The take-home message of this rambling, repetitive, and highly personal saga of self-discovery: just say no to depression.
Curtiss, a long-time sufferer of manic depression who spent years in therapy before deciding to become a cognitive behavioral therapist, concedes that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but contends that will-power, not chemicals, is the way to cope with it. Depression, she asserts, lies in the lower-brain primal mind; to make it go away, simply use the upper-brain higher mind, which does not contain depression. Drawing at length from her own life experiences, but also using anecdotes from her practice, she describes how to use the higher mind to gain control over reaction to depression. She calls the process of choosing specific thoughts to switch the focus of attention from lower-brain mind to upper-brain mind “Directed Thinking,” and like many self-help gurus, she advocates the use of positive self-talks. For quick help, though, in those moments when depression strikes, she recommends having some simple mind tricks on hand. For her, reciting the neutral words “green frog” or singing the lyrics to “Mairzy Doats,” are effective techniques for keeping the feeling of depression from gaining her attention. As she puts it: “Thoughts cause the chemistry of depression and thoughts can uncause it.” A bit of a scold, Curtiss complains that our psychologized society excuses character weakness as mental illness, and she asserts that failure to use mental faculties to manage depression comes from either ignorance or irresponsibility.
Admirers of Laura Schlessinger—and Curtiss is one—may welcome her moralistic approach; the rest of us are more likely to view it as simplistic.