinforce what I’m saying it would be helpful for you to see a visual explanation of the connection between how you think and how you feel because this information is so powerful for helping you understand why you feel the way you do and for giving you hope that you can stop your depression once and for all
Now that we know how the brain works, we can now repeat the same process of growing connections in the brain (new beliefs) by instead feeding it new, more correct information about life and self-worth and over time, pruning the old way of thinking.
Scientists have discovered that we all have the incredible ability to rewire our brains to think in a completely different way. As you feed your brain new information (which is the aim of this program and the Mind TRACK to Happiness process) and you do this repetitively and consistently, what happens is, you start to grow and strengthen new connections until they become the new habit of thinking.
What happened to the old way of thinking? It literally dies off (pruning) and disappears. You weaken these neural pathways by not using that train of thought anymore and replacing it with new thinking.
Here is another video that reinforces this point beautifully:
If you can’t see this video, please click here where you will be taken to Youtube
By giving you the tools to create a new way of thinking and applying this new way of thinking to many different areas of your life, it is my aim to help you strengthen new connections in the brain until they become effortless too. That is, your new thinking will become the superhighway of thinking and the old way becomes the goat track.
It’s so empowering to understand the very physical function of the brain when trying to understand your postnatal depression. You no longer feel powerless to this illness, believing that there is nothing you can do.
Now there is something you can do and we are going to do it as you continue through this program.
In tomorrow’s lesson, I’m going to show you how all of your stressful thoughts can be categorised into just four specific views of life that cause you to feel stressed.
Click here for the audio version of the lesson
NB – Most of this lesson is taught video below. However the audio component of this video has been included in this lesson’s audio.
Today’s lesson teaches you how you can categorise all of your stress-producing thoughts into four specific views of life.
The four lenses that I will show you have been adapted from a method called The Fountainhead Method, taught by the Anti-depression association of Australia whom I trained with and became one of their senior life coaches. As well as experiencing depression and anxiety firsthand, I have also worked with many people who have suffered from severe stress-related illnesses too.
Here is a visual of the four lenses that underlie the real cause of stress.
Whenever you are feeling stress, all four lenses will always be there, however one will be more dominant than the other. As you go about your day to day see if you can become aware of just how often you view life through these four lenses and which one of them is your most dominant.
In tomorrow’s video, I’m going to talk a little bit more about stress, depression and anxiety and the relationship between these three illnesses. You may find that you often swing between having anxiety and depression. I’m going to show you why this happens.
Often you might find that sometimes you are feeling low, depressed, sad and hopeless about your life and being a parent, but other times you find yourself anxious and on edge about what is going on. In the following video I show you exactly why this happens and how your beliefs about life are contributing to this yo-yo effect as well.
As you have seen through today’s and yesterday’s readings and videos there is specific thinking that underlies all stress, depression and anxiety. Even though what’s in your picture box may be slightly different from another person’s, the common denominator is the incorrect thinking that only when I can get my life to go right (in terms of what I believe is important), can I be valuable.
Whenever life doesn’t go to plan, you wind up feeling bad about yourself and feeling like a failure, or there is a lot of blame towards another person.
If you have already started noticing the thoughts going on in your head, you would already be able to identify some of the Right vs wrong thinking, Missing Out, Could/Should and worth-less words that you use in your every day language.
I hope this video helps you to see even more clearly that it is incorrect beliefs you have gained about life going right, that underlies the cause of your stress. The specific thinking you have just had explained to you is what is found in all cases of stress, depression and anxiety.
What we need to help you do now, is to change this thinking to be in alignment with reality and the real truth about self-worth. This is the exact reason why I don’t spend a lot of time on rolling around in your past. The important part of this program is teaching you how to change these incorrect beliefs.
Starting from next week, this is what we will start to spend more time on – solutions for how to change your thinking.
However, for the rest of this week, there is even more to explain that will give you even more clarity and evidence to support why PND has become part of your life.
I once worked with a client who was trying to understand the depression she had had as a teenager. For the purposes of privacy, I will call her Michelle.
We were doing some exploring into Michelle’s childhood and in her questionnaire (which you will do at the end of the week), she was asked if there was a major event that had occurred in childhood that still affected her today.
She responded that although this particular event didn’t affect her anymore, she did remember a time when she was about 7/8 years old when she was getting out of the shower. She recalled yelling out and whingeing at her mother about something, but couldn’t remember exactly what it was about.
What she did recall, however, was her mother storming into the bathroom, scolding her and saying something to the effect of “No one is ever going to love you if you behave like that.”
