When i’m going through depression and suicidal thoughts, I have learnt to listen and take on board all kinds of help and views. This article is a guide to show you what the cycle looks like, how it works and most importantly how to understand it so you can break out of it. It was doing this exercise that really helped me change a lot of things I was doing wrong and helped me to move into a better place, both in my mind and in the world. It may not work for everyone, but it worked for me, and i wanted to share it. Now, grab a pen and paper…
The cycle contains three headings. They are Feelings, Thoughts and Behaviours. These three points are interlinked and on paper can be represented as a triangle with each heading at one of the three corners.
The idea of the cycle is simple. A strong feeling can lead to a thought which, in turn, can lead to a behaviour which makes feelings stronger and so the cycle continues.
To break this triangle you first have to see what’s inside it. I will use an example of how I broke bad behaviour using this method which I hope will help you make your own triangle.
Let’s start with the feelings. For me it was sadness, loneliness, feeling unloved and unworthy. These were the strongest feelings i experienced so I placed them in the ‘feelings’ corner.
Next up: Thoughts. I asked myself the question “what thoughts did these feelings give me?” I wrote them down. Thoughts like “nobody loves you”,”nobody wants you”,”you are nothing”,”It would be better if i wasn’t around”. All the dark stuff.
Lastly, Behaviours. I looked at how those thoughts and feelings made me act. It would feed my addiction to online chatrooms. I would dwell on thoughts of the past. I would isolate myself and detach from people.
Looking at my triangle in this way helped me clearly see and understand how one affected the other. The hardest part was what came next. What to try and change to break the cycle.
It was clear to me that my behaviours were all fueled by my thoughts and feelings so these where we’re I had to focus the most. Emotion is the hardest thing in the world to control. Thought processes, on the other hand, can be changed with some will power and motivation so that was where i started.
I changed my negative thoughts into positively phrased questions. So instead of thinking ‘I am useless’ when i was feeling sad, I asked ‘how can I make myself feel better?’ ‘What new ways can I think of to pass or make use of this time?”. These questions brought new thoughts and with them bred new behaviours, such as reading books, writing, drawing, learning a new language, going for a run. As I concentrated on these new behaviours, new feelings came along, such as happiness, joy and a sense of purpose.
Just like my checklist article this is not an easy task. It means looking deep into your innermost feelings and thoughts, and linking these with how you outwardly act, which is always hard, but the results can be amazing. It will not be over night but the more you work at it the stronger and easier it becomes. Think of it not as replacing something, but as arming yourself with another tool to help get you out of a dark place.
I will remind you now of those people here to help, if needed. All of which I have no shame in telling you I have talked to personally and every last one has been fantastic. CALM, Samaritians, Citizens Advice, GPs, loved ones, friends. The one person who is the best source of strength in the world, however, is yourself.
Find that strength and remember, you are not alone.