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Hundreds of people in my life have told me that the only person I can ever count on is myself. Hundreds of movies and songs have told me that I have to learn to trust and depend on others to help me out of bad situations. Churches point to God. Governments point to their own systems. Kanye West ... well, he's the same as the church example, except he points his finger at his own chest.
Who is right?
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Not so fast, messiah.
The truth is, it's all a soupy mix that changes from person to person. That's what you have to examine. Have you avoided shooting for your dream job because you've been told all your life that being rich is a one-way ticket to spiritual doom? Are you with an abusive or destructive person because you have a kid together and are now "morally obligated" to stay? Or maybe there's a drug that's destroying your life, but you keep doing it because you've always been told that it's harmless ... your problems have to be coming from somewhere else, right? Maybe it's that you're too perfect.
Maybe it's time to biopsy those tumors and find out if they need to be removed.
Examining these beliefs is not a small deal. If I had hung on to every lesson my family taught me, I'd be a racist drug dealer, calling in sick to a factory job that I hate and dealing with DCFS every other month. I'd be stealing money from my grandmother and teaching my kids about sex by showing them a hardcore porno. You have to be willing to question it all ... even the stuff that seems innocent and correct. What worked for your parents isn't necessarily going to work for you.
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Come on, Dad, it's July.
This is part of what makes the whole process so slow. Beliefs are ingrained into your personality like nerve endings. Changing or removing them doesn't happen overnight. It can take years of personal experience to modify, because beliefs aren't just something you choose to agree with -- they're something you know for a bona fide fact. Even if they're wrong. You have to be open to the idea that maybe they are.
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Since I started working for Cracked, I've made enormous financial leaps that I didn't even know were possible for a guy like me. I've been making steady changes to my personality for half a decade because depression has been punching my balls for my entire life. I've far surpassed the goals I set for myself four years ago. So I've made it, right? My problems are resolved and it's just happy, happy, happy, roll credits?
Remember that whole "evolution" thing I talked about earlier? That never stops. That's the nature of the human brain. You don't stop playing the game when you hit Level 2. You get better armor and more badass spells, and you move on to the next quest. I still have financial problems, just in new ways. Are they as bad as when I used to buy gas with pocket change? Hell no, I wouldn't go back to that at gunpoint. But the problems are there -- I'm just better equipped to deal with them now. It's the same with depression. I still deal with it, because that's not something you just "cure." It's something you manage.
Usually by pulling off your own eyebrows.
If you're not prepared for this fact, you're going to find yourself woefully disappointed in five years when you look back and tally up your progress. You'll be so used to having the things that you once considered luxuries (like being able to use the air conditioner or buying underwear) that you'll overlook them and think, "I have no more money in the bank now than I did five years ago. What the hell?"
Or maybe in the process of working on your relationship you've learned how to argue without being assholes to each other. Once you're used to that style of communication, it's easy to look back and say, "We put so much work into this, but we still argue about everything. Should I set the house on fire?" You're not realizing the enormous progress you've made in how you communicate. All you will see is "We're still just casting spells at monsters," and all that progress won't feel like progress at all.
But the outfits will look fucking sweet!
But that's how we grow. You just have to recognize it when it happens. You've stopped battling pigs in the forest, and now you've moved on to demons in the sprawling dungeon. I sincerely have to stop playing World of Warcraft.
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