Depressive Thoughts as a Left-Brain Jedi Mind Trick

A while ago, Franklin Veaux made a post that touched on some psych experiments with people whose corpus callosum had been split. Here’s an excerpt (emphasis added):

One common experiment involved showing things designed to provoke a reaction to the right hemisphere, which usually lacks language, then asking the person why he was reacting the way he did; the left hemisphere had no clue what the right hemisphere was seeing, but the person would nevertheless offer up all kinds of stories to explain his reaction. An even better experiment involved showing different images to the two hemispheres, such as a snowbank to the right hemisphere and a chicken to the left hemisphere, and then asking the person to point with his left hand at an object relevant to the thing he was seeing. The right hemisphere controls the left hand, so the right hemisphere, which was seeing an image of a snow bank, would point to a snow shovel. The left hemisphere, which was seeing a chicken, had absolutely not the foggiest idea why he was pointing to the shovel, but when he was asked “Why did you point to a shovel?” he’d say “Well, because I see a chicken, and you need to use a shovel to clean up chicken manure.”

In other words, he completely fabricated a story to explain his own actions without even being aware that he was inventing a story.

People suffering from depression may see where I’m intending to go with this.

It’s a common refrain amongst people who suffer from depression that “Depression lies.”. It’s absolutely true, and it’s one of the most important things I’ve had to learn while dealing with it. When my brain starts shouting at me like an angry drunk—

“You’re depressed because you have no friends.”

“…because no one likes you.”

“…because you’ll never be successful.”

“…because the world is going to shit.”

“…because you’re ugly and stupid and a bad person and you smell bad!

—I have to remind myself constantly that, no, I’m not depressed because of those things, I think those things because I’m depressed. The whole, “no friends, everyone hates you”, routine is a trick. It’s the brain coming up with a story to justify the feelings, just like the brains of the patients in the above studies come up with stories to justify their choices. Brains are really fucking good at this. They’re good at doing it so quickly and seamlessly that it’s incredibly hard to spot without knowing what to look for. The, “no friends, everyone hates you”, routine is the left-brain version of, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Our brains, bless them, want there to be a reason for bad feelings. A good, hard, brass tacks, turn-and-face-it-head-on reason. All too often, though, there isn’t a good reason, so they make shit up. They make up these lies, these stories about us to make the fact that we feel like shit seem rational. “Ugly, stupid, failure, unlovable”, because it’s the only way to make it make sense that you feel this bad. Because feeling this bad has to be about something, doesn’t it?

Well, no.

The stories are just that: stories. All too often, the real reason for them isn’t anything fancy. It isn’t about anything. It’s just depression. The stories are a distraction, and that is an important thing to be mindful of when we need to stay focused on dealing with the real culprit: the depression itself.

Something to remember: when your brain invents stories of things to feel bad about and tells you they’re the cause of the bad feelings, the truth is often that the bad feelings are the cause of the stories.

Don’t be fooled. It’s the depression that’s talking, and it’s the depression that needs to be addressed.

Sidenote: There is an important distinction to be made here between stories and triggers. I do not mean to imply in this post that things in the real world do not impact depression. There are plenty of things that can and do. Those things are good to learn about and avoid, and are not the same as the stories I’m talking about in this post. The stories in this post are baseless narratives about how much you suck. The triggers are generally things that happen that make you feel like you suck.

Mixed Day

The CBT seems to be going mostly well, though it’s also difficult and kind of scary. Today was a fluctuating day with respect to pain. I felt great in the morning and midday but had an uptick later in the day. Could’ve been stress, but it’s impossible to say for sure.

One of the tricky things with pain is that you tend to feel however you feel now is how you’re always feeling. If I feel good, everything’s super and getting superer. If the pain is bad, I feel like nothing ever gets better ever. Keeping perspective is a challenge.