This is not a political statement…

…no, we’ve had and will have enough of those in the past few days, weeks, and months and in the days, weeks, and months to come.

This is not a political statement…this is a statement on American politics.

The American political process is a deeply flawed and broken system.  It needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.  In speaking with people throughout this recent political campaign, regardless of which way they voted in the end, Republican, Democrat, or third party, the common theme I heard was that people were embarrassed with our nation and this system. They were frustrated with the candidates put forth, and they felt that they were voting for the “lesser of two evils” rather than a candidate that they truly believed in.

I sum up my personal thoughts on politics and politicians as this:   I believe that our nation’s leaders should be people we hold in high regard, people who would and should act as role models for our children and the rest of us in society.  Unfortunately, I view most politicians as reverse-role models. I point them out to my children as a symbol of how NOT to conduct yourself.  The pettiness, the nastiness, the unethical and immoral behavior; these are not the traits that I have striven to instill in my children and it is embarrassing that these are the traits that our politicians display on an ongoing basis, and in front of the American people and the world. They are no different than the classic sleazy used-car salesmen. They will say whatever needs to be said to get elected, then wash their hands and walk away while we drive off in our clunker.

So how do we fix this system, and can it be fixed?

The second part of that question is the easiest part to answer: Yes, it can be fixed. Of course, it can be fixed.  By involvement, by speaking out, by voting not against a candidate, but instead, for a candidate that you believe in. By knowing that there is no “wasted vote” when you vote your conscience, contrary to what many would have you believe. Twenty hours ago, a CNN headline read: How Gary Johnson and Jill Stein helped elect Donald Trump.”  This is a profoundly foolish statement. It implies that voters who voted their conscience “wasted their vote.” I would argue that their vote was LESS wasted than that of someone who chose to simply vote against “the lesser of the two evils.”

The first part of the questions, however – how do we fix this system – is not as easy to answer. Here I will present my thoughts. I hope that others will see some logic in some of these and perhaps add to them, and that a firestorm demanding changes that benefit us – the people – be ignited.

The Two-Party System and the Debates

democraticlogoIn this nation, we have created a belief that we operate on a two-party system. This is in fact false. The Democrats and the Republicans are by far the largest U.S. parties, but not the only ones. There is the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the U.S. Taxpayers Party, the Worker’s Party, and on and on.  The Democrats and Republicans would like you to believe otherwise, though.republican-elephant

We need to reform this attitude with our system on who can and can’t be a part of the Presidential debates.  This year, only Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took the stage for the debates. This is due to an arbitrary decision that a candidate must be polling at 15% to be invited.  This is wrong.  If a candidate achieves the right to be placed on the ballot in all 50 states, they should automatically be included in the Presidential debates. I, for one, would have really liked to have seen and heard more from Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. I am sure many would have liked to have heard more from Jill Stein. We have forgotten that third parties have a following and a right to be heard. We have libertarian_party-svgforgotten that once upon a time it wasn’t the Democrats and the Republicans but the Federalists and the Whigs. Other parties rose however, and now they have a voice, and that should be no different for third parties today.

The Debates

This is a section all in its own, but a short one.  The debates need to become just that – debates. Not two (or more based on my previous idea) sour-faced individuals spouting rhetoric and innuendo: DEBATES. Asked a question; answer the question. Answer with what THEY will do, not their opinion of what their opponent WON’T do.  We are not interested in opinions; we want your plan. Moderators need to take greater control of the debate. When a candidate gets off topic, or makes the famous green_party_of_the_united_states_earthflower_official_logostatement “before I answer the question I want to go back…,” the moderator needs to firmly cut them off and tell them “No, answer the question posed.”  When the candidate, as they always do, continues on, the moderator needs to have the authority to shut off the candidates’ microphone.  I have grown tired of debates that are rhetoric-filled “pissing” matches where I learn nothing substantive about the candidates’ positions. This needs to be corrected.

Election Funding

As with the debates, any recognized party that meets the criteria for placement on the 50 states ballots should receive equal federal funding to the other parties. The ability of the ustaxtwo major parties to outspend the third parties keeps additional thoughts and voices from being heard a time when we most need to hear them.

