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Is Your RAS Filter Ruining Your Life?

By March 25, 2019January 27th, 20232 Comments

I love the movie, The Princess Bride! It is one of Dave’s and my all-time favorites. There are so many great lines and characters. And once you hear these lines, your RAS filter kicks in. More about that later.

But there is one place I don’t like in the movie [spoiler alert]—the Pit of Despair. A secret dungeon containing “The Machine”, a torture device invented by Count Rugen. Westley, our hero, is taken to the pit to be tortured.

Depression was my pit of despair.

Depression sapped my strength. It tortured my mind.

I’m not talking about the blues or even being down or sad.

Depression robs you of joy for life—all of life. Depression tortures your mind and soul and your body shudders.

My suicidal depression diagnosis put me in the deepest, darkest pit I’d ever encountered. Suddenly the world lost all color. I could stare out the window for hours and see nothing, feel nothing, desire nothing. According to WebMD, people who are contemplating suicide don’t want to end their life, they want to stop their pain.

But one day, a friend challenged me to an experiment.

Look for one thing each day to be thankful for.

Just one thing.

Not huge. Not even significant to anyone but me.

I thought it was silly, but I agreed to try—half-heartedly at best. Because what would being thankful for one thing do to help my depression? I mean, really.

That one strategic filter shifted something in my mind.

At first, I couldn’t find anything to be thankful for but the sunshine.

Then . . .

Thanks for running water.

Warm blankets.

Eventually, the world had a dull color.

Thanks for my husband and family.

My home.

Friends who care.

More color.

Thanks that I can breathe today.

For the gift of today.

As I expressed gratitude each day, my mind noticed more things to be thankful for.

Funny how that happens.

There’s a scientific term for it—RAS filter—Reticular Activating System.

A fancy-sounding term that means your brain tracks on things you decide are important and filters everything else out.

When I decided to look for one thing every day and express thanks, my mind focused on that project.

And in that new RAS filter, my attitude changed. The world had color again.

Psalm 40:1-4 hits the nail on the head:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.

Could a strategic shift in your RAS filter drastically alter your life?

Yes, it can.

You can climb out of the pit of despair.

It is possible. And one way to take the first step is to look for something today to be thankful for. Choose to direct your RAS filter to beautiful things.

One thing.

I’d love to connect with you and encourage you in this shift.

I’m grateful for you.

If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.

  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.


  • I have not heard of the RAS filter. This is an extremely helpful and informative post for those of us who struggle with depression. Thank you!

    • Kirsten says:

      Thank you, Matthew. Understanding the RAS Filter helps me in every area of my thinking. It was crazy to realize how it applied to my depression recovery. Blessings as you apply this simple change to your RAS filter and life. I’d love to hear how this changes your outlook. Please email me or send me a comment through the website. Blessings.