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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Clearing the Fog, A Conversation on Depression

John Bradshaw - Clearing the Fog, A Conversation on Depression

John Bradshaw - Clearing the Fog, A Conversation on Depression
John Bradshaw - Clearing the Fog, A Conversation on Depression
TOPICS: Clearing the Fog, Depression, Anxiety, Worry

John Bradshaw: This is "It Is Written". I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Depression and anxiety continue to be major problems in first-world nations. Around the world, it appears, in fact, it very much is, that depression and rates of depression is getting worse and worse. Is there a solution? The solutions that have been proffered to the world over the last several decades simply aren't making a dent in the problem. It's not that no one is helped; it's just that the solutions aren't really solutions. My guest today is Dr. Neil Nedley, who for 25 years has been successfully treating people whose lives have been upended by depression and anxiety. Dr. Nedley, thanks for joining me.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Thank you. It's great to be back here, John.

John Bradshaw: You've been doing this for a while now.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: And you've been treating depression, as we've discussed before, I would say, naturally, not with drug intervention. You're not against medication, but you have found natural treatments. Let me go back 25 years. When you started treating depression the way you're treating it now, did you hear much criticism? Or did you hear any criticism of your methods from a society that was predisposed towards very different methods?

Dr. Neil Nedley: I did hear some criticism. Now, it wasn't as much as I thought I might because I went to the medical literature and was looking at all of the 100-plus causes of depression and anxiety, and I was working on reversing those. So, those causes had already been largely elucidated before I came to it, and now I was just reversing those causes. But the fact that I was not a board-certified psychiatrist, I was internal medicine, which is adult diseases of the internal organs; the brain is included in that. Uh, it just wasn't the right type of professional I think they were thinking that might revolutionize depression and anxiety treatments. So, we did get some criticism on, "What is this internal medicine doctor doing treating severe forms of depression and anxiety"? But they couldn't argue with the results.

John Bradshaw: Yeah, what are they saying 25 years later?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Uh, actually there's no controversy, at this point. Uh, they are very much, everyone, in fact has seen our scientific results, seen our published studies in the scientific literature, and the evidence is now overwhelming that what we are doing is, indeed, the best therapeutic approach for depression and anxiety.

John Bradshaw: Depression and anxiety, of their very nature, are conditions of the mind. Therefore, I want you to tell me, you wrote a book called "The Lost Art of Thinking".

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: What does thinking have to do with depression? And I guess my question really is, what do thoughts have to do with depression?

Dr. Neil Nedley: They have a lot to do with depression. And, in fact, our thoughts become like highways in the brain, particularly if they're repetitive thoughts. And some studies have shown that depressed and anxious people, 80 percent of their thoughts are negative, and 95 percent of their thoughts are repetitive. And so, those repetitive negative thoughts, we call them NATs, negative automatic thoughts, become like highways in the brain. And that's one of the reasons why simply biochemistry alone can't cure depression. Biochemistry is very important. We take a very prominent role in helping the brain's biochemistry to be able to change those thoughts. But then we actually have to be intentional in analyzing our thoughts for distortions and getting rid of thoughts that are not helpful or simply not accurate. And that takes some work, and it's why a, a combined approach of biochemistry plus a good cognitive behavioral therapist is paramount in really producing the results that we get.

John Bradshaw: But one thing I think I want to point and that is I think everybody can relate to how some thoughts are just automatic.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Right.

John Bradshaw: When I see that guy, when I see that guy, I just, you know, I wanna... when, when I get in my car, I just think of... or when I find myself in the shower, I, I think this way, or when I'm at my desk, there are a lot of automatic thoughts. And I don't know exactly why that is. I think it's just years of practice and years of repetition.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Is it true that people find themselves on autopilot often when it comes to their thoughts?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Oh, absolutely. You know, in fact, a lot of people that come to our program you know, we don't deal with the thoughts right off the bat, we're dealing with behavioral and lifestyle issues first, but by about day three, we have to start getting into the thoughts. And they say, "My problem are not with my thoughts. My problem are real". You know, this is, you know, they don't think thoughts are necessarily real, per se. But, yes, their problem is also with their thoughts, and on the surface they think those thoughts are, you know, true and accurate. But as we dig deeper, as we get to the core, they can start seeing that their thoughts actually are irrational, unhelpful, and with that negative aspect of things, it's actually dragging them down, even in their ability to flourish and function.