Additionally, Political Action Committees (PACs) need to be abolished.  NO ONE in America should be able to “buy” or financially influence any candidate or party. The era of political favoritism needs to come to an end.

Election Day News Coverage

So, this one will peak a bit of controversy due to the constitutional right to “Freedom of the Press,” but I think we need to place a moratorium on election day news coverage.  No exit polls, no state-by-state electoral college updates, no analysis from newscasters who really aren’t qualified to give analysis so what we really get is their opinion. Just for the 24-hours of election day. It influences many voters to act in opposition to what they may really be believing is the right course of action. It effects the stock market. It causes to much unnecessary disruption to the operational and election well-being of the nation.

The Nastiness that has become Politics

This is probably the biggest area that needs to be reformed. How do we make it explicitly clear to political candidates that we DO NOT want to hear the relentless negativity and nastiness that campaigning has become?  I find myself embarrassed for our nation and the candidates during the election season. I fail to understand supposedly intelligent, successful, educated individuals acting more childish than 5-year-olds on a playground fighting over a toy.

As a citizen, and a citizen who DOES exercise his right to vote, I am not interested in your opinions of your opponent. I am not interested in your thoughts on your opponent’s platform. I am intelligent enough to make those decision and determinations on my own. I want to know, in fact need to know, your thoughts on your platform. I need to why and how you plan on making changes. I want to know your thoughts on foreign policy, defense, domestic affairs, terrorism. I DO NOT want your opinion on your opponent’s lifestyle decisions, their charitable contributions, that they drive a foreign car, or eat too many hamburgers.  Tell me about you, your team, your policies, and how those policies will improve my life.the-golden-rule-quotes-5

I stated at the beginning of this article that I would never view a politician as being able to be a role model for my children.  That is sad. It is also true.  As children, we are raised to believe in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  Why does this go out the window in one of the most important times, and on such a public stage, as it does in politics.

Let’s hope that we will see positive change in campaigning by 2018. While I am not hopeful, I can still have hope.

Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Faced with the growing depths of the Great Depression as he entered office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to lift the spirit of Americans in his first inaugural address.  His famous statement that we

Franklin-D-Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States 1933 – 1945

have nothing to fear but fear itself,” has become one of the great and oft-repeated lines of our nation, and it is a line that bears repeating today, not only as we climb from another recession, but as we find ourselves at the forefront of a new war, the war on terrorism.

In the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the rhetoric against Muslims has grown immensely.  Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a halt to immigration into the United States from those countries that are on our “watch” list.  Many Americans have taken up his cry and are standing behind this man whom I personally find more treacherous than any outside power. I would argue that we are simply allowing ourselves to become victims of our fear, and not of reality, by doing so.

In recent weeks and years, not just since San Bernardino but really going back to 9/11, the amount of hateful vitriol that I have seen people post on places like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter is shocking.  People whom I consider educated, well-reasoned people post and re-post messages of hate and fear. They make odd, unfounded arguments that the Koran is a book of evil and that all followers of it are enemies of Christianity and thus the United States. They are equally shocked that radical Muslims think Christians to be infidels and believe the bible to be an equally evil book.

How can we think we have such an incredible insight and world-view when in reality our eyes are so tightly shut? Hasn’t history shown us that to lump all people together based on their race, gender, national origin, religion, or any other means that differentiates them from another group is a recipe for disaster; a recipe that fosters and creates a “stew” of hate, pain, oppression, and ignorance.

We have to accept people for the individuals that they are. We have to separate the actual human being – the words, the actions, the DNA – from the labels. Are there evil Muslims in the world? Without a doubt.  Are there evil Christians in the world? Again, without a doubt.  In fact, we can list every religion or other factor of human difference here and we can find both immensely evil as well as immensely kind people.

