• Darcy Reed

Meaning meltdowns

The day of spring that we really need is the one where the snow melts for the final time. The seedlings open in the dark rain and snow then emerge chartreuse in the morning sun, full of hope for tomorrow. In the dark night, the worms squirm holes and tunnels to leave space for others to grow. The bees come back for the opening flowers. We can see them in the warming air.


What happens if suddenly your mood shifts, and instead of the beautiful green lawn, you start to worry about the bald spots? Then you just start seeing weeds everywhere. What if your thoughts turn darker than the soil in the insect-laden bald spot on your perfect lawn? What if yesterday you loved yourself and today suddenly you don’t? You were once resplendent with energy and power and now you feel weak and worthless. What if you suddenly find no meaning in what you were once thrilled about? I call this a meaning meltdown. It’s a term my mom made up.

She jokes about the "slough of despond,*" but it isn’t funny. It is a tragic cycle for many of us and she knows it well herself. In happy times we can laugh about it but meaning meltdowns actually kill people. This spiraling-down mood shift for some people can turn into anxiety and fear, and for others just a kind of numbness, or grief, or anger. In any case, the mood shifts seem to be occurring more frequently in people and it’s important to learn how to work your way back to happiness.


I have many suggestions for this, starting with simple rituals, to the more complex. The first ritual I believe important is the cleansing process. One never knows if entities of some sort are involved, so burn some sage. The second is to turn on some spiritual, moving music of some kind or some dancing music like the Rolling Stones. Then, if you can sing or dance, that is so helpful. Of course, there is then prayer and meditation.

However, if you have stuck with me so far, all you left-brainers, here is the most effective process of all to help shift your moods back: It’s called cognitive restructuring. It involves being really honest with yourself. Here is an exercise. Draw three columns on a piece of paper. In the first column write down your horrible thought; in the second column, write down the type of thought distortion it is; https://redemptionpsychiatry.com/docs/Cognitive_0.pdf in the third column, write down a re-framed thought about it that you can believe, that is less harmful.


For example, if your horrible thought is, “I always have bad luck.” Write that down in column one. The second column means that thought distortion as “always/never thinking”. The third column, then, reads re-framed as “I sometimes seem to have bad luck.” That’s the truth. Now you can move on, and see the garden and flowers again without the guilt of failed yard work, or without the mood shift into the dark winter of your thoughts.

(*John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress)


Image by Grae Dickason

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