There is a fallacy that we are all prone to making at times. We think back on ourselves when we were younger and think, “Boy, was I young, and inexperienced, and naïve… Not like I am now”. We think that, and we fail to maintain the sense of perspective that would allow us to see that we will almost certainly think the same thing of our current selves once another few years have passed. In another few years, we’ll look back at right now and think how naïve we were at the very moment that we were thinking about how naïve we used to be. I find that keeping one eye always fixed on the reality of this fallacy is incredibly helpful for depression. If you turn the fallacy inside out, it can be a very positive thing to be aware of.
What I mean is that you focus on remembering how much more you know now than you used to know. You realize how different your perspective on the world is now compared to how it was a few years ago. You concentrate on how long it took to develop your new perspectives, on the random little events that led to them forming, without which they might never have come to be. You take that knowledge, and you realize that there is an infinity of perspectives that you cannot possibly have even scratched the surface of still waiting to be discovered.
Often, in dealing with issues like depression, a change in perspective is an enormous turning point. Realizing that there’s no reason to beat yourself up over this thing or that thing, that it’s okay not to worry about this thing or that thing, that it’s okay to be whatever you are, etc. etc. These are all things that we each discover in our own way, in our own time, for our own unique reasons. They are all things that we are still each discovering in our own way, in our own time, and for our own unique reasons. I’ve made a lot of progress over the past few years in fighting negative patterns of thought in my brain. I don’t beat myself up over the same things I used to, I’m not as perfectionist, and I have more confidence in my friendships. If I could go back in time, though, and talk to my old self, communicating that these were the changes I needed to make would not be very helpful. There was a long process of thoughts and experiences and mental processing and long conversations with friends that led to each of the realizations that helped me get to where I am. The realizations could not have taken place without the process — you can’t skip to the end.
I cannot even conceive of the person I may be in another 10 years. I may be as different from the person I am now as the person I am now is from myself 10 years ago. I may look at the person I am now, and think how little I understood. This thought is incredibly comforting to me, because there are parts of life and thinking that I am still terrible at. There are problems with myself and my life that I cannot even conceive of having solutions to, whether the solutions are material or perspective. But I know that there were problems in my life 10 years ago, that I have since solved, that I couldn’t have conceived of having solutions to at the time.
We are all naïve. We are all standing on the edge of an ocean of undiscovered perspective, full of ideas we cannot conceive of — full of ideas for which we are not yet the person for whom conception is possible. As far as I know, the changes in perspective required for me to defeat the baddies currently plaguing my brain might be just over the horizon line. When I feel like giving up, it’s sometimes helpful to think about how silly I would feel if I just barely missed them sailing into view.