Puzzled? Transform depression into motivation!

Comics heroes often discover their greatest strength once they hit the bottom. Sometimes it feels this way to real people. We can transform our depression and confusion into creative breakthroughs and a surge of motivation. Each time we do not feel that good with ourselves we can reframe that into a motivational moment.  You may want to read more here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.


We rarely feel puzzled and this may be a good thing. Typically we act automatically. This means we execute the same sequences that used to work for us quickly and effortlessly. We save our time and usually achieve great results.

When we execute certain techniques we expect specific feedbacks. We may get very different feedback or dynamics.  In that case, we will probably feel puzzled and act less automatically, investing our conscious thought in our activities. The result will be less fluent, but we will be able to adapt.

Creativity is often experienced as this stepping out of automatic thinking patterns and into something entirely different. And creativity may start a wonderful transformation.

Do not touch me. Transforming.

In nature, before the transformation happens, the butterfly would be in a cacoon. We are really vulnerable during the transformation period. Our old automatic responses stop working properly, but our new responses do not work yet.

Quite often when in “cacoon” we are touchy and depressed. We feel that we cannot react well enough to the outside pressure and at the same time we do not have energy and confidence to filter the noise.

Therefore for some people, depression might be a symptom of transformation and should be treated as such. A strong drop in productivity in the working environment not necessarily requires a hearing with the boss. Quite possibly if given a bit more time a “Eurika” moment may emerge.

Failure as a wake-up call.

More often, to the point of becoming a stereotype, depression is a cry for help. Elton John needed psychological help, so he staged several dramas until he got the help he needed. He tried to drown in his own pool during a party. This is not exactly a suicide attempt. Walking to an AA meeting in full costume was a definite cry for help, and this time it worked.

In the working environment, failure is very similar to death. Some people stimulate failure as a cry for help. Others are asleep in automatic activities and a failure wakes them up. Yet in other cases, failure may be a logical result of the wrong strategy and show the limitations of this strategy. We do not always choose how we fail, but we choose how we recover.

Storytelling often glorifies our failures as a step in the hero’s story arch. Most coaches and salesmen are master storytellers. A good story will motivate, build empathy and encourage to buy. This does not mean that the storytellers lie. They simply choose to address some failures and transformations while completely ignoring other failures and success stories.

So if you hear someone talking about “the darkest hour is just before dawn”, this could be a poetic license.

From depression to mania

Another effect of depression is energy preservation. People in the state of mania use too much energy, and often need a depression between two consecutive mania stages. It is only natural that depression is followed by mania if we recovered enough energy.

In the state of mania, people can be very successful. Mania is usually defined by a lot of energy, very high confidence, conquering charisma, razor-sharp focus, ability to work crazy hours. All of these things may generate a creative or commercial success within a very short timeframe.

Oscillating between mania and depression is not a sign of personal growth and future success. It is a very dangerous and destructive tendency even in the most helpful environments.  At some point, the timing of depression will coincide with the greatest trial, and a great failure will typically follow.

Not all ups and downs are clinical or avoidable, yet it is best to avoid the rollercoaster experiences.

Creativity out of exhaustion

We often associate creativity with sparkling freedom and happiness. This is not the only creativity. Maybe it is not even the most common form of creativity.

Creativity often comes from limitations. We exhaust our established brain connections and new brain paths switch on. Some of this is our natural openness, and some of the neuroplasticity is acquired. The more we practice creativity, the easier it becomes. Possibly there is some brain chemistry change involved, I do not really see a relevant study.

When we train creativity we not only establish new perspectives and new ways of problem-solving, we also facilitate “out of the box” thinking.

The strange thing: quite often before we think “out of the box” we need to exhaust our regular ideas. In certain studies, two groups of students get a small amount of money and an adequate amount of money with the request to earn more. The groups with small amounts, generate more creative solutions and eventually higher revenues.

Depression does not kill creativity

In fact, some of the most creative performers and money-makers are clinically depressed. Depression often goes well beyond sadness, through exhaustion of automatic thoughts, into the realm of the “out of the box” creativity.

This does not mean that we need to be burned out, depressed and slightly suicidal to feel creative. We do not need to higher depressed people in a strange hope they will find creative genius. If and when we get into depression we can reframe the depression into change, creativity and a focus point for radical activity.

A simple question “what should I do next” may change your life…


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