Arbeit

The gate at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp – WWII

The consequences of painting any single group with a wide brush is that we paint over the detail and create a blank, flat expanse.  Perhaps we need to ask a holocaust survivor, or any one of the millions who did not survive, if they deserved their imprisonment and loss solely for being Jewish.  What about all the Japanese-Americans who found themselves in internment camps during World War II solely based on their ancestors national origin?

japanese-internment-camps

Japanese Internment Camp, USA – WWII

Many will argue that today’s situation is not the same.  I argue that it is.  We are allowing fear to rule us. We need to let our common sense guide us. We need to use that fear to come together for good, not to push us apart.  Another great president, Abraham Lincoln, made the famous statement that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” That was in 1858, three years before he became president and the onset of the American Civil War. Almost 160 years later, we still need to learn this. If we drive our fellow American’s apart, based on what happens elsewhere in the world, it is ultimately our “house” that crumbles.

Lincoln 1858

Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States 1861-1865

America has always been the great melting pot of our world.  We are a nation born of “rabble,” of those who felt they weren’t accepted in their homelands. On that premise we have built a great, strong nation; a nation that endures its hardships. We should not seek to turn others away, but embrace them, show them what it means to be American, and why we fight so hard for what we have. We need to create allies in the faces of our enemies.  Subjecting certain populaces to scorn and fear does not accomplish this task.

We need to unite. Unite as Americans. That means unite as one cohesive group: not a group of whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists, etc., but as a human wall who hold shared values and will not allow fear to tear that wall down.coexist

We are “Correctional Officers,” not “Guards.” | Anthony Gangi Systems Information Analysis | LinkedIn

This is indeed a perception that is evolving and needs to change, but we are still a long way from accomplishing this goal. Even within the Law Enforcement community there is a very distinct misconception about the roles, functions, training, and capabilities of Corrections Officers from Police Officers.  I am hopeful that continued education will start to break down many of these barriers.

 

Source: We are “Correctional Officers,” not “Guards.” | Anthony Gangi Systems Information Analysis | LinkedIn

Why I Fired My Doctor

Let me start with the simple, to-the-point reason why I fired my doctor before I elaborate further:  He and his office staff forgot that they are a business and that I am a customer. Period. Pretty to the point.

I am writing this article, because unfortunately this is a not all-to-uncommon experience that many have experienced, but few have addressed. As customers, we need to address it. We need to take bold steps or these unacceptable practices will not stop. I have not been able to figure out for the life of me why medical offices believe that the basic courtesies expected from other business providers just simply don’t apply to them.

This decision did not come easily.  I have seen the same doctor for over 10 years. I like him. He is personable and knowledgeable. I like the nurses, the physicians assistants and the medical assistants that work in his office. All of this, however, was not enough to keep me on as a patient. I had reached a point where instead of feeling that my provider was a partner in my health, they had become a detriment to my health.

Allow me to provide the background before I illustrate the specific incident that led to my very direct statement to my provider that, “I will be looking for a new doctor.”

Lack of respect for my time.  In 10 years, I have not had one single appointment that has happened on-time.  In fact, I have had only a bare few that have happened in what I would call a “reasonable” amount of time. Keep in mind that if I arrive more than 20 minutes late for an appointment (which I never have), the office policy is to cancel my appointment and charge me for it. The office, however, has no such provision to reimburse me when I have sat in the lobby for as long as an hour and fifteen minutes after my scheduled time. Then when I am actually placed in an exam room, I have waited up to another 45 minutes to even have the doctor come in the room.  Approximately five years ago, I went into the office for a routine annual physical. My appointment was for 11:45am.  I returned home from the appointment at almost 4:00pm. I did not stop on the way home; I live less than 10 minutes from the doctor’s office.

Just to be an additional little thorn in my side, when I receive the 24-hour pre-appointment reminder call, they actually have the nerve to ask me to arrive 15 minutes before my appointment time in case I need to update any paperwork.

Disinterested reception staff.  When a business hires any employee who has to have ongoing and frequent contact with the public, they need to make sure that those people are truly customer service-oriented.  While some of the staff who work the reception desk have been friendly, one, who also happens to be the office manager and the person with whom all patients must check out is simply as cold as a dead fish. No smiles, no easy conversation, no interest in what the patients asks or needs. She simply wants to collect your copay, schedule your next appointment, and move you along. I’m not asking for balloons and confetti when I get to the desk, just courtesy.

