Posts Tagged ‘Michael Masterton’

“Defeating depression before it defeats you.” ~ Michael Masterson

Friday, January 28, 2011. I am grateful that there are so many perceptions of depression out there. We don’t need to accept just one. Take a “helping” of many different perspectives ’til you find one that works for you, including keeping your depression if you function better that way right now.


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Some time ago now I wrote a letter to a friend:

“Hi Henry (not his real name),

“I found this article by Michael Masterson entitled “Defeating Depression Before it Defeats You” very helpful to me. Perhaps you will find it helpful too. When we figure out that the roots of depression are purely perceptual, it gives us a tremendous advantage for getting out of the hellhole and staying out, eh? 😮

“I realize that you don’t necessarily have the same problems or assets as the people in this story. However, the principles are the same. Stop comparing yourself mentally to others, and perhaps to some of your former selves, and value the gifts you do have.

“If you feel you have no gifts,  you would be dead wrong and that is the real problem. Many people would rather be dead than wrong.

Not very smart, eh?

What are your gifts? I can think of many and my thoughts will simply fall on deaf ears if you do not originate them yourself.

“What are your gifts?

“One gift that you have that I really value is your friendship, and especially what I call your friendship-patience. Worth tons and tons and tons of gold, let me tell you. 😮

“Blessings & Gratitudes, Collins”

Doc Meek, Friday, January 28, 2011, Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA

P.S. Here is the article by Michael Masterson, if you wish to read it in full:

Header to article: “The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

Article: Defeating Depression Before It Defeats You

By Michael Masterson, founder of ETR (Early to Rise), a financial newsletter:

Let me tell you a story…

About 30 years ago, I became friendly with a man who had a very successful printing business, as well as a significant personal fortune. He was a very charismatic guy – always good-natured, upbeat, full of fun, and easy to like.

Then – during the recession of the 1980s – his business collapsed. I don’t remember the details, but he had taken on a lot of debt and lost a few of his biggest clients. Then, suddenly, he was bankrupt.

When I heard about it, I called to console him and offer a helping hand. It was too late. Sobbing, his wife told me that he had killed himself.

I was shocked. Devastated. I couldn’t understand why he had done it. He had so much going for him. A beautiful family. Loving friends. Intelligence. Good looks. He was, in short, a person with great natural wealth. His financial wealth, as far as I was concerned, was just gravy.

Apparently, he didn’t see it that way.

Six months ago, another close friend lost his job due to our current recession. His income dropped from about half a million dollars a year to almost nothing. Within a few weeks, he had spiraled into a clinical depression. He would not leave the house. He would not look for work. He talked about suicide. I was afraid he would do it.

I visited him, hopeful I could talk him out of the hole he had dropped into. But all the support I gave him fell on deaf ears. He was consumed by his financial problems. He asked me to give him a job. I had nothing for him, but I told him I’d see what I could do. I wanted to buy some time.

I visited him again the following day. We talked about his financial situation. I was surprised to learn that he had millions of dollars in property and hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank. He was in much better shape than 99 percent of the rest of the world. Yet he was in despair, on the verge of suicide.

His problem, I realized, wasn’t a financial one at all. His problem was that his ego had suffered a near fatal blow. Without a high-income job, he saw himself as worthless. He had attached his self worth to his income. When his income disappeared, so did his self-esteem.

The next time I visited, I brought him a copy of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. In this classic self-help book, Peale observes that depression is “one of the great problems besetting people.” He argues that the root of most depression is a lack of self-esteem. He points to a survey of college students which indicated that, for 75 percent of them, self-esteem was the thing most lacking in their lives.

If you’ve ever choked up in an interview, forgotten your lines in a play, or blown an easy lay-up, you know how your self-esteem can take a little dip when your actions don’t meet your expectations. And when you feel like you have failed in a big way, you can be crushed. It’s hard to recover from that kind of blow.

That’s what I think happened to my friend – actually, both of my friends. They had decided that their financial setbacks were huge, personal failings. In both cases, the trouble was the result of an economic downturn, not foolish actions. Both were smart, hardworking guys who had been successful for many years. Then, for whatever reason, they failed… and they were broken.

Instead of thinking, “Gee, this isn’t working anymore. How can I change to prosper in this new world?” they must have thought, “I always secretly knew I was a fraud. This proves it. Now the whole world will know what a failure I am.”

The lesson here is that you don’t want to link your self-esteem to your ability to make money. As billionaire businesswoman Oprah Winfrey says, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

We are all being affected by the Great Recession. If you are like most people, you have lost half your life savings. You may feel your job is in jeopardy. You may have lost your job. You may be without income. But the worst thing you can do right now is sink into a depressive state. You’ll be good for nothing. You’ll be unable to enjoy time with friends and family. And you’ll be incapable of making a comeback.

Being depressed, a good friend once explained, is like falling into quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you get.

To avoid that quicksand, you have to change your thinking while you are still mentally healthy. You must detach yourself from the idea – if you have it – that your self worth is measured by your money. You must recognize that what counts most in your life is the minutes you spend learning and helping and growing – the time you spend helping other people, not dwelling on yourself.

In The Power of Positive Thinking, Peale says: “The blows of life, the accumulation of difficulties, the multiplication of problems tend to sap energy and leave you spent and discouraged. [It] is easy to lose track of your abilities and powers” – but by re-appraising your personal assets, you can convince yourself that “you are less defeated than you think you are.”

As an example, he tells how he counseled a 52-year-old man who came to him “in great despondency.” Everything in his life, the man said, had been “swept away” by a recent business setback. “Everything I built up over a lifetime is gone.”

Peale recognized that although the man had indeed experienced a serious setback, his chief problem was the way he viewed it. “Suppose we take a piece of paper and write down the values you have left,” he suggested. And so they did. Among other things, the list included:

  • a wonderful wife – and a 30-year marriage
  • three devoted children
  • admiring friends, happy to help
  • good physical health
  • integrity

Not bad.

Make your own list right now. If you have trouble making that list, try this – a little trick I’ve recommended before in ETR. Imagine yourself as an observer at your own funeral. Surely you wouldn’t want to hear your spouse, your children, your friends and colleagues say things like, “He was a jerk, but he sure made a lot of money.”

Think about what you would like them to say about you. Those are the things that really matter – positive personal assets that you don’t lose just because times are tough.

If you’re feeling down, focusing on those positive personal assets will help you overcome the worst feelings you could possibly have about yourself. And no matter what happens to your job or your income, you won’t despair. You’ll be able to use all your natural resources to start over again. And the money will come back – as it always does when you have the right work ethic.

If you think what I said here can help a friend, pass it along. As for what happened to my friend who lost his job six months ago… that’s a story for another time.

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