Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Reader Response: Where Do You Draw the Line?

We’ve had some fantastic dialogue on the comments boards of “Mind Over Broken Leg?” “He Had It Coming,” and “Hardly a Secret.” I’ve so enjoyed reading them because I struggle with where to draw the line regarding the power of the mind.

I am impressed by all the intelligent and nuanced remarks regarding this very complicated topic.

Especially articulate was reader Alison (a depressed writer like me! Go to her website by clicking here…very cool!) when she wrote the following on the comment board of “Hardly a Secret“:


“One way of looking at it is that visualization is a lens. Before we use it, we might not see the opportunities and the path that are already in front of us. After we use it, things suddenly become much clearer, and we can walk more confidently without fear of tripping. Or, to paraphrase an old cliche, perhaps the law of attraction means that we can will the door to open. But we still have to walk through it.

“Of course, as someone with depression, I find that visualization isn’t the only answer. Rather, it’s the lens, and medication is the frame. I could hold up the lens to my eye all day, but that would be pretty exhausting, and it would be hard to do everything one-handed. Medication is the frame that lets the lens rest in place so I can have both hands free.”


And I appreciate reader Maria (on the comment board of “Mind Over Broken Leg?“) telling me to have more patience with visualization and positive thinking.

Patience did not arrive in my DNA (hence the challenge of mental illness and motherhood). The other day, when I couldn’t build a website in five minutes, I threw up my arms and said, “Forget it!”

Eric laughed hysterically and then said, “You really gave that a chance.”

Yes, mindful meditation and visualization work better with long-term goals, not immediate ones (like expecting to be on “Oprah” in two weeks with the right mental picture).


I apologize, in general, if I seem to be bashing New Agers. Because I really do endorse meditation, mindfulness, yoga, positive thinking, and visualization. It’s just that I have seen people use the law of attraction to dump their responsibilities on others.

Take my friend Sue from Nebraska. According to her dad, paying for health insurance is like asking for an accident to happen. (By worrying about “what if,” you materialize your fear into a real crisis.) But an investment advisor told her to forget about retirement planning if her dad wasn’t insured. Any savings would most likely go toward settling an atrocious hospital bill (not that anything was going to transpire). To clear her conscious in the event that her dad did get sick (as most of us do), Sue decided to shell out the cash for his insurance.


Same deal with tax returns. Sue’s dad believed that proper visualization would take care of those. Which means that my friend got stuck filing five returns this year (one for herself and four for her dad, to cover the last few years when visualization failed.)

And I guess with every year I work at my depression, I grow a little less tolerant of judgmental statements made by well-intentioned but ignorant folks with regard to mental illness: “If you could only master your thoughts and control your emotions, you wouldn’t suffer,” or “By saying you are bipolar, you inhibit yourself from healing.” That sort of thing. I’ve also heard New Age friends accuse rape victims of attracting the tragedy to themselves. Last time I checked, those kinds of allegations weren’t found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.


However, the opposite is a nightmare too. I know too many people who live as victims, blaming the world for wronging them in every which way. I certainly have been guilty of this at times. (See my “Dear God” letter.) If I were to choose between being deserted on an island with a New Age quack (again, not saying all New Agers are quacks) or a “victim” of everything, I’d take the New Ager in a heartbeat. (As long as she doesn’t insist that I build the bloody boat because she is too busy visualizing it.)

But where do you draw the line?

When can you say to the “victim”, “Get up off your butt and do something about your problem!” without coming across as Dr. Phil on a bad day? Is it ever right to tell someone, “If you learned to be grateful, maybe bad things wouldn’t happen so often” or “By complaining all the time, you’re attracting these things.” How long do you stick with a mental picture before you abandon it? When is it time to abort the visualization because whatever you were going for (like an “Oprah” appearance) isn’t happening?

Oh heck, maybe I need to go back to my support groups and get squared away again. Maybe I’m reading too much again (that can be dangerous).

Anyone want to help me out with your take on this conundrum?

  • Alison

    Thank you so much for the lovely compliments, Therese. Although I believe in (positive, decisive) visualization as a tool, I am delighted to announce that none of the terrible scenarios I have envisioned happening to me or my loved ones, since I was a child, have not occurred. Others have, perhaps, but not the ones I worried about in agony. As for wishing only good things, I am not sure that it’s desirable or even possible for anyone, even non-depressive people, to live in a state of constant positive thinking. That seems kind of terrifying, although I couldn’t say exactly why.And even as a devout agnostic, I still agree with what Laura Ingalls’ mother told her: God helps those who help themselves. (Or in other words, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.) Clearly articulating what I want, though, whether item or event, just seems to make things go smoother somehow. Maybe I just notice the coincidences more quickly. The happy chances of fate. The miracles. Or maybe I am actually being given what I asked for. Either way, I’ll take it, cause I can use all the help I can get!

  • http://HASH(0xd0258b4) Babs

    Where to draw the line? Two things I’ve heard in counseling that make sense: all action is purpose-driven (I’d include inaction); and people do pretty much what they want to do. Whatever we do has some sort of payoff which is why we do it. It can be to experience familiar, predictable emotions, even if they are destructive; it can be to create distance between ourselves and others; it might be to absolve ourselves of responsibility, but we don’t act randomly. The payoff, of course, can be positive. While I might want to kick someone in the butt sometimes to get them moving, I’ve learned that I can do precious little for a person who is content in their misery. I think we can choose to make ourselves oblivious to the causes of our troubles, but deep inside, we know otherwise. All I can hope, is that when such a person wakes up to all they are missing in life, I’ll be there to give them a hand. As I read this over, it sounds like dealing with addiction, which perhaps it is. That being said, I think this sort of rumination is the luxury of a monetarily rich society. The more we have, the less we are content or appreciative — at least it seems so in my life. I find myself medicating with stuff to push away the feelings of futility, loneliness, and inadequecy, rather than seeking the Healer of my ills. So much easier to buy, distract myself, cruise the net, than to seek God. I’d have to face myself in the mirror — and it is too daunting. Yet, the yearning to have peace keeps drawing me back to God who has been so patient. God has seen fit to let me dig my own holes, reach my own dead-ends, knowing that eventually I’ll admit I don’t know what I’m doing. It is then, in desperation, I’ll turn to God and be ready to face myself, and ultimately, receive Love. If we consider the patience of God, then we have the answer of where to draw the line.

