Anxiety & Depression: Take a Step Back in Order to Move Forward

Your past does not determine who you are in the present, or in the future. Taking a step back into your past and ‘uncreating’ unhealthy habits and behaviors can be a powerful way to move beyond depression and anxiety.

For many people, life is all about judgement. We each have a set of standards that we live our life by; some of these norms we have chosen for ourselves but many others we have inherited or absorbed from family, peers and society. From these standards, we learn to judge ourselves and our adherence to these expectations: How did I perform? Where do I fit in the larger scheme of things? How do I compare to others, and to my own standards?

When you are (inevitably) unable to obtain some – or all – of these external expectations, it becomes easy to make your choices, desires and behaviors wrong … and make yourself wrong in the process.

Defining Depression

Depression can be different things for different people, but it often arises when someone has spent long periods of time (maybe a lifetime) reacting to this sense of wrongness; molding themselves into something they are not and cutting off vital parts of themselves in order to match the standards of their external environment. In many moments of our lives we are presented with a choice – to choose who we truly are, or to choose what we are ‘supposed’ to do, or be, or choose. In these situations, choosing ‘what you should’ instead of ‘who you are’ can create an enormous pressure on your psyche.

Unfortunately, this practice of conformity and inauthenticity is so prevalent in our society, and so entrenched in our usual patterns of behaviour, that most people don’t even know they are adapting to suit others’ points of view. That is, unless and until depression and anxiety develop – a warning sign to the individual that they have chosen ‘what you should’ too often, and are living someone else’s story.

In this way, depression and anxiety are actually about awareness: you are aware of your true desires, needs and characteristics, and you are aware – at an intrinsic level – that your choices and behaviors are not congruent with who you are, authentically.

Perspective Fosters Change

Stepping back into your past can allow you to shine a light on the unconscious habits you have chosen to adopt; the points of view you have absorbed from others, and the lies that you have come to believe as true.

Importantly, it can help you acknowledge all the ways you have attached to your past, and have decided how those events and experiences will determine your future. This can even occur with experiences that you consciously know have shaped your choices and behaviors today. In these cases, it can be that you have formed a construct about the experience – a concept, a reason, a role for yourself and others, a decision on how to ‘deal’ with the experience. This often arises from a need to understand what happened and explain what it means in your life, but how you choose to understand the experience is actually just a result of your perspective and what you think the answers are.

Developing a construct in this way is just as unhealthy as any unconscious connection to the past, as it holds power over you – the points of view and lies that are entwined in this construct are determining the choices you make for your future.

Observe Without Judgment

The only truly powerful way to use the past to move into the future is to step back without judgment and without any point of view around what has occurred. And then, use the power of a question to liberate you from the experience completely. Effective questions can include:

  • What’s right about this situation that I’m not seeing?
  • If I had no point of view about this experience, what would I perceive?
  • How can I turn this experience to my advantage?
  • Am I willing to destroy and uncreate everything I chose to be, do or accept as true about this experience that are not true for me?

Depression is a sense of not feeling alive – you spend so much time avoiding getting things wrong – being wrong – that you lose the natural energy of ‘life.’ By stepping back into your past, by confronting the situations where you have conformed to norms that are not true for you, and by choosing to rewrite your story from this point on, you can become alive again. You can stop buying into the story of your past and, instead, start creating your future.


This guest post was authored by Susanna Mittermaier

Susanna Mittermaier, born in Vienna, Austria, is a psychologist educated at the University of Lund, Sweden, where she worked at the university hospital in the psychiatry department with psychotherapy and neuropsychological testing. She is the founder of Pragmatic Psychology and author of the #1 international bestselling book, “Practical Tools for Being Crazy Happy.” She is a certified facilitator for Access Consciousness® special programs including, Being You. A highly sort after public speaker, Susanna has been featured in magazines such as TV soap, Women’s Weekly, Empowerment Channel Voice America, Om Times, Motherpedia, Newstalk New Zealand and Holistic Bliss. Susanna offers a new paradigm of therapy called Pragmatic Psychology and is known for her ability to transform people’s problems and difficulties into possibilities and powerful choices. Follow on Twitter @AccessSusanna.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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