It is common for people to say to me “But I don’t actually feel worth-less, so how can feeling worth-less be at the core of all stress?”
The answer to that is because different people have different interpretations of what worth-less means. Often that terms congers up definitions of being completely broken or feeling completely useless, hopeless or having no value at all. While this is a form of worthlessness and is likely to be how you are feeling when you are depressed, other times you may not feel this badly.
The term worth-less is exactly that – worth……less. It means that you feel less than 100 percent worthy. This could mean that you are only feeling 80% good about yourself, when you normally feel 90% good about yourself. Or it could mean that you feel 30% good about yourself instead of the 80% you used to feel before this event occurred.
What happens though is that you have observed what is happening in your life and because of your interpretation on how it’s unfolding, you are feeling bad about it to some degree. Underneath that bad feeling is the beliefs that these events, or how your life is right now, is devaluing the quality of your life or you in some way.
This could be as simple as someone cutting you off while driving and you getting angry about it, or it could mean that everything in your life seems like an indication that you are completely failing at life as a whole.
Either extreme comes down to what you have perceived that situation to mean about you. You have rated this situation/event as being worth less than what it should be.
How worth-less we feel can fluctuate all the time, depending on what’s going on and how we interpret this situation and in later lessons this week I will show you exactly why it fluctuates and how you can stop it.
For now, let me explain the process of how a self-worth belief is always at the core of all stress – including depression and anxiety.
The process of feeling worth-less
It all starts with observing the situation. With all the beliefs you already hold that have been formed from all of the experiences you have had leading up to this moment (although primarily taught between zero to seven), you analyse the situation to determine what it means.
This process in the brain is very quick. What the brain is doing during this process is sifting through all of your past memories, beliefs, opinions and points of view that are relevant to what you are currently seeing. It locates the strongest belief that you have that matches what you are seeing and locates the appropriate response to that event (also determined by your memories and beliefs). How you view the situation creates a physical response in your body which could be happiness, sadness, anger, exhilaration, guilt, or feeling really bad.
You have seen in the first week’s videos how the brain links all the information you have and how it has formed physical connections in the brain. This is what is happening when you are thinking about what you are seeing in front of you. Your brain is following the pathways that have been conditioned to fire off whenever presented with an event similar to the one you are experiencing. This is why you continue to habitually think the way that you do.
Now if you have been conditioned to see what is wrong in a situation, then that is what you will see. If you have been conditioned to see how you are missing out all of the time, then this is what your brain has been trained to find in a situation. If you have been taught to blame or criticise, then, again you will find the problems and then look for who’s to blame and what they are doing wrong.
But at the bottom of all that, what really causes the pain of that negative emotion, is your beliefs about what this situation means about me.
If the situation is going wrong, and that essentially puts you on the wrong path, away from the right path you should be on, then this means something about you (in your mind). ‘My life is not valuable. I am useless because I should be doing it right. Everything is going wrong. It’s not the way things are supposed to go and that means my life’s quality or value has decreased.’
‘If I’m missing out, then my life has diminished in some way. If someone else has done the wrong thing, then this diminishes my life in some way.’
If you are simply angry at being cut off in traffic, this is still you feeling that for that split moment, the situation (which is part of your life) has diminished in quality to some degree. It’s only a fairly minor event in your life, which you would probably overcome quite quickly, but you still feel like this situation has cheated you of how it was supposed to go (the right path which would keep my life at 100%).
Similarly if you are at the other end of the scale where you are feeling like a complete failure, it is because your brain has gone down the path of seeing everything that is going on in your life ultimately meaning that you or your life are a complete failure.
This thinking does not represent truth however, it’s just a train of thought that has been made habitual in your mind and needs to be changed. There are always many different perspectives on how we can view a situation, but if you are seeing life’s events as continually meaning you are a failure, or you are constantly feeling angry, guilty, sad, upset, or stressed, it is only because of the habitual pathway that is firing in your brain, which is accessing this line of thinking and consequently creating those physical feeling that you identify with as anger, guilt, sadness, stress etc.
The upgrade to this habitual line of thinking.
It is imperative that you begin to understand how the brain works, so that you can really understand what is going on when you feel the way you do. It doesn’t matter whether you are feeling stressed, depressed or anxious. The difference between these three mental illnesses is really just a difference in physical response. Stress is a feeling of tension and uneasiness. Depression is a sad, melancholy, low feeling and Anxiety is a panicky, nervousness response.
Ultimately though, underlying each of these illnesses is simply an incorrect assessment of the situation (due to habitual thinking set up long ago) and what you have determined it means about your quality of life, is what is causing those feelings or reactions.
When you can understand that it is the habitual thinking, and know that this thinking is not a correct perception, or that there is another perspective to see the situation through, then you don’t become so attached by it. Even acknowledging that your perception is just the brain’s habitual response to challenges in life and that you are in the process of ‘re-routing’ those connection through repetition and forcing your brain to look at life another way, can be a huge step forward to stopping your stress. Recognising that your current view of life is causing you the pain and that it is not permanent starts you detaching from it. It stops consuming you so much.
