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After your basic needs are met (food, shelter, safety) and you have a little left over as a cushion, extra material wealth has little to no effect on life satisfaction or happiness. First, you may welcome the information. It may feel like relief. It fits with the gut feeling you've had for a long time, which is that something's wrong that you haven't been able to put your finger on. It's as if someone has handed you the last remaining pieces of a puzzle--and now you can see the entire picture. The label "perfectly hidden depression" gives what you've been experiencing a name--a tangible identity. It can offer a lens through which you can discover and understand what's been happening in your mind and heart. It's important for you now to get the facts, so that you can assess what direction you want to go. You're taking the bull by the horns. You're eager to pick denial apart when it tries to convince you that perfectionism isn't a problem. Second, you may feel overwhelmed. It's hard work, and you might fight the tendency to put down this book and avoid any more thoughts about perfectly hidden depression. Denial can feel much easier than awareness. It can feel like too much to consider changing. You don't want any more information. Enough is enough. And you may stay stuck in the syndrome, not being able to believe that healing is actually possible. I hope this doesn't happen. But if it does, please know that there's a time for everything. Please don't put off looking at your perfectly hidden depression too long.

As all of this suggests, it is vitally important for you to know your history, and that's what we'll be working on. But keep your eye on the ultimate goal: Know your history, so you can walk out of it. The only reason that you need to evaluate where you've been is so you can make the appropriate decisions about who you are and where you're going. You won't hear me say, "Okay, you were abused as a child, so you aren't responsible for being so shy and reclusive. Go ahead and keep on being that way. At least you know why you are how you are; now you have insight." Not even close. I look at it and say, "You were abused as a child, which may explain why you have chosen to be shy and reclusive, but now that you realize that, you're going to have to do something about it." It's not an excuse; it's just a diagnosis. This of course presupposes that you will at least acknowledge that there is more out there for you, and that you want it. In talking to people about the authentic self, I've often noticed a strange phenomenon. As soon as I start talking about how the authentic self gives you power, vision, and passion, some people just stare at the ground; they grin sheepishly and dig their toe in the carpet; they look around to see who in the world I'm talking to. It's as if they're saying, "Power? Vision? Passion? Did somebody famous just come in the room?" They can't imagine that I'm talking about them. They're saying to themselves, Hey, I'm not some movie star. I'm no world leader or hero, righting the wrongs of the world. I'm just living my life day to day, going to work or raising kids, trying to make my bills, control my weight, watch a little television, and worry about tomorrow. This is the area that relates to creating space the most. There is a direct feedback financially. Take a look at your bank account statement.

It means much more than that. A state of abundance is appreciating (putting a value upon) your riches. That includes family, friends, laughing, contentment... It stems from a sense of freedom and security. Freedom from worries of finance or emotional concern. This results in a sense of security. Have you noticed how we gather around passionate people like moths to a light. It is infectious to hear a passionate person let themselves go in their purpose in life. (That is, of course, unless we are grumpy and feeling down. Back to smacking them in the face!) People are lost without purpose. Viktor E. Frankl17 recorded this so well in his study conducted under the extreme duress of being held in a concentration camp. His book Man's Search for Meaning clearly recounts how it is a life or death influence in the most desperate of times. In day-to-day situations, it can influence depression, apathy, and willpower. Yearning is more than a passion for life. Yearning is what a plant feels when reaching for the sun, what a salmon feels about travelling thousands of miles, fighting its way up swollen rivers, and spawning before it dies. It is the feeling that is delivered when you find your purpose. You have set your intent, and the result is a passion to yield to your yearning to reach the goal. It is true that we sparkle just by being alive. Indeed, the unique spirit with which we came into this world is our glittering life force: our own original inner glow.

Rather than lose ourselves in comparison with others, we need to polish our own unique sparkle. We often see others as brighter, better and more beautiful than we are. This is partly due to the fact that we are often blind to our own magnificence, but it is just as much a symptom of the culture of comparison in which we live: a culture we have normalised at our own very great expense. Comparison of ourselves with others is a gateway to unhappiness. It can unnecessarily ruffle our sense of self-confidence and self-worth, cause us to overlook our own unique beauty and potential, and thieve our joy. To combat this, we can catch ourselves in the act of comparing ourselves to others and affirm ourselves by saying, `I am me, and this is my life.' We can appreciate the attributes and offerings of others while remembering the truth: that we are all divine, worthy and complete, just as we are. Age seems to bring not only wisdom but happiness, too. Older people are more satisfied with their lives than younger people. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people in their early twenties are sad for an average of 3.4 days per month as opposed to just 2.3 days per month for people ages sixty-five to seventy-four. Freed from child rearing and the stress of building and maintaining a career, older adults have more time to pursue their own interests. Not to mention, as you age, you gain wisdom, perspective, and emotional intelligence, all of which can help you deal with life's challenges and stresses more efficiently. Want to be happier? Say "I do." People in steady relationships are generally happier than those who are single. Healthy romantic relationships provide elements that contribute to happiness, such as companionship, support, security, intimacy, and self-growth. At every step, we'll deal with this fear, but especially in the next chapter: Commitment. You'll know when you're winning the battle with fear. You'll recognize that there's no going back--and that you don't want to hide from how your heart and your mind are responding. The second component of consciousness is mindfulness. Whereas awareness can happen in an instant, giving fresh information, mindfulness deepens your experience of the present. The authors of The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness write that "mindfulness is much more than paying attention more thoroughly.

It is paying attention differently--changing how we pay attention... Being mindful means intentionally turning off the autopilot mode in which we operate so much of the time--brooding about the past, for instance, or worrying about the future--and instead tuning in to things as they are in the present with full awareness" (Williams et al. 2007, 54). Mindfulness is taking awareness to the next level and practicing how to stay very centered in exactly what this moment has to offer. It's a huge field in and of itself. Whereas anxiety tends to keep you thinking about the future--and depression typically keeps you focused on the past--mindfulness accentuates the importance and energy of the now. And as Anne Lamott's opening quote suggests, you can travel all of life's journey only being able to see what's a few feet in front of you--what's in the present. But the practice of mindfulness has another, vital function. Mindfulness practitioners teach that if you simply notice and accept an emotion or a thought in the present, but you don't fuel it in any way, that very acceptance can disempower it. It's what we think about or believe about something that causes us to make a judgment about it--not the thing itself. It may be that you, just like the "toe-diggers" I've met, don't feel like a big deal, either. Maybe it sounds melodramatic to be describing your life with words like power, vision, and passion, because, after all, we're just talking about you, right? There may be a little voice inside that says, "Those things are for other people. That's just lofty talk you put in books. He can't be talking about me." But if you're really honest with yourself, don't you admit that, at least occasionally, you do seem to know or at least think about the possibility that there's more to you than you are living? More ability, more joy, more peace? Okay, so you may not become a movie star or a world leader in the sense of having the prestige of the world stage, but you can become a star: the star of your own life. You can, you should, and you will. Fairly exciting concept, don't you think? However grandiose it may sound, I believe that this world was designed with you in mind.