Lack of internal communication.  It is quite amazing to me, particularly now in the age of electronic medical records, how poorly doctor offices can communicate within their own walls.  Recently, I was due for a refill on a prescription. I had a physical scheduled, but due to a work conflict had to reschedule. As a result, I explained that I would run out of my medication and needed a refill, at least enough to carry me over to my new appointment time.  The office would provide me no answer at that time. I was told “we will leave a message for the doctor and see what he wants to do.” I never heard back. I don’t know if the doctor received the message and simply was too bothered to do anything, or if the staff never relayed. Oh, what the heck, just my blood pressure medication, no big deal…right?

Unreasonable scheduling.  This is what really signaled the end for my doc.  As I previously stated, I had an appointment for my annual physical scheduled. At 50 years old, with a family history of heart issues, I think this is pretty important. The appointment was for in mid-September. Do to the length of time in advance that I had to make the appointment, I had no idea that a work-scheduling issue would mean I would have to reschedule, but it did, and I contacted the office well in advance and sought to reschedule.  The next available appointment I was told was early November.  I took it, placed it in my calendar and even made sure I had things cleared so that I would not miss it again.  On the day before the appointment I got a call from the office. The doctor was going to be out and had to reschedule.  I asked the earliest date, thinking that they would get me in in just a few more days.  December 22 was the earliest he could see me I was told; and that did it.  I advised the young lady on the phone that I was a ten-year patient and that we had already had to reschedule once. I told her that I was out of my prescription as no one had gotten back with me after the last reschedule, as they were supposed to. I wanted an earlier date. She was apologetic, but stated there were no other days.  That was when I advised her that I would not be rescheduling, that I would be looking for a new doctor.

I have also followed up with a letter directly to the doctor as I am not sure that he will receive any information on this from his staff.

I had reached a point where I was no longer contacting or interacting with my doctor’s office. When this happens, it becomes, as I said early in this piece, a detriment to my health. I avoid dealing with health related issues because dealing with the doctor’s office feels to be an even worse alternative. And that is wrong!

I have fired doctor’s before. Several years ago I let my optometrist go for very much the same reasons.  My “new” optometrist is proof that there are better doctors out there who are far more respectful of their clients needs.

As consumers we need to stand up and let providers know that this level of service is simply not acceptable. We would have no compunction releasing an attorney, a CPA, or a financial planner from servicing us for the same reasons, why is it we seem to be afraid to stand up to medical providers?  Perhaps if they began to lose business, they would become keenly aware that changes need to occur.

Like most professions these days, at least if you live in a larger metropolitan area, doctor’s are a dime-a-dozen.  They need us as patients to be successful and remain in practice. They need to work with our needs, not the other way around.

I hope you take the time to think seriously about your relationship with your doctor.  Is it what you want? If so, congratulations and by all means stay put, because you have something that many, many of us long for. If, on the other hand, this article rings true with your experience, and I know from many I have talked to that this is NOT an uncommon scenario, seriously consider either 1) talking to or 2) firing your doctor. It’s your health and the only life you get. You have the right to expect the very, very best that can be provided.

The Pirates Treasure

Poetry is not my thing, yet I felt compelled tonight to write, so here is new twist to my “Senseless Ramblings.”

 I gaze upon the starry night

My eyes they fill with wonder

The sky is like a placid sea

The stars a pirates plunder

In the nighttime that so many fear

I only hear the silence

I think of moonlit lakeside walks

Of creating time for romance

Sometimes the sun of bright lit days

Exposes ugly features

But the shadows and the dark of night

Hide more gentle creatures

Owls, mice, raccoons, and fox

Stroll these darkened fields

The only note of their presence here

Is the sound their footsteps yield

I take a breath of the clean night air

A smile on my face

I return to my human life

Take stock by the fireplace

To know the world moves on unheeded

Fills my heart with heart with pleasure

I take one long last look upward

And eye my pirates treasure

Earn Respect, Receive Respect

Emblazoned on the wall of one of the training rooms at the local county sheriff’s office where I live are the words,

Respect is earned, not demanded.”

I cannot agree with this statement more, yet across my professional life, and still to this day, I meet people who demand respect not on the basis of their actions but on the basis of their title or position within their respective professional organization. Sadly, the very act of demanding respect causes them to not only fail to earn respect, but to lose it as well.