John Bradshaw: What are some of those typical thoughts or thought patterns that the people you see in a, on a clinical basis are typically, typically wrestling with?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, one of the distorted areas of thinking is what we call emotional reasoning. And an emotional reasoner will say this: "I feel overwhelmed and helpless. Therefore my problems are impossible to solve". "I feel angry at you, and that proves that you've been cruel and insensitive to me". So, emotional reasoning is at an all-time high. We feel a certain way, and thus we conclude those things are true in the way we're feeling.

John Bradshaw: And, and why are they not true?

Dr. Neil Nedley: "Feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving". Many thoughts that we have and many feelings that we have are actually based on distortions in thinking.

John Bradshaw: Okay, so I've got a neighbor who plays his music loud, and his dog runs all over my yard, and he's inconsiderate. And this is the bane of my existence. Isn't that, isn't that accurate thinking? I mean, he's a turkey, and he's making my life hard. So, why would I, why would I change the way I think about that?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, yeah, exactly. And so, you understand very well the typical person coming into our program. And, of course, they will have a tendency to blame others or things about themselves that, that they cannot change and think that they are actually victims. Now, in regards to that neighbor, we would start asking some questions. You know, has the neighbor ever been nice to you? Has the neighbor ever done anything for you? Uh, could it be that he's not even really aware that he's doing those things to you? And you know, have you ever thought about maybe having the right conversation in the right way to help mitigate on some of those things that are really bothering you?

John Bradshaw: Thoughts and how they are related to depression, it's very real. Depression's a really large problem. If it doesn't affect you, no question it severely affects somebody that you care about, somebody who is close to you. And how does God want us to think? And how does thinking God's way liberate us and prepare us for heaven? We'll discuss that and more when we come back in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "It Is Written". I'm John Bradshaw, and my guest is Dr. Neil Nedley from Nedley Health. For a quarter of a century, Dr. Nedley has been treating people successfully, people suffering with debilitating depression and anxiety. He's also the author of several books. Dr. Nedley, one of them is "The Lost Art of Thinking," which I think is a provocative title because it begs the question, has the art of thinking been lost? You say yes. How'd we lose it?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, in a large part, we lost it because our brains are not stocked with good factual statements or good factual pieces to be able to think from. And that has largely happened as a result of people not thinking but allowing devices to think for them. And so, whenever they want to be able to think about something, they actually ask a device a question, and that device may give you an answer that is not the right answer or the complete answer. And so, the internet is filled with things that are truthful but also very deceptive. And those deceptive things are often unhelpful, and they actually cause us not to feel the way we want to feel but far different than that. And it's actually based on distorted thinking.

John Bradshaw: When it comes to mental health, distorted thinking creates enormous amount of problems. I'm going to, I'm going to put spiritual health right along with that because I believe that many people suffer from negative spiritual health for the same reasons. "God doesn't love me. I've gone too far this time". Uh, "After what I've done, there's no way God could possibly forgive me". None of those statements are true. They're all distorted. Let's talk about the characteristics of distorted thinking that the people you see are dealing with and how you help people to work through that challenge.

Dr. Neil Nedley: So, very commonly we also have people who come with mental filters. And with mental filters, they're only looking at one side of the equation. One evidence would be that when they come and they say, "There's nothing good in my life," and they have all of these reasons why nothing is good in their life. And, of course, I'm listening for evidence of the other side, often don't hear it, but then I start asking 'em questions, and I find out there actually are some good things in their life that they're totally ignoring or actually disqualifying the positive, which is another distortion. And so, that actually can lead you into a rut that is very unhelpful.

