I’ve never considered myself a gamer, but I was wrong. It turns out that life itself is a game. In fact, it’s a whole series of games, and we all play them nonstop.
These games aren’t a waste of time, either; they happen to be the best way to learn life’s lessons – which is the whole reason we’re alive on this earth in the first place. The sooner we realize that life is a game and play to win, the better everything will go for us.
These games are so utterly immersive and realistic that you’d think they came from a hundred years in the future. Some of the games are exciting, some are scary or fun, easy or challenging, some we play in groups, others make us feel like we’re playing alone, even though we never are. We’re all always interconnected in subtle ways and everything we think, feel and do matters.
One of the least popular of these learning games called Depression. No one enjoys it, no one chooses to play, but life doesn’t always let us decide which games shows up on our screen. If we need lessons that Depression can teach, we may find ourselves trapped inside until we find our way out.
The worst thing about depression is that it’s more complex than meets the eye, and we often get stuck because we don’t know the secrets to beat its many levels. This article reveals the most useful of these secrets; the cheats to help you level up, to find your way through so you can finally win, move on, and play something more enjoyable with your life.
LEVEL 1: Relax
When you first enter the game, you find yourself at dusk, at 20,000′ on a snowy mountainside, and your challenge is to reach the summit. Light and color drain from the sky. The air grows uncomfortably thin and dangerously cold. Your first instinct is to run up the snowy ridge and get this stage over with as quickly as possible, but when you try, you instantly feel nauseous and fall to your knees, gasping for breath. You might even tumble down the mountain, making matters even worse.
Level 1 Cheat: Slow down! Take a deep breath and relax. Take only one step at a time, then breathe and rest again. If you don’t accept your temporarily decreased capacities, you’ll feel frustrated and panicked, which only drains your energy faster. If you learn to recognize your limits and pace yourself, you’ll make steady progress toward the summit.
Remember this lesson throughout the remaining levels and invest your energy wisely, spending your limited energy in whatever brings the best returns without wearing you out.
Also remember this lesson once you finish the game. Did you habitually push yourself too hard? Did you fail to pause and take adequate care of yourself? If so, that may be the reason life forced you to play Depression in the first place.
LEVEL 2: Physical Needs
Once you reach the Level 1 summit and raise your arms in victory, your world transforms and becomes a vast, vacant desert. Towering golden dunes twist onward to the horizon and beyond. You first notice the hot sun slowly baking your skin, then the thirst that turns your throat raw and scratchy.
Luckily, you also find yourself at a refreshing oasis. You must choose whether to take a sip from the clear pool, prepare a meal from ingredients set on a small table, or nap in the shade of a clump of palm trees.
You shield your eyes with your hand and stare across the sand toward a shimmering object – a door. Surely this must be the objective, the portal to escape this awful place, and you trudge away toward it, ignoring the tempting comforts. As you arrive, however, the door fades away, a mere mirage, and you remain as lost as ever, until another door appears just beyond the next dune. It’s so close and you’re tempted to run, but you learned your lesson in Level 1 and take your time.
As door after door vanishes, you realize that you made the wrong decision and find your way back to the oasis. You tend to your basic needs, let the sun and shade dance across your skin as you swim to the far end of the pool and back, and when night falls, a door appears nearby where you exit this level.
Level 2 Cheat: If you don’t care for your needs, the door does not appear, and if you don’t take your exit when it appears, the pool has shrunk by the next day, the rations diminish, and the palm trees slowly die. You can’t quit and give up forever. You must continue progressing.
The point of Level 2, in case it’s not already obvious, is that you must take care of your basic needs first. Get adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise to support your body. Don’t set out too hastily along life’s journey. If you do, you won’t make it very far.
Depression didn’t happen all at once, remember, and it wasn’t the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It may have *seemed* like some traumatic event was to blame for your blues, but the camel’s back would have broken in a few more minutes anyway from the ongoing strain; the inner pressures and unmet needs would have snapped something inside soon enough.
Depression won’t likely end overnight, either, so continue supporting your basic needs as you learn your remaining lessons.
LEVEL 3: Supportive Environment
When you walk through the door in Level 2, you immediately wish you could turn around and go back to your desert paradise. You have stepped into a dirty, dingy house. Dishes fill the sink. Trash is strewn all around. Soot stains the walls and grime coats the windows, filtering out most of the light. Your challenge here is to clean everything up.
By now you have noticed the colored status bar running along the bottom of the screen. It started out white or black and has probably varied between those colors, red, and green. Here’s what the colors mean:
Green represents healthy feelings. If you see green, then you feel good – alive, energized, happy, and hopeful – and you’re drawing nearer to winning the game. Congratulations!
