How to Quit Therapy

Recently by James Altucher: Who Makes Money on Wall Street?

My preparation starts about 12-24 hours in advance. I’m going to pitch a story idea. The worst thing that has happened to me this past week. The thing that I feel the most DOWN about. Dig deep. What happened? Who? Where? How? Why am I so upset?

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No. Deeper. There has to be real pain there. BLEED.

I go into my mental treasure chest for this sort of thing: (Did Claudia do something? Did my kids? Family members? Friends? Am I too anxious about blog statistics? Bank account? Did someone rob me, screw me, punch me, or worse yet, insult me) I need to script it out, play it back and prepare prepare prepare like I’m pitching a movie. Then I pitch.

To my therapist.

When I get sick, I go to the doctor, then pay for the appointment. Then, in most cases, I never have to go back. That happened last week when I thought I was going deaf. Went once and now I can hear again. My ear shat out two inches of wax. Problem solved. Or was the problem solved? Now I have to pay attention to everyone. Maybe I was secretly avoiding going to the doctor so I could ignore everyone. Hmmm? Is this my movie of the week?

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Therapy is different. You pay the same amount you pay a doctor. But then you go back next week. Then the week after that. Forever. There’s no cure for your brain. Original sin requires therapy every week. Being born means your brain is ill.

The worst are the people who have gone for twenty years. You can’t step in front of them without “crossing boundaries” or “projecting” or worse yet, if you use the pronoun “I” then you have watch out for accusations of “classic narcissism” or “borderline personality”. I’ve been accused of all of these. By the way, it’s the people who know you the best who have the DSM-IV ready in hand to diagnose you.

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I threw a party once where I wrote some software beforehand so that invitees could answer questions and then get their DSM-IV diagnosis. Then at the party I hung up on the wall everyone’s diagnosis. Most people were Schizoid Affective Disorder. Some people were simply psychotic. Other people were just depressed and then were embarassed to see their names on the wall.

I have no reason to bash therapy. I like it. I like talking to someone about my problems. But, you don’t really need to do it. Someone asked me yesterday during the Twitter Q&A I hold every Thursday what do I do when I am feeling down?

Sometimes I am feeling way down: 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008. Other times I am only feeling mildly down (every week at least once). Sometimes I’m on the floor (2007, 2000, 1991, 1978). Sometimes I lose $10 million. Sometimes I fail at a business. Sometimes I fail at a relationship. Or sometimes I’m just upset someone hates me.

But before you sign up for therapy try one of the below things. or all of them. Basically, there are four categories below: things to get off the floor, ideas to get you happier, ideas to take the next step forward, ideas to handle the worst case scenario.

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Don’t listen to any of these items if you don’t want. But this is what has worked for me when I’ve been feeling down. Some of these are obvious. They are the things you see on every “10 things to do to be happy” blog on the Internet. But they help. Other items are ones that have worked for me. Don’t believe them if you don’t want. But try and see.

Exercise. Exercise kicks in those endorphins. You feel better, you look better, you’re too tired for the mind to be overly active. You get rid of bad toxins when you sweat. Everything is good about exercise.

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Gratitude. Take out a pad, get a cup of coffee. Try to list 30 things you are grateful for. It’s hard! Try it! But if you have that many things you are grateful for it also puts in perspective the things you are down about.

Positive people. I call people who will help me to feel good about myself. Now, this seems like a copout. Shouldn’t you just feel good internally? Sure. But that’s hard! Good to be around people who don’t insult you, who say good things about you, who make you laugh, who inspire you. When you are down, make a checklist of the kind of people who will be ALLOWED to be around you. And only let those people in. This is the great thing about social media. You aren’t limited anymore to just the people who live on your block. Or your family. You’re only limited by the 800mm people who have signed onto Facebook.

Paint. I have some watercolors. I have a pad with big paper. Paint something. I am not a good painter at all. I make a square and some triangles and call it a house. But it’s oddly refreshing when I paint. Creativity triggers neurons that shut down the neurons that make you sad. I just made that up. But it seems correct when I think about how I feel while I’m painting. In the fall of 2008, when both the economy and my marriage were falling apart I went to a museum every day and sat in the bookstore and read books about art. I don’t know why I felt the need to do it. I just did it. And it felt good. Then I would go home and sleep in a hammock. Hammocks are fun.

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Shake it up. About a year or so ago I was having a bad day in the stock market. I was having a bad day for other reasons as well. Near my house there’s a little island with a little beach and you can swim in the Hudson River. So, for the first time in 5 years, I went swimming. It felt good! Do something you don’t normally do. List 5 things you can do that you don’t normally do.

Sleep. Sleeping is the #2 funnest thing you can do in the world. (Sex being first but that’s so obvious I’m not going to even put it on this list). The key, if you are feeling down, is to sleep solidly for more than eight hours. Do whatever you have to do to sleep more than eight hours. Take herbal remedies. Go to a doctor and get medication for sleep (usually addictive but worry about that later). The key is to sleep. The less you sleep the more anxious you are. There’s a billion studies on this. Sleep rejuvenates you, lowers stress, incites creativity, and in general gives you greater peace of mind.