The next step after acknowledging your current thinking and detaching from it with this new understanding (which is essentially step one of the TRACK process – Thoughts) is to deliberately lead your mind in another direction. That is – follow step two of the TRACK process – Reality.
Teach your mind to expand from this narrow view of life and send it in the direction of reality by first accepting the reality of the situation, then looking at the reality of being a parent, then what the reality of the situation is in the context of your whole life and finally why you are always worthy throughout every event of your life, because of how this event is contributing to your life and how it is contributing to the lives of others.
Stopping stress, depression and anxiety is all about stopping the train of thoughts that lead to the feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. You don’t need to roll around in your past to do that You need to concentrate on changing your thoughts right now, in this moment, to be in alignment with reality. Right now is the only moment you ever have and each time you direct your mind in this new direction of reality, you will be training your mind to make this pathway a new habit, and the old one will die off.
But this happened and that caused me to feel stressed, depressed or anxious
The many clients that I have worked with and the thousands of posts that I have scrolled through on parenting and depression forums, have spoken extensively on how events have caused their pain. However as I have said many times during this program it is never events that cause you to feel this way. It is how you have perceived (thought about) these events, and what you believe these events mean about you (how it has diminished yours or your life’s value/worth).
Here are some common examples that I am talking about and how your thinking about each situation ultimately boils down to beliefs about self-worth:
I have moved away from family and this has caused my PND
Moving did not cause your PND, because if it did, then everyone who moves would experience depression. It is how you have viewed this move that causes the feeling of depression. Here’s what thoughts might be occurring:
- ‘I don’t know anyone’ (SW Belief: this means I have no one to make me feel valuable).
- ‘I have no support’ (SW Belief: if no one supports me, then I have no one to lean on when I should be able to lean on someone or get help sometimes and because I believe this and I’m not getting the support, then my life has lessened in quality compared to how it would be if I was getting support.)
My baby doesn’t stop crying and I just can’t bond with him. This is making me depressed.
It’s not the baby that you don’t like, it’s the crying that you don’t like and when you can separate the human from the behaviour, then you can start to love him just the way he is. But to do this you must first look at what you are thinking about the crying that is causing you the stress. Here’s what thoughts might be occurring and how they come back to beliefs about your worth:
- ‘I should know what’s wrong with him and be able to help him’ (SW Beliefs: This means I’m not being a good enough mother and that causes me pain and makes me feel bad)
- ‘He shouldn’t be crying like this’ (SW Beliefs: Because he is crying like this it is ruining how I should be feeling about him and that makes me feel like the motherhood experience – which is part of my life – has devalued because of his crying. This is all due to the fact that I believe motherhood should be experienced with joy and love all the time.)
My partner left me and that’s what has caused my depression
Lots of people experience marriage break ups, yet don’t get depressed. It is not because they are better than people who do get depressed, it is simply because they think differently about the situation and don’t have their self-worth attached to it. Here are some possible beliefs about this situation and how they ultimately spiral into self-worth beliefs:
- ‘Children should be raised with a mum and a dad together’ (SW Belief: If they aren’t raised this way then the quality of my child’s life has decreased and if that has decreased and I am responsible for giving them a great life, then what does that say about me?)
- ‘I’m never going to get another man, or father for my children’ (SW Belief: I am going to end up alone and not important to anybody, not loved, not part of someone’s life and this decreases my life’s value, or my child’s quality of life is less because they don’t have a father in their life and that is ultimately my responsibility because I ‘should’ be giving them a happy life.)
- ‘My plans for being financially comfortable have all changed and now I won’t have much money’.(SW Beliefs: My life is less valuable because I cannot buy the things that I believe I need for my life to be valuable. Also, my kids miss out on getting what they need to be happy and their happiness is my responsibility, so if they are unhappy and not getting what they need then it’s my fault and I’m not a good enough mother providing what her children need)
In all of these cases, it has come down to what they believed (their story) about these situations that is causing them to feel stressed. Let’s revisit these situations and change the story, this time with an accurate view of self-worth – the upgrade.
I have moved away from family and this has caused my PND
‘I don’t know anyone’ (SW Belief: this means I have no one to make me feel valuable.)
Upgrade: When I move somewhere new I cannot expect to know people straight away. This by no means reflects my quality of life, it is simply a reality of life that when you move you don’t really know anyone straight away. I simply need to join some groups as soon as possible (solutions: step 3-5 on the TRACK process) and start forming a friend support network. My value has not changed, it is simply a new situation and it won’t last forever. This situation will teach me how to meet new people and I will experience new relationships that will contribute to my life and I will be contributing to theirs.
‘I have no support’ (SW Belief: if no one supports me, then I have no one to lean on when I should be able to lean on someone or get help sometimes and because I believe this and I’m not getting the support, then my life has lessened in quality compared to how it would be if I was getting support.)
Upgrade: My life is not less valuable because right now I don’t have the support I would like. It simply means that this is a time in my life where circumstances have changed where I had the support and now I don’t and it just means that I have to set up new networks of support by meeting new people and seeking out that help. This can be a great thing as I am going to be inviting new relationships and experiences into my life.