Red is pain, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Sometimes life hurts, and if you’re feeling it, then you’re probably facing it. Face it with courage and while supporting your needs and applying the other lessons from this article and you’ll eventually make it through. Face it too long without applying these lessons and it becomes overwhelming. That’s when life turns black or white.
Black represents despair. Motivation dries up. Even the smallest acts seem all but impossible. Therein lies the Level 3 Cheat: do it anyway. Do ANYTHING anyway. Scrub the walls. Mop the floor. Wash the windows or pick up trash. Take breaks as needed (remember level 1!) and as the home grows brighter and cleaner, the status bar turns greener, and your energy and mood improve immensely. When your supportive, healthy environment make you feel good enough to face Level 4, then open the front door and step out to meet the world.
If you don’t clean your environment, the status bar goes from black to white. This represents numbness and is the most dangerous state of all. It provides some relief from pain and despair, but with your feelings shut down, no joy exists to make life worth living, either.
Clean up your environment anyway, and once the warm sunshine streams in, your status bar will slide toward green again. The better you feel, the more productive you become, and the faster you progress through this level. It only takes a minute and it will improve your mood so much that you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
LEVEL 4: Choose Good Company
Level 4 should be the most obvious, but many gamers never fully learn its lesson. You’ll find yourself walking down the street, shopping, going to work and to parties, and continually interacting with people. Some people are kind, interested, and happy; others scowl or complain, get angry or criticize you.
Level 4 Cheat: dismiss and disregard the negative people, and spend more time around positive ones. Watch your status bar and you’ll observe how much other people can affect your mood and mindset.
You’ll find it’s impossible to completely rid yourself of negative types, it takes some effort to build relationships with some of the keepers, and by showing a little kindness, sympathy or interest, or by simply asking them to change, some of the negative people can become positive. Once the influence of people you choose to be around consistently supports a healthy green in your status bar, you’re ready to move on.
LEVEL 5: Mind Control
Level 5 deals with psychological warfare. All the negative beliefs held in your subconscious mind are represented as intimidating power figures – parents, teachers, police, rulers, adults, peers, and others. These figures torment you with taunts and threats, sometimes pushing you around and blocking your progress toward the exit clearly marked with the word “Freedom.”
Level 5 Cheat: rather than continually struggle against these demeaning thoughts, you may disempower them and turn them into supporters. This can be as simple as recognizing the idiocy or ridiculousness of your negative beliefs and dismissing and ignoring or standing up to them and sometimes reasoning with them, but many gamers fail miserably at this level because they can’t stop believing whatever thoughts already live in their heads just because they’re already there.
It’s not entirely their fault – the subconscious mind hates the dissonance of contradiction, so it tries to twist all facts and perceptions to support the current regime. On the other hand, the mind eventually accepts whatever gets put into it, so confronting negatives and replacing them with positives eventually alters the mind’s contents and then it protects the new thoughts and perceptions just as doggedly as it did the old ones.
For extra help, read through this list of common Thinking Distortions and see which ones you identify with. Changing them sometimes seems hard at first but becomes automatic as you gain experience and momentum.
When you exit this level, you carry with you whatever negative or positive thoughts that remain, which help or hinder progress throughout the remainder of the game.
Level 6: Treasure Hunter
In this level, you must discover the good in yourself – talents, attitudes, intentions, desires, efforts, unique traits, etc. – and drag it to the bank where you claim it and it becomes yours. Some of these gems must be dug from deep wells while many are hidden in plain sight.
Level 6 Cheat: ask other players for help. They can usually see things you were blind to that are painfully obvious to everyone else. Once they point something out, however, you may need to chip away layers of clay from where they indicate or from your own eyes until you see what they’re talking about.
You can also create new treasures out of thin air by speaking or thinking them into existence. For example, by repeating “I am a happy person!” enough times, a gem appears as the phrase becomes true.
You win once you accrue enough treasures to turn your status bar bright green.
Level 7: Let Go
A thick jungle fills Layer 7 with trees, vines, and hundreds of of biting bugs. As you push away plants and follow the faint trail toward the exit, these bugs attach themselves to your legs and body. Some bite down with razor-sharp teeth and they hurt! Others inject poisons that make your bones ache. Some venoms cause confusion, anger, paralysis, or other (mostly) unproductive emotions.
To detach each bug, you must examine it, understand it, and replace it with a more positive thought or emotion. For example, if one is about an old rejection or betrayal, try imagining the perpetrator asking for forgiveness, or try any of these 12 twisted tips to make forgiveness fun. Once you truly let go of the old hurt, the bug detaches and lets you continue forward.
