A great guy got in touch with me the other day and ask the following:
“Mate can I ask a question,
Do you think everyone goes through some sort of depression in their life?
I’m just asking because with everything I have I feel not happy.
I know I should be feeling joy at this time of the year but I’m just not feeling it.
I’m ok but just wanted to know if everyone at some point feel like this.”
He had the courage to put up his hand and ask when he doesn’t have the answers. This is a big thing for a bloke to do, especially about something as touchy as their mental health. And so I asked if I could share the conversation so others may see they are not alone and have an opportunity to learn from his courage.
My response was:
“Mate firstly you’re an amazing guy and congratulations on reaching out.
Depression occurs because we hit a place in our life where, at a subconscious level, we know we’re not on purpose. Where our previous measures of success aren’t enough. Where we’re tired because we’re given so much but our heart isn’t singing.
Keep going down this track and marital and family issues start. The masculine in us wants to set direction, but something in us has been blinded on what that exactly is. On the outside we look like a man, but on the inside we are hollow.
What most men do is somewhere inside simply quit and accept the hollowness, or the divorce, and move on not learning the lesson destined to repeat the same situation in different circumstances. Deep inside they get really angry and resentful, but feel it’s their lot in life. That’s because they haven’t been shown any other way.”
Is he suffering depression or not?
In a time when we can get diagnosed with an anxiety condition bought on by the apprehension of visiting a psychiatrist, there is every reason to believe he does.
But does a diagnosis actually help?
For some it does. It provides them with a belief there is something bigger going on for them. A reason for them feeling the way they do. “I have depression and therefore I feel this way.”
The issue with this is how he’s feeling is not the cause, it’s the symptom. Our emotions are signposts for us to understand how we are engaging ourselves and our environment. So to classify these feelings as depression is simply to label the symptoms.
But when you are labeled you get everything that goes with that label, not just the name. So if you’re a Collingwood supporter you’re an abusive, one eyed, aggressive thug. But are all Collingwood supporters like that?
We know the answer is no. But wear the jumper, and the label goes with it.
So what is the cause? Better question still: “What is the cause of the hollowness felt by many currently?”
We haven’t necessarily been taught how to set our personal success criteria with any form of personal power.
Put simply, most of us require external validation to feel any measure of success. Whilst the general thought on this is – “well it’s just normal.” That response is disempowering and results in more of the same, more hollowness. Normal is simply a conditioned cognitive response, performed by most, in order to alleviate fear, avoid embarrassment and resist change.
And how has being normal gone for you? It takes a lot of energy to do the things we do to ‘fit in’, to be accepted and to gain approval. This energy depletion is a factor in your tiredness.
The fact is that no one is normal, as everyone is an individual, with individual thoughts, motives, ideas and skills. That’s what makes us human.
For a moment let us allow for the possibility that there is another way. A way that will allow the hollowness to go – for good.
Take a moment to think about your personal definition of success. Does it involve obtaining a position at work, getting the raise you’ve wanted, being able to pay off the mortgage, raising ‘good’ children, having a ‘successful’ marriage, getting good grades at university or school, etc. etc.
When you look at all the above, how much control do you have over the outcome?
The answers is – bugger all.
You don’t control your boss who’s decision it is to pick between you and the other person; nor do you control the teacher who’s job it is to mark your assignment.
And here’s the biggy parents. Nor do you control the child who you aided bringing into the world. You can influence at best; but you know you don’t control them. Just put brussel spouts on their plate and try to make them eat them.
There are only three things you truly can control in life:
Your thoughts, Your words, and your deeds.
No one else’s. Only yours.
I was working with a university student who successfully failed three quarters of his previous semester. Upon asking him his goals for the next semester he stated:
“Get 75% or above in the mid term examines and finish with an overall mark of 65% or above.”
To many this would seem like a good goal, and his work rate will then be the first step to achieving this. But take a closer look. Does he have any control over the outcome of these goals?
His initial answer was: “Well I control how much effort I put into my study”, which is true, but he doesn’t control the outcome of the goal. His teacher does. So he has given his measures of success to another person to ‘grade’, or ‘to value’. And not only that, his goal is a figure, a percentage. Does a percentage mean anything out there in the world where he wants to use the outcomes of his studies?
The first step we did was to focus him on the ‘Why’. Why was he doing the thing he was doing? In this case this particular subject? The subject was Nutrition and he was studying to be a nurse. So the visual came to him of helping sick people with his knowledge of nutrition in their diet being a key element to their recovery. He saw how this is a critical aspect and how his knowledge of the subject could aid them not just get better, but live better lives.
Then we looked at the assessment criteria for the subject to see the required knowledge standard. From there he structured a series of goals designed to allow him to be confident, credible and capable with the knowledge of nutrition to aid sick people. His motivation had changed from doing things because it was part of the course, to a desire, a thirst, for knowledge.
The result. He walks out of the exam hall and texts me saying that he has never walked out so confident in his life and felt really strong in his knowledge and performance. This occurred because he took back his power in the situation.
A key element to come from that example is the “Why”.
Hollowness is a result of not having a Why. Or better put, not having a why that is in line with your values and purpose. Not having a big enough reason for doing the things you are doing.
My six year old daughter had a discussion yesterday with me in the kitchen that started with the question: “why am I here?”, and she didn’t mean in the kitchen. She is investigating within her own comprehension, her purpose on the planet. Many adults might smile at the question and say ‘oh, how cute’ leaving her to ponder thinking she’s a child. It’s really a great question for all ages and one that if you aren’t answering true to yourself at any moment, you will feel hollow.
You will feel disconnected in some way. Or like you’re doing a whole heap of things but really aren’t achieving that much.
The ‘why’ in life provides us the focus of our efforts. With this focus comes balance and a richness that allows us to gain true success – our happiness.
SO if you don’t know your ‘why’; if you don’t really know what you want in life, what is one thing today you can do to gain clarity on these questions?
Take out a journal, write the questions at the top of the page and simply let yourself write. Get your mind out of the way and let the pen take over. Then at the end review what you’ve written. Do this for a week and review at the end. This will give you some great insights into your why.
So it could be said hollowness equals life giving a person an upper cut to wake to how they are engaging themselves and their environment. To acknowledge their why is pointing away from their purpose, not towards it. With this outlook rather than a diagnosis, you also understand that you have the power to change your circumstance.
Men, if you feel hollow; if you feel like your success criteria no longer serve you; if you want that power and sense of direction back; then check out the Awakening The Warrior Within Program. It will enable you to get your own answers to these questions and more. Click on the image below to get more information.