John Bradshaw: Someone with, with negative thinking that, that's, that's responsible for huge problems in their life, you begin what you said; you start asking, are there positives, not just negatives? What are some of the other steps that you walk people through to help clarify their thinking?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, we look for evidence. And so, we want their truth to be based on evidence. And so, in regards to the mental filter aspect, we want them to be intentional and forceful to look for evidence to support a different way of thinking. And that takes some time but it's well worth the effort.

John Bradshaw: What are some examples of distorted thinking? What are the negative, self-destructive thinking patterns that people get into?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, also thinking that the always-or-never, you know, over-generalizing, they'll use limited factual evidence to support a belief that actually is not true.

John Bradshaw: "No one ever does anything to help me".

Dr. Neil Nedley: Exactly.

John Bradshaw: "My wife never says anything supportive".

Dr. Neil Nedley: Right.

John Bradshaw: "My kids don't do anything to help".

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: That's, that's, that's an example of what you're suggesting?

Dr. Neil Nedley: That would be an example. And also "No one is ever going to love me, that I will be endlessly rejected the rest of my life".

John Bradshaw: So it's a lonely future, and the fact is that whole thinking process is broken.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes. And, of course, it'll produce self-fulfilling prophecies. And so, that's why we have to get at the core of that belief system and help them to see that there are, are more accurate beliefs that are far more helpful.

John Bradshaw: I've heard you talk about all-or-nothing thinking.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes, all-or-nothing thinking, that's another one. Yeah, there's no person that's completely all beautiful or all ugly, but yet an all-or-nothing thinker will come in thinking that they're all ugly and that they're not attractive at all. And, you know, as human beings, of course, there is no perfect individual. They look like it on "People" magazine, but they're been airbrushed and the lighting and all of those sorts of things. There are no people like that walking around.

John Bradshaw: That's right.

Dr. Neil Nedley: It's where they get this distorted view. And, of course, social media has helped us with that distorted view because the individual's taken 1,000 pictures of themself before they uploaded the one that looks least like them. And so they end up getting jealous over actually a false picture and a, and a a false image of reality.

John Bradshaw: I am reminded of Philippians 4 in verse 8, which says, "Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things". Of course I believe that.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: I practice that as, I hope I'm growing in that more and more.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Man, that sounds like hard work. If you're a, if you're a negative, self-destructive person, if you're depressed, if you're clinically depressed, how in the world do you get yourself to that place where you're thinking those thoughts?

Dr. Neil Nedley: It's kind of like learning a new sport. You know, when you first start to play tennis, it's like the ball's going into the ground, it's going into the air, you're all arms and legs, you can't do it, and it seems so frustrating. But if you have the right coaches and the right techniques, pretty soon it'll actually become enjoyable to learn to play tennis better. And so, that's the, the struggle at first. It does seem hard because those highways in the brain have been there for many years. And those cars and trucks have been going down those negative thought patterns for a long time. But within a few days, it actually becomes fun for patients, and they're actually starting to get it, and they start replacing these negative, distorted thoughts with accurate and very helpful thoughts that help them to feel the way they want to feel. And when they start getting it, although it's hard at first, it then becomes easier and easier. And even within 10 days, they've made a significant difference in changing the highways of their brain.

John Bradshaw: I think it's really important to, to point out that what we're suggesting isn't that somebody go off and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. There is a God in heaven who is able to remake the mind.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: There's a, a very challenging but at the same time an enormously hopeful verse in 2 Corinthians, chapter 4: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that [exalts] itself against the knowledge of God", and here it comes, "and bringing into captivity", and here's that next word, "every thought..".

Dr. Neil Nedley: "Every thought," yeah.

John Bradshaw: " the obedience of Christ".

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Now, if one wished, that could be an overwhelming, discouraging thought. But let's flip that. That's very hopeful. "All of God's biddings are enablings". God didn't write that if it, if it couldn't be true. So the person whose thinking is unhealthy can say that by the grace of God their mind can come to a, a brand new entirely healthy place where they're thinking God's thoughts.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.