If one is a paralyzing fear, then drag it into the light and take a closer look. Is the fear realistic? What’s the worst that could happen? Face that fear and find out. Worrying about it was probably worse than the actual experience. Once you realize this, the bug quits biting down and instead partially protects you from similar fears.
Level 7 Cheat: if you have too many bugs to examine, you can take a shortcut by picking positive fruits along the way. The fruits represent positive perceptions and feelings, and if you eat enough of one, a corresponding negative bug may release its grip and waddle away into the jungle.
If you find the fruit shaped like a heart, eat as much as you can. This fruit represents love and it steadily changes your nature enough that the bugs no longer hurt or annoy you. Also fill your pockets so you can take it with you to use in other levels.
Level 8: Focus
This crazy level can be one of the most enjoyable or devastating of all. I can’t tell you what to expect because it creates itself according to whatever you expect and imagine. You could find yourself swimming in an active volcano (ouch!) or in a beautiful blue lagoon (ahhh!). If you expect everything to go wrong, it may burn you to a crisp or a pod of great white sharks may interrupt your swim. If you expect good things to happen, well, there’s no limit to how pleasant this level can become.
Level 8 Cheat: think happy thoughts! Just like in real life, happiness stirs up happy chemicals in your brain and supports courage and happy outcomes. Conversely, worry discourages you before anything bad happens and sometimes draws you down to your demise.
If you begin to worry, then remind yourself not to believe your feelings. Feelings are merely flavored chemicals that correspond to your thoughts. They make your thoughts feel real, though, so be sure to drop negative thoughts and choose positive ones instead which will support your progress with pleasant feelings. With practice, this becomes a very useful habit.
LEVEL 9: Thaw
The final level can feel maddeningly slow as winter’s fields of snow recede and the earth around you returns to life. You can dig away the snow from the flower beds to make the tulips sprout sooner and return bright splashes of color to your world, but the calendar slides along at its own pace.
All these tips may speed the process and make living through the dark days more tolerable and useful, but recovery from depression takes as long as it takes. There’s no sure, immediate cure.
Level 9 Cheat: patience! Have patience with yourself and with the whole process. Give it the time it requires. Take this time to appreciate and celebrate every tiny gain, every sign of progress.
Level 10: Inside Out
Level 10 appears to be a combination of all previous levels, so you try everything – taking care of basic needs, cleaning up and creating a nurturing environment, choosing good friends, etc. Your status bar moves slowly toward green, but this could take forever.
Finally, you look up and notice there’s something not quite right with the sky. A shimmer, like a mirage, appears there now and then, and when you reach out to touch it, you discover a trap door. Crawl through and you find yourself standing in the air, high above the earth.
With nothing better to do, you walk toward the sun and become Icarus – the wax that held your imaginary self and imaginary world together slowly melts and those feathers you thought would save you begin to drop away. Instead of falling, however, you find yourself rising, feeling lighter and lighter as each old, destructive, limiting, untrue belief falls away.
As you draw nearer to the sun, you begin to perceive something in the midst of its brilliant light – or someone rather – and you begin to perceive it as The Divine. The clearer you see it, the clearer you see yourself and your own divine nature as the Truth of who you really are and always have been. As your feathers fall away completely, you recognize them as baseless doubts, fears, and false identities and beliefs about life and the world. You realize that this time, you’re working from the inside out, and it’s so simple that you wish you had thought to try this sooner.
Not only do you continue to rise, feeling ever lighter, but you expand. The world below your feet shrinks until the entire game of Depression fades into a tiny speck of insignificant dust. You have utterly transcended it, yet you now find yourself reluctant to leave. You scarcely believe what you find yourself thinking – that you are actually grateful for the lessons learned and strengths gained through this game that you will carry with you into all other games for the rest of your life and beyond.
Note that you don’t have to master every level to win the game. All you need is to turn your color bar green. Make life more positive than negative and maintain that balance long enough for all your shut-down systems to slowly, steadily turn back on. That’s when depression stops. That’s when the Game of Life turns exciting and pleasant again.
Also note that this is not an exhaustive list of depression cheats. A few effective ones for which I couldn’t think of a matching game layer include getting professional help, finding the right Bach Flower Remedy to support your mood and heal deep generational wounds, and moving to the beach and doing nothing but surf until everything gets better.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. It gets better. Millions have endured their “dark night of the soul” and so will you.
[If you find this style / approach helpful, please let me know in the comments below! I want to make these articles as effective as possible and I need your input 🙂 ]