I envision respect as a line graph.  The x axis represents time. The y axis represents the level of respect, with the higher the reach upward on the y axis representing greater respect, and the lower the reach representing a loss of or lower respect.

All human beings are initially deserving of respect. In my mental graph, when I first meet someone, I envision that we are at the intersection of Respect Sidebarthe beginning of the timeline and the baseline for respect. I have respect for them as a human being, but I have yet to experience enough interaction and observation to add to or detract from that baseline respect. As we move along the x axis of time, my perceptions will change and the respect line will fluctuate based on my observations and interpretations of the persons actions.

So what can us as employers, employees, customers, family members, friends, and even strangers do to keep our perceived respect above the baseline? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Show respect. The fastest way to increase your own respect is to show respect.  Every human being wants to know that they have value and that others recognize it. Be respectful of others and they’ll respect you.
  2. Communicate cordially. Do you agree with every thought and opinion that the people you encounter in your life have? Of course not! We are all unique individuals and that is actually what makes our world such a rich and vibrant place to live. We can always remain cordial in our dealing with each other however, even when we don’t necessarily agree. If you have “hot topics” that you feel are better left untouched, then do so, and respect that others may also have their areas they would rather not talk about.
  3. Feel, don’t “see.” Appreciate the warmth, the kindness, the intelligence, the generosity, and the “heart” of those you interact with. If you do that, you will never face issues related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and so much more. If you take the time to feel, you will see – the real person, the human.
  4. There is no license to superiority. Being the CEO of a company doesn’t make you better than or give you a license to deserve more respect than that of the lowest paid employee in your company.  Likewise, don’t immediately assume that the President or CEO of your company is a cold, untouchable autocrat when you have never taken the time to meet them or speak with them.  I do hold great respect for people who have worked hard and been very successful, but I also hold them to a higher standard that requires them to more diligently work to not jeopardize that respect.  I equally respect the laborer who reports for work day-in and day-out so that he can provide for his family and offer them perhaps a more stable life than he felt he had.
  5. Show understanding. Sometimes things are just out of people’s hands. When I was in college I worked for a hotel that insisted that its employees abide by the motto, “Yes I Can.”  The answer to any question asked by a guest was, “Yes I Can.”  But here was the reality:  the honest answer to some questions was, “I’m sorry, but No I Can’t.”  We all understand that we simply have some situations in our lives that are out of our hands. Understand that applies to everyone. Don’t make unreasonable demands upon people and then become angry when they cannot possible fulfill what it is you want. You will lose status in their eyes.
  6. Live by the Golden Rule. If that sounds overly simple, it’s because some of the best advice is overly simple.  The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. You can’t really go wrong with that mindset.

Respect is one of the greatest things we can earn. It is also one of the highest compliments we can give.  Like a college GPA, if you have a high respect quotient, it takes a bit more effort to bring it down quickly, whereas if you start off with a low respect quotient, it is a much more difficult climb out of the hole. It can be done, but it’s a lot more work.

The bottom line is this: regardless of our status in life, we earn the respect we receive through the actions we show others, the good deeds we perform, and the overall way in which we conduct ourselves. It cannot be demanded. Those demands will fall on deaf ears.

All the best to you.

Is Mentoring a Lost Art?

The first steam locomotive

The first steam locomotive

The advent of the steam engine and the locomotive in the mid-1800’s ushered in a new era in America and throughout the world. That era was the industrial revolution.

Prior to the industrial revolution the world had largely been agrarian or small family-owned shops that provided necessary goods. Villages were largely self-sufficient, and unless one was involved in trade, there was little reason to travel from town to town. Small villages dotted the landscapes and around those small villages were farms where the local farmers grew their food. The farmers sold their wares at local markets and passed their skills on to their sons, and so on and so forth.

cobbler apprentice

A cobbler’s apprentice

In the village you would most likely find a blacksmith, trained by his father, and training his own son.  The same was true of the cooper, the silversmith, the butcher, the lawyer, and many others. Many tradesmen and farmers took on apprentices; young men who came to learn the craft, to learn a skill.  These farmers and tradesmen were what today we might refer to as mentors – skilled business people who pass on knowledge, who educate, who guide, provide correction when needed, praise when justified, and lift spirits when they sag.

industrial revolution

The mass production factory of the Industrial Revolution.