This young girl quickly tried to reaffirm that this event doesn’t upset her now, it was just something that she remembered from childhood when asked this particular question.
However, I knew different. The brain links events and beliefs together very cleverly and there is always a valid reason why her brain accessed that particular memory when asked that particular question.
I could see in that moment that we had just uncovered one of her major beliefs that were responsible for her depression as a teenager. Just because she didn’t feel emotion about that event, doesn’t mean that the belief that came from the event wasn’t still active and being triggered in other areas of her life.
Michelle’s biggest issue at that time was that she never felt like she deserved to be loved. Whatever she did in life, she only felt she was worthy of being loved when someone approved of what she was doing.
Now the fact that the brain recalled that particular event and that particular comment from her mother, when we had the intention of finding the core belief of her depression, is no accident.
From Michelle’s childhood and that specific event, she learnt that she would only be loved when she was approved of, otherwise ‘no one will ever love you’.
With an adult’s mind you can see how irrational that may be, however as a child, we are naive to the truths about life and can very easily adopt incorrect beliefs about our self-worth that are taken with us through life. As you saw in the videos from this week’s lessons so far, as a child you have connections in the brain that are being strengthened and pruned all of the time.
In Michelle’s case, what could have happened was that when her mother made the statement that ‘no one would ever love her’, through Michelle’s naive child mind she accepted it as true and began to search for evidence of this belief being true in other areas of her life.
This statement becomes like glasses over her eyes where she only sees life through this viewpoint. As she starts to experience disapproval in other aspects of her environment, the belief that ‘no one will ever love you’ unless they approve of you, becomes a strengthened belief. Over time this belief becomes the unconscious habitual way of thinking. It becomes who ‘I AM’. She doesn’t even remember why she thinks this way. She only feels the pain of feeling like no one loves her if she’s not approved of.
She experiences that it is painful to be disapproved of and to feel like nobody loves you, so she begins to try and control the reactions of those around her (anxiety – control and prevent) by only doing things that they will approve of, thereby protecting her self-worth. Furthermore, when she was unable to get someone to approve of her (which is notorious through the teenage years among peers) she feels like she is a failure, which is where the depression kicked in.
So you can see from this example, just how easily we can form incorrect beliefs about life and self-worth. We literally lack the maturity to be able to determine what the truth about life is and can easily adopt beliefs that cause us pain.
I chose this story because it illustrates that you don’t have to come from a dysfunctional, violent, abusive or destructive home environment to have depression or to feel stressed.
I have worked with numerous people who have come from very loving homes, but have still adopted incorrect beliefs about life and self-worth.
One dad I worked with had a wonderful upbringing. He was raised in a very loving family, grew up on a farm and pretty much had a drama free life. However, the beliefs that he adopted were that this happy, loving, perfect life was the right path that life had to travel on. So when his marriage ended in divorce, he went into depression, feeling like a failure for not living up to the life he felt he ‘should’ have had.
He believed that life would only be 100% worthy (or valuable) when he was in a happy and loving environment, however as we will continue to learn, this is neither reality all the time, nor is it the only way to have a valuable life.
These two examples are the reason why depression is not specific to any particular demographic or particular groups in society. It doesn’t matter how you live your life today, it’s about what beliefs have been formed through childhood and how they are influencing your perception of life now. This is what causes depression.
There is just one more thing that I want to clear up, so you don’t go into anxiety over your own child’s belief systems and what you believe you may be doing to influence them:
“We cannot control how our children perceive the events in their life!”
Knowing how beliefs are formed, you may start to worry about things that you’ve said or done in the past around your kids. You may worry that you could already have caused them to hold depressive or anxiety prone beliefs.
Firstly, you may not know that to be true. We aren’t inside our child’s mind, so we cannot possibly guess how they have perceived the events they’ve experienced, nor can we predict the level of understanding they had during these times (due to maturity or brain development).
Secondly, remember if they have already adopted worth-less beliefs or a narrow-minded view of life, then this can be changed. The great thing about kids is that they learn really quickly and don’t have years of baggage to unload as they learn this new information.
The only thing you can do is keep listening to their choice of words during conversations and help them to learn a different way of viewing life.
This is why it becomes even more important for you to take the time to work on yourself. If you are working on understanding and changing your limiting thinking, then you will know firsthand how to help them to change their thinking.
This is why I’m so passionate about teaching parents to work their way out of PND. I know that I personally parent in a completely different way, having learnt all this information and I know that you will too.
