We spend much of our lives in automatic pilot mode , not really paying attention to what is going on around us, much less to what is going on within ourselves . We can eat an entire meal, for example , without truly tasting a single bite , because we are eating and talking or eating and watching television, or trying to get it down as quickly as possible so we can get on to the next thing. There are many other examples where we operate on autopilot, including driving our daily commute without remembering any part of it.
We can conduct entire conversations , even important ones , while we work at the computer , or answer a text, or attend to any number of tasks that seemingly just can’t wait .
Autopilot mode helps us get through the day-t0-day reality of having busy lives. While we attend to something in the foreground (For example , talking to a friend ) automatio pilot enable us to take care of all the other things we need to do in that mooment (such as driving)
A certain degree of autopilot , where we do everyday tasks that we have done many times, can be highly functional and enable us to achieve a lot in the face of competing demands for our time , energy and attention.
For those who suffer from depression , though autopilot mode can sometimes pose a problem. While we are in this mode, we can miss the subtle early-warning signs in our thoughts , feelings , senses and body that may signal a downward slide into depression. Iterestingly, we may believe we are aware because we spend a large amount of time focusing on our thoughts and feelings , but in reality we are goinig over old ground , trapped in the same patterns of thinking that have got us stuck over and over in the past. This ruminative thinking starts on automatic pilot.
As Dawn described it , ‘ I would lie awake at 4 a.m. trying to problem – solve why I felt so bad, what made me feel this way, why I couldn’t step out of these destructive habits. I’d end up tired , confused and my mood would be worse .’
For Dawn , this familiar ‘ perfect storm ‘ of physical fatigue , low energy, negative thinking and trying to think her way out almost inevitably led into a downward spiral of depression.
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