This had been the way for centuries. But the industrial revolution introduced new concepts in machinery, in production, and the inventions and discoveries of the industrial revolution gained an incredible, unstoppable momentum that fed the mind, led to more invention, more production, and faster ways to turn out even greater quantities of product. It fed a nation, and the world. Suddenly, the skills and education needed to learn a trade was no longer learned at the side of a master who already knew the craft. It was learned in colleges, universities, and trade schools. Education became as industrialized as our factories.

That momentum is still in motion today. It has morphed into the digital revolution, but the cogs of the great industrial and technological machine that is our society just keep spinning faster and faster.  Telephones, cell phones, instant messaging, social networking, computer aided design and manufacturing.  These are all incredible forces that allow us to do more in less time and to discover new ways of creating and doing, but have we also lost something in the process?

Apprenticeship is a rare thing these days. We hear talk of mentors, but what really is a mentor? I believe that a mentor is an experienced employee or manager who does all those things that a tradesman did with his apprentice: watch, guide, correct, support, help, and teach. But in a society that goes faster and faster and demands more, how can one mentor? They have their own needs to attend to. And what are we losing in the process?

Years ago, I took a job as a new account executive in the sales department of a company. I knew that I had people skills and the ability to talk to people. I was also keenly aware of my shortcomings: lack of industry knowledge, anxiety at cold-calling on prospects, and the self-confidence in myself and my product to “seal the deal.”

Within this company was a sales manager that I truly respected. He exuded the confidence I liked, but was in no way “smarmy,” or “hard-sell.”  I appreciated his skill. I appreciated his consultative approach to making a sale. He was someone I wanted to learn from and emulate. I decided that I needed a mentor and this was the man to do just that. I went to the local bookstore and purchased a book on mentoring. I sat down with the sales manager, gave him the book, told him the respect I had for his skills and that I wanted him to guide me, help me – mentor me.  He agreed. It ended there. I never received the guidance I asked for, the assistance I needed. I left the company shortly thereafter, feeling as if I had failed.

I train many, many people in my current position.  What I have learned is that we all learn at different paces and individuals gather and retain certain pieces of knowledge faster than others.  Within our high speed society, however, I fear that we want to have a “cookie-cutter” production line of people and we simply discard those who don’t move at an equivalent pace as others.

How many young people fresh out of school have great and deep untouched talent that we never let completely rise to the surface because we decide too early on “that they just aren’t right for the job.” We need to really mentor these new employees. They need to be treated as apprentices. stressed-manThey don’t know, and won’t know it all when they walk through the door, and we can’t use that rare Phenom we get as the benchmark. These young employees need to be guided and provided a safe and accommodating environment to learn, to make mistakes and not fear it marks the end.

Mentoring is alive, I just don’t think its well. We need to heal it. We need to embrace it. Be there to answer questions, to add support, to tell war stories. Remember what it was like when you learned. Don’t say, “Well that was how I had to learn it too.”  If you know it was the wrong way, why perpetuate it? Fix it. BE A MENTOR. Let’s get it back to being alive AND well.  I suspect we may all get something unexpected back in return – a deep respect that is earned.

Find Peace & Joy Within

At some point in all of our lives we deal with depression. Now I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I am just a guy. A guy more than half way through his life who believes this from his own experiences. I have been a child, a teen, a single young adult, college student, husband, father, leader, minion, employee, and the list goes on and on. I have never been homeless, hungry (and I mean truly hungry – not having eaten and not knowing where my next meal was coming from), suicidal, addicted, unloved, imprisoned, and this list also goes on and on. So, like all, I can only speak from my experiences and not for everyone.

Monsters don’t sleep under your bed; monsters sleep inside your head.” -author unknown

On a macro scale, I believe human beings deal with two types of very separate yet intertwined forms of depression. The first is that deep-seated, unrelenting, crushing depression that locks people in their beds, their homes, their minds, and their own self-misery. I am going to refer to this as chronic depression. The second is what I call situational or acute depression. This depression is also painful, and sometimes feels without end, but is created by the influence of external forces on us.