From our two examples you can start to see how unconsciously we can view life through our immature belief systems. It is common that these past belief systems which were adopted with a naive, immature mind are no longer even relevant to life’s current circumstances. As a child we are not able to distinguish between what is true and logical because we don’t know any different. We form these beliefs when we were ignorant to the knowledge that we have today as an adult.
This is why logically we may see that some of the thoughts we have are irrational and it may be confusing to you as to why these irrational thoughts keep coming up all the time. But now you know. You think this way because it is a physical neural pathway; a physical habit that has grown in your brain. Your job now, as an adult, with a different level of understanding and knowledge about life is to retrain your brain to think differently.
As we move into the next two days of this week’s lesson – understanding your postnatal depression and anxiety, we will be starting to get more of an understanding of the unique beliefs you have that are causing your depression.
For some of you, you have been battling depression, stress or anxiety your whole life, but for others, this is your first experience of it.
Perhaps you may be thinking to yourself, “If what you are saying about beliefs causing depression is true and if I have been carrying these beliefs around with me since childhood, why all of a sudden are they causing me to have depression now when they haven’t before?” Or if you have suffered from depression periodically before now, you may be wondering why you keep doing this. “If it is beliefs causing my depression, then why don’t they cause me continual depression?” These are both very good questions.
As we explained in our videos you hold these beliefs on how life’s meant to be in order for you to be worthy. You believe that only when you can get your life right can you feel good about yourself, feel valuable or feel successful.
If you’ve periodically suffered from depression, it’s possible that the only reason you came out of it was because you managed to get life to go to plan again. Perhaps something happened or you put something in place that made you feel valuable again.
An example of this was a case I read where a mum was on a forum telling another person about her experience of PND. She stated that she used to feel like a bad mum because her son always wanted daddy and not her and every time she picked him up he would scream. She went on to explain that now she no longer suffered from PND now that her son gives her lots of cuddles and kisses and they get to play more together.
This example illustrates my point perfectly. I could hear in the way that this mum explained how she felt when her son wanted her husband over her, there were all sorts of self-worth, rejection, non-acceptance beliefs rising to the surface. This was ultimately what was causing her PND. However, as her son grew older he became more affectionate and loving to her so she then started to feel worthy again.
Her PND didn’t go away by addressing her beliefs it went away because her situation changed. If she has her self-worth pinned on getting affection from her son (or from others) what will happen when her son grows up and becomes a typical teenager who doesn’t want much to do with his ‘daggy’ parents or when someone else doesn’t show her the affection or love she pins her worth onto? She is likely to go straight back into depression again, because those same beliefs are being triggered that caused her to feel worth-less and do depression in the first place.
This is very commonly what happens with periodical depression sufferers. Situations keep arising that keep triggering those same worth-less beliefs set up in childhood. What needs to happen in order to get rid of the depression permanently is to change the self-worth beliefs by retraining the brain with new beliefs about worth (which we will do in this program). Otherwise she will only feel good about herself when life is going to plan (that is, she is receiving love and affection from the people she believes are supposed to give it to her).
If you have never had depression until now, the event of becoming a parent can trigger all the beliefs you have about parenting and the expectations you have, and because you aren’t (for whatever reason) able to get life to match those expectations, those childhood self-worth beliefs kick in and you start to see yourself as a failure.
This can be common with PND being your first experience of depression, because before becoming a parent, it was often easier to change things so they do go ‘right’ again, or find ways to distract yourself and find pleasure in other activities.
This is not always possible when you first become a parent, because you are dealing with another human being whose behaviour you can’t control. Also there is less time for distractions so it can be easier for these worth-less beliefs to speak louder in your mind. They become stronger as you repeat them to yourself.
Of course this then leads to you finding more evidence of these worth-less beliefs being true, because that’s the lens (the glasses) that you are looking through. Until finally these thoughts spiral into the conclusion that you are a failure and there you have your depression kicking in.
So here we are again at the end of our day’s reading. Please remember that this week is all about understanding your PND. After this week we are going to spend the rest of the program giving you answers and tools for changing your thinking. It’s possible that you are feeling a little impatient right now; desperately wanting the answers to stop how you are feeling, but I ask you to hang in there.
This week is a very important part of moving out of your PND. Understanding how it was set up helps you to realise that it couldn’t have been any other way and helps you to see how much sense it makes that you could fall into depression. Understanding helps lessen confusion over why you do PND and also helps you to detach from the intensity of the PND, because you start to see the possibilities that you can change.
