Dealing with the Blahs

Ever have one of those days: you’re keeping your mind on whatever you are doing and yet you just feel “blah”, like you have no desire, or even depressed, but you’re not thinking about anything bad or depressing?

We all have those days at one point or another and a particular day for me which had me questioning why was one Christmas when I just could not motivate myself to do anything, was truly in a “blah” mood but not really down about anything, though my body felt like I was down.

What’s up with the unidentified “blahs”?

A lot of people would think that in order to feel down about something you would have to consciously think about it, recall it from memory into conscious thought, but this is not the case and what we have in our unconscious memories is more damaging to us on various levels than what conscious recollection is.

The numbers are staggering as to the potential memories any individual has. Think about it, on any average day there dozens even hundreds of memories acquired. There are 365 days in a year and of course a 21 year old has 21 years of potential memories; you do the math.

As for the 21 year old example, just because we cannot recollect into our conscious mind a particular memory, or memories before a certain age, does not mean the memory is gone; actually we have many times more unconscious memories than conscious recollection.

If we divided each moment in our lives into the potential memories contained within them the number of memories is staggering, into the millions. Obviously we do not count our memories nor do we recollect this many, but it’s not the ones necessarily that we recollect which are the ones responsible for the “blahs”.

Memories, though many of them are recessed, have emotions associated with them when the memory was a conscious reality. It may have been a sad moment and that memory is going to evoke sadness; the thing is, it does not have to come into our conscious mind to have that effect.

Memories, whether they are associated with a particular event, sound, song, or whatever might bring them about, do not have to be directly associated. Christmas is a particular event which brings about memories, sad and happy, of events which never took place on Christmas, but being that we associate so much importance with Christmas concerning family and lost loved ones or new ones brought into the world, Christmas is a very powerful trigger for memories, conscious and unconscious.

When a trigger, or stimulus, sets off a reaction, in this case an emotional response, this is what is known as a conditioned response, and a conditioned response works on an unconscious level, and has very real physiological effects; this is the same thing as illustrated in the classic study known as Pavlov’s Dogs where the physiological product of salivation of the dogs was measured in response to food, the stimulus of food was replace by other stimulus, eventually a bell/buzzer was substituted which produced the same response as the food would have without the presence of food.

What this means for us is that memories which are buried deep within our unconscious minds are conditioned responses; we have emotions associated with these memories which, whether the memory surfaces or not, produce very real physiological effects associated with these emotions. Hence, when it’s Christmas day and we are feeling “blah” for no seemingly conscious reason, what is happening to us is that our bodies are responding physiologically to emotions associated with unconscious memories and we have no idea this is happening.

But how do we deal with something on an unconscious level? Therapy is expensive, and though helpful in many cases it sometimes does more for the therapist than the patient. But is there something we can do for ourselves to deal with these conditioned response within us? Yes.

It is amazing that with all of our advancements, and our advancements are not to be belittled, that we can find an answer to something centuries old which has dealt with this very problem. There is a technique from Buddhist Samasati Meditation which is a technique I use and have called smiling away the pain, which is really an over-simplification but in reality is what one is accomplishing with it.

We have various moments, usually daily and several times a day, where memories will surface, even deep seated memories. When this happens, we feel that emotion which is associated with it. Buddhist monks some time ago realized that these memories interfered with meditation and advised their students to laugh at the memories when they would surface.

What’s happening here? Remember that these memories are associated with negative emotions, and having a positive reaction to these memories on a conscious level re-associates positive feelings with them. When these memories surface we can laugh, smile, or whatever is a positive feeling you can associate with a memory.

This takes time and is essentially a lifelong technique, but one which will prove beneficial in not only dealing with past memories but in preventing future negative associations. Getting oneself into a habit of smiling, or otherwise applying a positive feeling, to those moments which aggravate us and anger us helps to prevent us from essentially having more baggage to carry with us emotionally.

This is not something that works overnight. Our memories were not created overnight but over our lifetimes. This is something that takes conscious practice, but with practice it eventually becomes a habit, and not only can we deal with memories as they surface, but we can force ourselves to recall memories and apply the same technique and get into a habit of smiling when we feel something is aggravating or angering us; which not only helps to allay a conditioned response, but it helps tremendously as with practice we can deal with tense situations more effectively.

Our memories are a part of us that are not going anywhere; they are lifetime partners. Dealing with the memories we have and learning to deal with situations using the technique I have presented is an incredible tool that will not only help to get rid of the “blahs” but will make us stronger in the days ahead of us.

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