  • http://HASH(0xd023ca4) chuck

    The simple solution is to always blame the victim. It’s more fun that way. Ok, to be serious, the problem with a bunch of these folks is they lack a sense of balance and perspective. Nothing always works, not even the car, so why should mind power be any different? It seems the best way to resolve the problem is to relax, don’t worry so much, blow up the bridges after you cross them and remember that wonderful line from The Mikado, “Life is a joke that’s just begun.”

  • Alison

    (my apologies for the double negative. ooops.)

  • Teresa Fristick

    Depression is one of the most debilating conditon you can have especially if it is deep and last for years. I fight mine with trying to help others from my home as I rarely leave my house. I am in total realization of the fact that I chose not to care for my spirit and it will die. So you must put focus on yourself take help from anyone willing to give it and read the Bible for as long as you can even if it is one little verse. And whatever happened to put you there you must deal with eventually. That is if you are trying to build a wall around you. What are our options? Focus on the positive as much as you can muster. Do not feel guilty if you are not able to do what you did before. Little by little start eating and exercising properly. Exercise truly releases serotin.You can find out anything you need to know including diet on the net. If you need help just let me know and I will find you some links. If you would like to talk you can e-mail me. I am fighting my way out of a deep bout but I have unsurmountable stress plus am disabled at 48. I will keep you in my prayers. Teresa

  • http://HASH(0xd0279b8) anon

    I’ve just recently “recovered” from depression, or so they say. I know that I do feel much better than I did. That being said, I still have issues to deal with in regard to relationships that I would benefit from forming. I want to be able to express myself and feel free to do so but circumstances prevent me from doing so. I want this relationship very much, I need it as much as I need air to breathe. What I don’t have is the confidence to move forward as constraints prevent me from doing so. Support from others would help me to go forward and promote this needed component in my life..I truly feel if I could feel safe and sure of feelings from another, I could open up and give myself freely, without constraint and live the life that I know is possible which is one of happiness, love and peace..I pray for it constantly…

  • Rebecca Winters

    Either we control things with our thoughts, or God is in control. If you accept the New Age theory, you are denying the supremacy of the Lord. Personally I believe that God is in charge. When I was a New Ager, I believed in a lot of things, and that didn’t make them happen. Then there are the bad things that happened to me, which I never saw coming, and don’t believe I “drew” to myself with thoughts. This “law of attraction” is so much hippie crystal-gripping drivel. Read the Bible and accept Jesus as your savior. That is the best way to go.

  • http://HASH(0xd029984) HASH(0xd0298dc)

    If you can’t reconcile yourself to the idea that bad things happen to the undeserving, then your only alternative is to believe that all sufferers are somehow deserving. But every religion that affirms a just universe has to explain how this could be. Because no-one is innocent? Original sin. Because they did evil in a previous, forgotten existence? Karma. Because they jinxed themselves with the wrong thoughts? The law of attraction. Believing that the universe is simply unjust has unpleasant theological implications (are the higher powers helpless or just indifferent?), but it does allow you to believe that the innocent are truly innocent.

  • http://HASH(0xd02a4cc) Catherine Jones

    I think to visualize, meditate or try to attract posative energy into our lives makes alot of sence. And in my life the law of attraction has always worked. But I think to try to control the specific events that will take place in your life is foolish, and a bit like trying to enter into God’s area of expertise. I deal with depression, and have for 10 years( or ten years of diagnosed depression)I have visualized, meditated, etc etc for years. To be well, happy, and a giving member of the community again. Today most of the time I am a happy contributing member of the world again. But I had no Idea the path of healing would lead where it did. I had no idea the E.C.T. would be the tx that worked, or which people I met would be supportive and which would consider me to be a freak. So I left the details to God and focused on attracting the perfect situations that would allow me to heal. I believed I would be well.(try that one when your depressed) And, I behaved in ways that permoted this goal. Which ment working out, taking meds I feared, seeing a therapist who would call me on my shit, and the hardest; going out into the world at least once every day.(some days the park counted) But I did it. So after all that, my belief is we do attract circumstances into our lives, so I focus on what I ask for,leave the detail to God, and live as if it’s already true.

  • crock

    As one who is a recovering cocaine addict and also suffers with bi-polar disease, I feel for Britney to an extent. I know what it’s like to want that “ONE” hit, and think that that “one” hit will get me through anything. Well, guess what . . . that one hit turns into a thousand and you’re back to your old ways again. Thank God and friends, I’ve been able to live clean for two years now.
    One of the things I am most grateful for is that I didn’t have any children who had to see me while I was using, and don’t have to live with me on my “bad” days with my bi-polar. Maybe what Britney needs to do is to find a Narcotics Anonymous or other recovery group that SHE can relate to and develop a sponsorship and friendships that will benefit her in a genuine manner.
    Another thing I think we ALL need to remember is this: Don’t judge someone unless you’re willing to be judged yourself.

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