John Bradshaw: Yeah.

Dr. Neil Nedley: And it's wonderful when that happens, and, of course, it's often a combination of the cognitive behavioral therapist and the spiritual therapist working together on the overall purpose and meaning and managing emotions that brings about that tremendous change.

John Bradshaw: And it might be that you are wishing to experience, needing to experience, that change in your life. Don't go away. I'll have more with Dr. Neil Nedley in just a moment.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to "It Is Written". My guest is Dr. Neil Nedley from Nedley Health. For 25 years he's been successfully treating people battling depression and anxiety, and we are, today, talking about thoughts.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Okay, tell me some more about the negative thought patterns that people like me and people watching can say, "Oh, yeah, that's me", at least at times. What are some of them?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, people with anxiety or panic often have what's called fortuneteller error. And so, they're catastrophizing. They're always thinking the worst is going to happen, even though there's evidence that most of the time the worst does not occur, or even if the worst did happen, there are things that we can do about it. And so they're making decisions in daily life based on this fortuneteller error and catastrophizing that happens. And so what shows up? Worry and fear. And so that worry and fear can produce all sorts of issues, from insomnia to tremors to even physical disease, stomach pain, chest pain, showing up in the emergency room thinking you're having a heart attack. Doctors are finding nothing wrong at all with the heart, it's all generated in the brain that has come up with worry and fear due to things like mind reading and fortuneteller error.

John Bradshaw: Mind reading being, "I know what you're thinking, and it's not good"?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yeah.

John Bradshaw: "I feel you feel this way"?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, and, and thinking that their friends or their family are judging them in bad ways or their work mates, et cetera, and so they're mind reading others in a paranoid type of approach.

John Bradshaw: Okay, I'm gonna ask you how to, how a person gets out of that, but what you've, what you've just given evidence of, there's an enormously strong connection between what you think and how that reacts on you physically.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Your body can break down simply based on what you choose to think.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Meaning, it's really very important to think healthy. Okay, so, how do you get out of that, how do you get out of that way of thinking if you're an anxious person who feels those things you were just describing?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Well, we have to go into what they're actually thinking and saying. For instance, a person with panic disorder will say, "Well, when I feel this way, I, I know I'm going to either pass out or go crazy". And I'll have to ask the questions, "How many times have you passed out"? "Well, I've never really passed out when this has happened". "How many times have you gone crazy"? "Well, I've never really gone crazy". "Okay, so let's frame this differently and say it differently. When you're saying, you're telling me that when you feel this way, you know you're going to either pass out or go crazy, and that's never happened. So, let's go back. What, how can we accurately describe what is happening"? And when we describe it in accurate terms, it actually helps prevent the panic episode to begin with.

John Bradshaw: So, you're asking people, coaching people, teaching people to look at things realistically.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Exactly.

John Bradshaw: Uh, might that be a little risky? Some people's reality might be shaky.

Dr. Neil Nedley: That's why we always have to base it on evidence.

John Bradshaw: What do you see? Describe the person that you encounter, say, where you conduct your residential program on the campus of Weimar University in northern California. Someone comes to you, and you're aware (or not aware) what are you seeing in their thoughts, and then after, let's call it intervention, treatment, therapy, how those thoughts change? Describe that change. My guess is it's, it, it's almost miraculous.

Dr. Neil Nedley: It is. Yeah. It actually works better than taking a Xanax pill. And so, you know, Xanax is often this drug that's given for anxiety and feeling out of control, and it can calm you down at the expense of suppressing your frontal lobe. But it's going to take at least a few minutes to get into your system. When we correct the thoughts, it's instantaneous. And so, people will get excited: "I was just able to do something that instantly made me feel better". And that's empowering.

John Bradshaw: How is a person able to do it that quickly? Our thoughts are this web, this tangled knot. It's like a, you know, a tangled-up fishing line. But you're saying that in moments things can smooth out.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes, once they start understanding the distortions, we teach them there's 10 different ways of distorted thinking. So we have to go into all of those and all of those examples. And then we teach them how to reframe those thoughts. Um, another text in the Bible that comes to mind is, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind".