This post is only going to touch briefly on the first type of depression, namely for two reasons; the first as I stated at the onset is that I am not in the mental health field and am in no way qualified to provide therapeutic assessment or advice. The second is that I have never suffered chronic depression myself and have no personal experiences to base any advice on.Depression1

For those who suffer from chronic depression, you have my deepest sympathy and regrets that I am not able to help you more. To feel powerless to help another is, in my opinion, an awful circumstance, but if you suffer chronic depression and get anything from my self-admittedly ignorant article, then I will find some joy in that. All the advice I can offer you is to know that people exist in your life who love you, who would do whatever is within their power to help you and to provide you support. I hope that you can find it within yourselves to seek the professional help that can guide you to getting whatever it takes to fight to move ahead and reach the place where you can find your peace and joy within.

Situational depression is something that most people are much more familiar with. This acute depression can happen to anyone and can be brought on by difficult or stressful events in our lives. Perhaps you feel trapped in a dead-end job, you recently lost a loved one, relocated, had a a child go away to college; many things can trigger one to feel this kind of depression. Finding a way to fight through this, however, is right there, within yourself.

Because situational depression can be tied back to specific “environmental” causes, the key to finding peace and joy within is to redirect our mindset. This is not going to necessarily erase the negative influence causing the depression, but it can act as a “pain-killer,” if you will, taking our mind off the pain, even if in the short term. So how do you do this?

What do you enjoy? What provides you satisfaction? Are you a reader? Find a great book and lose yourself in it. Sports fan? With cable and satellite television there is no lack of things to watch. Perhaps you might even start playing a sport that you previously used to only enjoy watching. Hobbies are a great long term help. Maybe you’re a woodworker or a gardener, or like me, you like to senselessly ramble on a blog. Who cares? If you enjoy it and it can occupy your mind, get to it!

As an Organizational Communication major in college, we learned a theory called the “Spiral of Silence.” For the sake of this article I’m going to “massage” this theory to work here, but essentially the “Spiral of Silence” states that if you remain silent and fail to address wants and needs, you will slowly spiral deeper down into a whirlpool and climbing out can become harder and harder. This is why the occupied mind will help you find that peace and joy within.

What do you feel when you see this picture? Is is peace and harmony, or isolation and loneliness?

What do you feel when you see this picture? Is is peace and harmony, or isolation and loneliness?

I touched on two types of depression: the chronic, or long-term depression, and the acute, or situational depression. I think most people agree that given their choice, situational depression is better to deal with, as relief can be found when the negative experience is remedied. A problem with situational depression, however, is that if you allow yourself to be pulled deeper and deeper into the spiral, it can eventually go from being acute depression to chronic depression. There is an old saying, “the idle mind is the devils playground.” The idle mind is the unoccupied mind. There lies no peace and joy in the mind that swirls, spins, and folds onto itself over and over again.

“I ride by night, and I travel in fear, that in this darkness, I will disappear.”  -Bruce Springsteen, Stolen Car

Consider an episode of situational depression as an opportunity for self-discovery. Look inside yourself for that new hobby or renew an old one. As I said early on, I am not a therapist, but I have experienced situational depression. My youngest child recently left for college. My wife and I are “empty nesters.” The house is very quiet and at night feels very empty. As a parent you worry that your kids are doing alright, are happy, and are safe. These are things that created a “situation” that has lead to my own depression. Yet despite the sense of loss I feel for my kids being gone, I am enjoying new found time to spend exclusively with my wife. If we want to ride our bikes or go for a walk we can. If we want to just sit around and watch TV, that’s OK too. That is the redirection. “Every cloud has a silver lining.”hobbies

Look within. It lies with each and every one of us exclusively. No one can “undepress” us. We have to do that ourselves. It can be hard. It can be accomplished. I close with this suggestion: stand up, take a deep breath, look out the window at the sky, the trees, the grass, or children playing, smile, and say to yourself, “it’s a great day.” Then go live it.