Breaking the habit of feeling bad.

3 min readNov 21, 2022


For a very long time, whenever people asked me how I was doing, I said

‘Not good.’

Most of the time that was actually correct.

Many times it was not, not really.

But it was how I looked at myself, how I regarded my life, my body, my future, my world.

I just didn’t see the point in being accurate about my condition, and overgeneralized how I felt.

Besides: if I wasn’t in a bad place, that place was never far away, so why bother?

I’ve had small bouts of depression and there were very long ones, where I took time off from work and lived on antidepressants.

I’ve had therapy and I practiced self-medication, and none of those activities ultimately helped.

Well, of course they didn’t: a big part of my personality, my being, was colored by the depressions, the darkness, the negativity.

I had no clue how all of this works.

I never met a person who could convince me that I mostly suffered from a lack of feeling, but I see that now as the only truth.

There was therapy and there were lots of talks about my childhood, there were many different pills, there was painting and weird dancing and mindfulness in a fancy hospital for people with mental disorders, but I can’t remember the suggestion to go inside and just be with the sensations of dread, fear, and sadness.

Nobody ever told me I wasn’t really a depressed person, and in all fairness: I wouldn’t have accepted that anyway.

Because it was how I regarded myself.

It was what made me, me.

‘How are you?’

‘Not good man, not good at all…’

I was never taught that this was a mental trick to keep me where I was, to hold on to the dark and difficult parts of my self-image.

Seeing myself as a depressed and (therefore) rather unfortunate man, with the fucked up parents to prove a dubious heritage, was a habit.

And not just that: it was what kept the misery going, and the healing away.

I commonly managed my level of wellbeing to a fairly hopeless state, because (I know that now) it created the opportunity to complain about it and feel sorry for myself.

It sucked, obviously, but it also gave me stuff.

I didn’t have to show any accountability.

I didn’t need to change.

And I didn’t have to feel.

And that was (I know that now) one of the main reasons this notion of a broken person was maintained.

What we believe about ourselves, whether that’s amazing or totally fucked up, will be guarded and solidified by the unconscious mechanics of our being.

Our self-image NEEDS to be protected and fortified, because change would mean the end of safety.

That’s not really true, of course, but it’s how this works.

Change is extremely dangerous, or so it seems, which means that we can hold on to habits and beliefs and views that are detrimental to our (mental) health, but mostly establish the way we’ve learned to consider the world and who we are.

That’s why being depressed was awful and exhausting, but also weirdly comfortable and safe.

I didn’t know.

I just automatically kept myself far below the line of happiness.

I had no clue there was no obligation to keep doing that.

And I only really recognized and realized this recently, years after my last big period of darkness.

It seems to me that what we call a depression is an invitation to finally feel what’s going on inside, but carefully, gently, lovingly.

I can still recall the utter numbness of this state of being, and I guess that’s a result of sheer overwhelm.

It’s like the system’s shutting down because it senses the immensity of all the feelings we’ve been avoiding, and, again, simply wants to keep us safe.

All of this makes sense now, and in a way, it’s beautiful in its radicalness.

I’m happy to say that I don’t need it anymore.

It’s no longer what and who I think I am.

I feel that now.

(Photo by @andikachristian, for Unsplash)




Marnix Pauwels. Author. Transformative Coach. Slowly getting to the place he never left. Exploring awe. How about simplicity?