John Bradshaw: Right.

Dr. Neil Nedley: And so, it's the renewing of their mind that produces that transformation in not only their thoughts but their feelings because our feelings are based of course, on our thoughts.

John Bradshaw: As a physician you want people to be well. You're a Christian physician.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Mm-hmm.

John Bradshaw: So, while you're interested in people being well physically, emotionally, you're also interested in people being well spiritually.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Yes.

John Bradshaw: Um, look with me in the, in the Bible for just a moment. We don't have much more time, but the, the great spiritual importance of having our thoughts equaled out to being where God wants them to be, how does that impact a person spiritually? Somebody goes home, they're thinking better, but now how does it impact the potential for their relationship with God?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Oh, it goes up astronomically. You know, most people that come to our program, when I'll ask them we do a spiritual inventory on everyone that comes in: "How do you feel as far as your connectedness to God"? We have some exceptions, but most people are rating themselves somewhere between zero and two out of 10 as far as their connectedness to God. And by the time they leave, they're rating themselves up there close to a nine or maybe even a 10 out of 10. And their spiritual life is renewed as a result.

John Bradshaw: One of the things I appreciate most about this conversation is that what you're demonstrating is not only that there's a way out, but it's simple, and the results are, are dramatic. What's to stop a person right now saying, "Okay, I've got to, I've got to give this a shot; I'm gonna turn my thinking around"? What's to stop that person?

Dr. Neil Nedley: Good question. Really, it, it's worth everything. You know, who we are is, is really our brain.

John Bradshaw: Right.

Dr. Neil Nedley: If we can get our brain working well and be transformed, it is worth whatever investment that took. And that may be one of the inhibiting factors. People think, oh, you know, you know, "I'm gonna have to maybe buy a book to learn how to think better," or, "I might have to", you know, money always comes in the way of this. But when we look at the economic cost of depression, you know, the average individual that's depressed throughout their life is going to be $300,000 short in funds in comparison to that same person not being depressed. Uh, and, and that's just, you know, a very conservative estimate. Um, you know, a lot of the economic problems are actually induced by what's in our mind, and if we can get our mind transformed, our financial ability, our success in so many other ways goes up considerably. And it's well worth the investment.

John Bradshaw: It's well worth the investment. Dr. Neil Nedley from Nedley Health, thank you, I appreciate it greatly.

Dr. Neil Nedley: Thank you.

John Bradshaw: And I'd like you to consider the way God thinks and what God thinks about you. First, we know the Bible says that God is love. We know that God gave His Son Jesus for you, so that should you believe, you would have everlasting life. And God spoke to His own people once, a rebellious people they were, too... and He said, "I know the thoughts that I [have towards] you," He said, "thoughts of peace, and not of evil," He said, "thoughts to give you", in one translation, "a hope" and "a future". Those are God's thoughts towards you: thoughts for hope and thoughts for a future. You take hold of Jesus by the hand right now, and your future is brighter than it's ever been before.

John Bradshaw: Let's pray together now.

Our Father in heaven, we thank You today for Jesus. We thank You for Your thoughts towards us. We thank You that in Your mind we were worth enough that Jesus would come to this world and give His life. We thank You for the very blessed hope that Jesus is soon to return. Lord, would You renew our minds? Would You put hope within us? Would You guide us away from destructive thought patterns? To "think on these things," as the Bible says, to remember that God is love, to remember that there is nothing You would not give us, evidenced by the fact that You gave Jesus to die for us. We live in hope today. And I pray for that person who is wrestling with negative thoughts, that person who's battling depression, that individual right now who's dealing with anxiety and maybe has been for years. I pray, come close to that person and guide him, guide her out of that place of difficulty to a place of certainty and hope and confidence. We thank You that our hope and confidence are in Jesus. And we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Thank you so much for joining us. I'm looking forward to seeing you again next time. Until then, remember: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
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