For the past few months, I have highlighted several characteristics of depressed people from the book Breaking the Patterns of Depression by Michael D. Yapko. Throughout the book, Yapko offers Pause and Reflect exercises, that challenges the reader to carefully consider important concepts. There is one exercise that I think is appropriate to share with you at this holiday time. It is called ‘Your Ghost of Christmas Future”.
One trait that depressed people often share is that they continually review old traumas and hurtful things from the past and depend heavily on these past experiences as a point of reference for interpreting the present and the future. Yapko asks the reader to respond to the question “what do you want your future to look like?” The concept that Yapko encourages the reader to consider is that the future does not need to be a reflection of one’s past.
I am sure you are all familiar with the well-known character, Ebinezer Scrooge, created by Charles Dickens in the classic A Christmas Carol. One Christmas Eve he is visited by three ghosts: the ghost of the past, present , and future. It was not until he visited with the ghost of Christmas Future, that Scrooge became aware of the implications of his life long cynicism and the consequences of continuing on the same path. Scrooge decided to change his ways so that his future was not a reflection of his past.
I loved Kathy’s article last month in ALDA-Sun. I think it is a perfect example of an individual taking the time to pause and reflect about the future in terms of her hearing loss. Kathy shared that she was watching a home video of her childhood. She noticed that her father, who was late-deafened, was often withdrawn from family interaction. When the video stopped, Kathy turned to her husband and daughter and said ”That isn’t going to be me, guys!”
Although this was a scene from the past, it provided her with an opportunity to picture herself in the future and to reaffirm that she is on the right path in her journey to effectively cope with hearing loss. None of us will likely be visited by the “Ghost of Christmas Future”, but we can stop and ponder where we want to be in 5, 10 or 15 years and then take the appropriate action to be sure our future is all that we hope it to be.
I wish you all a Happy Holiday, and hope that a visit with the “Ghost of Christmas Future” provides you with a wonderful “present” (pun intended!).
Yapko, M. (1997). Breaking the patterns of depression. New York: Doubleday
(A reprint of an article I wrote 20 years ago, when I was the founding President of ALDA-Suncoast of Florida, a support group for people who have become deaf. The article appeared in the newsletter, ALDA-Sun. At the time, I was going back to school to change professions from being a foreign language teacher to becoming a mental health counselor.)