Understanding that the way you think causes you stress also helps you become more objective about your thoughts rather than so consumed by them. Knowing the four lenses and the specific thinking underlying psychological stress, depression and anxiety, as you become aware of those thoughts in your internal conversations you make the shift to viewing them rather than being defined by them. That alone decreases the intensity of the emotions felt as a result of your stressful thinking.
After this week, we don’t spend any more time on how your PND was set up, because I believe you probably have already flogged this horse with counsellors or therapists, or are still doing so. This is fine, don’t stop therapy if you are, just know that other answers are on their way too.
I aim to spend more time on retraining your brain to think differently, because although, as I say, it is insightful to know how your beliefs have been set up, it is much more important to know how to replace those beliefs.
In tomorrow’s readings, we are going to explore how a child learns to survive and be loved and safe. We learn how you may have been taught to hold incorrect self-worth beliefs.
So far we have learnt a lot about how you have generally come to do postnatal depression. You may notice that I keep saying ‘do’ PND. This is because you don’t have PND, it’s something that you do. You can’t catch depression. It is something that you do because of how you think.
This thinking is what we are going to correct.
Today and tomorrow I’m going to help you to gain a little more insight into how your specific self-worth issues were set up.
From the moment we are born we are taught the whole pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain concept. Even as a baby when you smiled, you were met with smiles from others and this made you feel good.
As a toddler you were taught ‘right’ from ‘wrong.’ Getting things right means approval and acceptance. Get it wrong and this can be met with criticism, possibly anger or punishment of some sort. We start to form a perception of how worthy we are when we get things wrong and compare it to how worthy we feel when we get it right.
Very, very quickly we learn as children how to rate ourselves and create our self-image. We learn what it is we need to do to feel loved, accepted within our family and our friends, approved of and what expectations we must live up to in order to prove ourselves as worthy to the world and be safe in the world.
We learnt all of this through the experiences in our lives, primarily between the ages of zero and seven.
Following I have created some specific examples of how incorrect beliefs about our self-worth can be set up and how these beliefs can be triggered when you become a parent, resulting in your PND.
Repetitively hearing that you are a bad person for behaviour translates to a child that they are bad whenever they do something wrong. Rather than just the behaviour needing correcting, a child starts to believe there is something wrong with them as a whole.
How this can translate into parenthood
If I happen to make a mistake or do something wrongly, I habitually believe that I’m a bad person because of it – meaning I’m a bad parent because of this challenge (eg not getting the skill of breastfeeding).
Conversely, you learn as a child that doing things correctly makes you a good person, rather than just the behaviour being good. This inadvertently reinforces that only when I get life right can I be a good person.
Your parent’s comments like “Mummy loves you so much for cleaning up your room”. “You have made mummy so happy by doing [this behaviour]”. This translates as I am only loved and worthy when I’m doing good things.
I personally make a point to say to my children “good job”, “good work” or “well done” etc instead of good boy, so they know that the behaviour was acknowledged rather than his worth.
How this can translate into motherhood:
If you were continually being told of all the naughty, bad and wrong things that you were doing as a child with very little praise, you are taught only to see all your wrong doings in life. This makes it very difficult to acknowledge any progress or wins you have had because you have been trained to only look for your shortcomings.
How this can translate into parenthood:
Being called names like: stupid, idiot, pain in the bum, useless, hopeless, dumb, “not good enough”, clumsy, liar, fatty etc all translates into serious self-worth statements you make about yourself generally. You go through life believing that this is who you are, so your experiences match this belief because you only see evidence of this belief being true.
How this can translate into parenthood
Depending on the label, you will view your attempts to try something new through this lens that was repeated to you as a child. Even though you want to be a good, capable parent, your habitual beliefs will want kick in to remind you of why you are not. This is only because you have neural connections that have grown in your brain (the superhighway of thinking) that states that you are useless, hopeless etc. You have been trained to see yourself that way, so that is exactly what you see. This is not the truth, however, and you will come to learn otherwise.
Perhaps you had a parent or parents who would always do everything for you and didn’t let you try things for yourself. “You’re too little”. “You’ll just mess it up.” “Mummy will do it quicker.” “You don’t know how”. “When you’re older…”. This can translate to a child that they are incapable of learning something new or that they are incapable full stop. It tells them that it’s hard to do something that they’ve never done before and that someone else could probably do it better.
How this can translate into parenthood
Your parents may have had a low self-image that they have passed onto you. Perhaps you saw and heard them continually beat themselves up over making mistakes. Maybe you heard them say limiting things like “I can’t do that”, “I’m hopeless”, “I’ve never been good at anything. You’re just like me”. “Nothing good ever happens to me.”