My baby doesn’t stop crying and I just can’t bond with him. This is making me depressed.
‘I should know what’s wrong with him and be able to help him’ (SW Beliefs: This means I’m not being a good enough mother and that causes me pain and makes me feel bad)
Upgrade: A good mother is not one that knows everything at all times. I can’t know everything there is to know about babies. This is just a time where I have to learn more about my child by reading, trying new things and getting to know my child’s different behaviours and what they mean. This situation is just a time for me to learn more about being a mother which is all contributing to part of the overall motherhood experience. This is just one event in the long line of experiences I will have as a mum.
‘He shouldn’t be crying like this’ (SW Beliefs: Because he is crying like this it is ruining how I should be feeling about him and that makes me feel like the motherhood experience – which is part of my life – has devalued because of this experience due to the fact that I believe motherhood should be experienced with joy and love all the time.)
Upgrade: The motherhood experience is full of ups and downs. Having a bad day where nothing is going the way I would like, or having days on end where my child is not sleeping or is misbehaving, is just a part of being a mother, just like there are good days that are really rewarding too. My motherhood experience has not devalued as it is a normal part of being a mum to experience times like these. These times are also lessons for me on how to teach my child what to do and also for them to experience life and the consequences of behaviour, or learn a new skill. This moment is contributing to my life, not devaluing it.
My partner left me and that’s what has caused my depression
‘Children should be raised with a mum and a dad together’ (SW Belief: If they aren’t raised this way then the quality of my child’s life has decreased and if that has decreased and I am responsible for giving them a great life, then what does that say about me?)
Upgrade: While I’m always going to do the best thing for my kids, I cannot control how life goes sometimes and I am not responsible for their happiness. The break-up was an experience in their lives that they will learn and grow from, as it is in mine too. This situation is just a part of our experience through life and the ups and downs that come with it. It is contributing to my knowledge about relationships, helping me to become independent and helping me to be closer to my kids, therefore adding value to my life. Sure it would be great if we were together and had that ‘ideal’ family, but it was not to be, so I can look at what is valuable about what is happening.
‘I’m never going to get another man, or father for my children’ (SW Belief: I am going to end up alone and not important to anybody, not loved, not part of someone’s life and this decreases my life’s value, or my child’s quality of life is less because they don’t have a father in their life and that is ultimately my responsibility because I ‘should’ be giving them a happy life.)
Upgrade: I am a valuable human being with strengths and weaknesses just like anybody else. There is no reason why I couldn’t have another relationship in the future, but in the meantime, my worth is still the same. All that has happened is that my ex-partner’s beliefs and my beliefs have changed over the years and these beliefs no longer connect harmoniously. It simply means that we have contributed and learnt from each other all there is to learn as a couple and that it’s time to move on. My children’s lives are not less either. They are just having a different experience that they too will learn from. I am not responsible for their life always going to plan, as this is not something I can control, nor can I control how they feel about life when it doesn’t. All I can do is help them to understand life and accept it when life doesn’t go their way.
‘My plans for being financially comfortable have all changed and now I won’t have much money’. (SW Beliefs: My life is less valuable because I cannot buy the things that I believe I need for my life to be valuable. Also, my kids miss out on getting what they need to be happy and their happiness is my responsibility, so if they are unhappy and not getting what they need then it’s my fault and I’m not a good mother providing what her children need)
Upgrade: My worth is not attached to the stuff that I have. While, sure it makes my life easier to have the good things in life, they do not define who I am. Throughout my life I am giving a part of myself to my children, my friends, my family and everyone around me. I will learn new ways of bringing money into the house and how to be stringent and respectful of money. This in turn will teach my children to respect and value money, rather than getting everything handed to them. This could turn out to be some pretty good lessons for my kids in work ethic and appreciating what you have.
You can see in all of these upgrades that the story has completely changed. You will see parts of the reality of the situation, the reality of parenting and the reality of life in these upgrades and ultimately, all of them are about what you can learn from the situation and how it is contributing to your life, not how it devalues it (makes it worth-less).
Every situation has value and makes up your 100% worth. Worth cannot be added to nor taken away because every event holds lessons we learn and contributes to our life and/or someone else’s life.
The way to stop your postnatal depression or anxiety is to feed your mind new ‘stories’ about the challenges you face. Stop your habitual thinking that sends you into those painful emotions and begin seeking different ways of looking at these situations using the reality thinking model; the reality of the situation, the reality of parenting, the reality of life and the reality of self-worth.
How is this situation contributing to your life, your learning, your child’s life, your child’s learning or the people around you? What is it teaching you about the events (relationships, parenting, the skill of something) or what is it teaching you about the reality of life in general (the ups and downs, the learning, understanding people etc).
As we continue on this week of understanding your true self-worth, you are still to learn why our worth fluctuates so much and how we can stop that, and we continue with learning how to apply all the reality steps to the common situations relating to stress, depression and anxiety in parenting.