Any observations you made of your parents viewing themselves as being worth-less contributes to how you learn to view yourself.
How this can translate into parenthood
Not feeling affection and touch from your parents can cause you to question your lovability or cause you to struggle showing love.
How this can translate into parenthood:
Your beliefs about love can become very confronting when you have a child. There are two ways you could go if you have experienced lack of love and affection as a child yourself.
a) You may feel as if you don’t deserve to have this child in your life. You don’t know how to receive the unconditional love a child has for his/her parent because you didn’t receive it yourself. It becomes unchartered territory to be loved for no reason and it can feel like your child is a threat to the safety of what you know and what you are comfortable with.
This may seem odd that it is hard to receive the love of your child, but if you have not received much love from your own childhood, it can be so unfamiliar to you, that your brain starts to see this experience as unsafe. “I don’t know how to deal with this”. So you may reject your child, back away from their affections and try to retreat back to the safety of what you know.
Even though logically you may want to love your child and receive love from your child, your non-conscious mind is thinking “danger, danger, danger…unknown territory”, so you habitually retreat from the situation.
If this is you, we are going to help you to change this, so keep going. There is hope for a loving relationship with your child.
b) The second path that you may take if you’ve experienced a lack of love or touch in your childhood, is that you may think you don’t know how to love your child or you may think that you are not loving your child enough.
Because you have no reference point on how to model love and affection for your child, you may think that you are incapable of giving this child the love he/she needs. This can be painful and confronting because through this lens you start to believe that your child deserves to have a different parent, a more capable, more loving parent than you.
Please know that this is not true and this program is going to help you work through that too. In the meantime, try to surround yourself with parents who are naturally loving to their children and learn off them.
For men, seek out men who are comfortable showing physical affection in a manly way so you can learn how to do it with your children too. Sometimes for dads affection doesn’t come easy and is something that needs to be learnt. It doesn’t mean anything about your self-worth. It doesn’t mean that you are any less of a father. It just means you are needing to learn a new skill that you’ve never had to learn before.
You can see that I’ve left this one until last because these are extremely powerful and painful beliefs that can be reflected in parenthood as a result of experiencing a lack of love and touch in your own childhood. Particularly if you combine a lack of love with constant criticism and if you felt like you were always doing everything wrong in childhood, this can magnify what a bad job you feel like you’re doing as a parent. “Not only am I not loving my child enough, I am hopeless in everything I do because it’s never good enough. I am the epitome of a bad parent.”
These beliefs can cause the most painful and more serious cases of PND, so if this is you, take heart that you have found the solutions to stopping these feelings. Know for now though, that these beliefs have simply been incorrectly conditioned in you and they do not represent the truth. We’re going to teach you a new way to view your life.
Above are just a few examples that may help you to start to understand how your thinking about life and self-worth has been set up.
As we continue onto day seven of our week’s lesson, you will get the opportunity to learn more specifically the thinking that lies behind your self-worth issues.
NB – there is no audio available for this exercise
From the scenarios in yesterdays readings, I have only just skimmed the surface of all the potential situations that could occur in childhood to set up the beliefs you now have that are potentially causing your stress, depression or anxiety.
I could probably write an entire book about the causes of your stress and how beliefs have been set up, however only some of them will relate to your particular circumstances.
Also, I promised you when you signed up for this program that it is not always necessary to roll around in the mud of your past in order to change your present life.
It can be hugely insightful to understand exactly how your beliefs have been set up, put not compulsory and this is because of what you’ve learnt about the brain. We want to concentrate on new neural pathways in the brain and stop our mind thinking about the events of the past.
But in order to pull together all of the learning you have received this week on understanding your PND, I’m going to ask that you complete the questionnaire below to start getting specific answers to how your PND has been set up.
I promise you though this is the first and last time you will be delving into your past to find answers. This exercise is simply to give you the opportunity to understand that the way you have been feeling of late could not have been any other way because of the thinking that was set up in your past.
The intention of this questionnaire is also so you can get some insight into the beliefs taught to you in childhood. These are the beliefs that physically lie in your brain and are being accessed every time life doesn’t go to plan. You are about to discover some of your memes.
Remember, if you have any questions, please visit our Q&A Forum and post your question. You never know when others are asking the exact same question. Also, if you would like a private answer to a sensitive question, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please open up the PDF below to get instructions on how to do this exercise.